Be ready to smile.

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Her eyelids flutter. Her head nods, almost imperceptibly.

3...2...1

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Her eyes sweep the room, groggily.

She sees you, reflexively pulls the sheet up. Smile now.

“Hi.”

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She smiles, uncertain.

“Hi.” Then, “You’re here.”

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“I am.”

Be patient. It will help.

“Why are you here?”

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“I’ve been here all night, hon.”

She smiles at this, nervous, but real. Stay patient.

Now she is seeing. Remember to be patient.

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“Mmmm...where are we?” Working to stay calm, like always. Bless her.

“Not home, babe. Do you remember what happened?”

Resist the urge to explain. Let her get there. Remember.

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“When?”

“What do you remember?”

Now she is confused. Shouldn’t have asked that first question. Getting sloppy already.

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“What do you remember, babe. Before now.”

“Umm...well, I left the office and walked over to...”

Now she will see. She is seeing. Be gentle.

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“Shit, is this a hospital? What happened?” Scared. A panicked survey of her limbs for wounds. The IV.

“Yes, it’s a hospital. Fairfax. You’re okay, hon.”

Now she will want to take charge, as always. Patience. Be gentle.

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“What happened. Seriously. What happened.”

“You had a seizure, babe.” This will relax her. Knowing. She will sit back.

Wait out the pause. Wait for the question.

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Here it comes.

“And they called you?”

“Yes.”

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“Why did they call you?”

“You had me on an old Emergency Contact form at the firm. Never changed it.”

This will make her smile, but not happy. There it is.

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“Isn’t that funny.”

“I know. I’m not really the comforting sort.”

Don’t do that.

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“Don’t do that.”

Really. Don’t do that. She’ll get there.

Now it’s awkward. Idiot.

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Wait it out.

“So, I’m okay? I’ll be okay?”

“Yes. That’s what they say. A ‘one-off event’.” Air quotes. Doofus.

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“Can I go?”

“Well, not yet. They’re keeping you for observation.”

“Can you go?”

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Expected, but still painful. Don’t be a dick. Patience. Play it straight.

“I can if you want me to.”

This look is thrilling. Warmth. Vulnerability. It never did get old.

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“No, that’s not what I meant. I’m so sorry. I mean are you allowed to leave? Do they want someone here?”

“Well, no, but it’s better if you’re not alone. The doctor will be in soon, he’ll give you a more thorough explanation. Of what happened.”

Wait for it.

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“I’m glad you’re here.” That smile.

Smile back.

“Me too.” Careful. Don’t push it.

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“And once the doctor gets here...you’ll go?”

“That seems likely. We’ll see. Certainly once Audrey gets here.” Smile now.

Her look changes. Hardens.

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“Audrey’s coming?”

“Yes. I called her.”

“Good.” She doesn’t fully mean this.

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“I figured your sister’s better for this kind of thing. Comforting and warmth.”

Don’t manipulate, you fuck. She’s vulnerable.

“Stop, babe.”

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Babe. Babe. Stay calm.

God that goes deep.

“Sorry. I’m not trying to be a jerk.”

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“You never were. It wasn’t like that.”

“I know. I’m being stupid. Let’s not go there.”

Tread carefully. The doctor will be in soon. Or Audrey. Then you can leave her the hell alone.

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Wait it out.

“It does seem stupid, now.”

This part’s tricky. Be patient.

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“I guess.”

“I mean our relationship.”

“I know.”

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“The way it ended, I mean.”

“I know, babe.”

That smile. “You were just thinking about it, too?”

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Not exactly.

“I have been, yes. Sometimes.”

“I’ve tried to explain it to people. Antoinette. Girls from work. Audrey. It sounds so simple and stupid.”

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Just get through this part.

“Don’t worry about it.”

“I know. But it’s not so simple. It wasn’t.”

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“As I’ve recently been told.”

Jesus. Can’t you put the fucking sarcasm aside? That won’t even make sense to her.

“Babe...”

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Babe. Babe. Like electricity. Weight on the corners of your mouth. Keep it together.

“Sorry.” Keep it together.

Keep it together.

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Now she sees. Again. Again. You did not keep it together.

Now she is also crying. “I’m so, so sorry.”

Be funny. Something. Change this.

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“The fuck are you sorry for? You’re the one in the hospital.” Good one. Dummy.

Now comes the silence. Again. You did it again.

Wait it out. Almost over.

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Here comes the worst of it. Keep it together.

“I miss you.”

Napalm. An iron gut punch. A rogue wave to the face. Keep it together.

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“I know.” Well.

