Editorâ€™s note: This is the tenth installment of the fiction story â€œInside the Hollow Sun.â€ The story will run in Verve throughout the semester.
I ran. The streets were dark and empty. All I could hear was the panting of my breath. Iâ€™d had more to drink than I thought, and I felt dizzy. It wasnâ€™t long before I ended up crouched over, vomiting into a gutter. I hadnâ€™t been able to get Elizabeth to tell me what happened. She had just said she was in the hospital with Greg, and then she lost it. I tried to get her to settle down on the phone, but she just kept crying, and eventually I hung up and left.
After my stomach emptied its contents, I stood back up and walked fast. The hospital was only 15 blocks away from my apartment and walking would be quicker than waiting for the bus. I thought back to the last time Greg and I talked. It had been a while ago. A couple weeks? Maybe more? I couldnâ€™t remember exactly. This is the type of friend I had become to him.
Entering the hospital, I whipped my head around the room. The lobby was empty aside from a lone nurse behind the secretary desk. She looked up at me and I watched as her mouth curved down into a frown. I imagined being in her shoes and seeing me walk inâ€”a frantic, scuffed up man searching the lobby, dried vomit on his shirt and blood shot eyes bulging. I would have frowned at it too.
â€œCan I help you?â€ she asked softly.
â€œIâ€™m looking for Greg Lee-Schulz,â€ I gasped, still out of breath. The nurse checked her computer screen.
â€œRight, Mr. Lee-Schulz is still in ER. The waiting room for that is just down this hall.â€ She pointed to her right.
I turned without another word and walked. I got to the waiting room and saw Elizabeth sitting, tear trails, fresh and dry, all down her cheeks. She got up and ran into my arms. I held her and let her cry into my shoulder.
â€œWhat happened?â€ I asked her.
â€œIt shouldnâ€™t be this way,â€ she whispered as she trembled against me. We stood in our embrace, and waited.
A few hours passed before someone came out to talk to us. Elizabeth had settled down, and I had bought coffee for us to sip on.
â€œHe fell,â€ Elizabeth told me. â€œHe fell down some stairs. All I know is his leg started to spasm on some stairs and he lost his balance.â€
She proceeded to tell me about the other things Iâ€™d missed in the past few months. Gregâ€™s Parkinsonâ€™s disease had gotten worse. So had his anxiety. She said he missed me being around. She told me everything I already knew, but refused to acknowledge until now.
The doctor came up to us, the only two in the waiting room. â€œAre you here for Mr. Lee-Schulz?â€ she asked.
â€œYes,â€ Elizabeth replied. â€œIs he okay? Whatâ€™s going on?â€
â€œIâ€™m sorry,â€ said the doctor. â€œMr. Lee-Schulz took a real bad fall. We tried everything we could think of, but we couldnâ€™t save him.â€
My stomach sank. Greg, my best friend, was dead.
_Fiction writer Justin Goodfellow can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. _