Surprised. “You know?”

Fuck it. “You told me.” Fuck it.

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“I told you.”

“Yes.”

“When?”

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“Earlier.”

“I woke up before?”

Think about this.

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Be gentle. Still time to do right.

“Yes. Briefly. We talked.”

“Jesus. I don’t remember that at all. How out of it was I?”

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Think about this.

“You were okay.”

Silence. This is better. Almost over now.

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“It seems stupid. It does. I feel stupid. Sometimes it seems okay but then I feel stupid, like, all the time. And now I wake up and you’re here and it seems so, so stupid.”

Wait it out. This will pass. She wasn’t stupid. She’s not stupid.

You make her stupid.

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“You’re not stupid, hon. You were right.”

Surprise. Every time. Such was your failure, that she is genuinely surprised when you give her credit. You fuck. You weakling.

“It’s not that simple.” Wait it out. “Right or wrong. It’s never that simple. Maybe I was right about some things, but maybe I was wrong about others. I wasn’t perfect, either. And then, just like that, lawyers and settlements and it was over. And I was just so stressed out and frustrated.” Wait it out. “What do you think?”

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Almost over.

Now. Be fair to her.

“Babe, it’s always going to seem stupid and confusing when I’m here. Because I’m bad for you, and you always want to give everyone a chance. Even people who make you feel stupid.”

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The pause.

“Maybe that’s true. But that’s not all there is when you’re here. When you’re here....when are you here? I haven’t seen you in 3 months. Maybe what I needed was distance, and time–”

“Hon, hang on a second.” Take a breath. “I’ve been here. It’s confusing, but I need you to be calm and listen to me.”

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Confused. Vulnerable. “What?”

“We’ve had this conversation - roughly, this conversation - already. A couple times.”

“What? What are you talking about?”

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Almost over. The last time.

“Your event. It was a seizure, but a particular kind of seizure.” Now the fear. “Don’t worry, I was serious when I said you’ll be okay. It passes. It usually only lasts for a couple hours, sometimes a day or two.”

Fear, still. “What.”

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“It’s tough to explain, babe. But we’ve been doing this for a few hours.” Confusion. Surprise. “Several hours.” Actually, have a look at your watch. “Ehh...most of a day, now.” Smile here.

“What?”

“Yeah.”

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Panic. Fear. Now she will cry.

She is crying. This is when you would tell her not to cry, to relax. Relax, you would say, and in that tone, and it would be the same as saying ‘dinosaur’ or ‘change colors’ for all its usefulness. You tried that. Again and again. What it meant was ‘I don’t want to deal with this’ and once she figured that out it was all over.

Hold her hand. Help her.

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She stares at your hand holding her hand.

“I know this is confusing and scary. I want you to know you’re safe, and that you’ve been safe. You haven’t embarrassed yourself. You’ve been very sweet, in fact.”

“I don’t understand.” Really crying.

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“I know.” Hug her. She needs it. Wait, don’t be stupid. Just hold her hand. Almost over. “Your doctor will be back in....well, actually, just a few seconds, I think. You’ll be pretty confused when he gets here, but he’ll be better at expla–” You idiot.

“Wait, what?” Sober. Afraid.

You fucking idiot.

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“Shit. Yeah. Listen, this loop is going to stretch out and eventually go away altogether. You’re going to be okay, I swear to God. But in a few seconds, it’s going to...kinda reset.”

“Oh God.”

“Don’t be afraid. It’s okay. It’s actually kinda cute and funny.” Bullshit smile.

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“And I won’t remember any of this?”

“No.”

“But you’ll be here.”

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Keep it together. Deep breath. Keep it together.

“No.”

Panic again. “No? Why?”

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“Audrey’s out in the hall. I can see her pacing out there.”

“So you’re leaving?” Crying again.

Don’t cry. Make this easier for her.

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“Got to.”

“But I love you.”

Again. Again again again. Over and over again. Keep it together.

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“I love you. I wish I’d been better.”

Motion to Audrey. Audrey who never liked you. Nod.

“You’re fine! You were fine!” Panic. “Please don’t go. Please. I love you.”

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“Got to.” Keep it together.

“Please.”

Stand up. Move. Go. Go now. Smile for Audrey. Keep it together.

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Weeping. Weeping behind you. One last look. She’s looking at the ceiling, weeping with her lower lip out, like a child. Closing her eyes. Almost over.

Be ready to leave.

Her eyelids flutter. Her head nods, almost imperceptibly.

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3...2...1

Her eyes sweep the room, groggily.

She sees Audrey, reflexively pulls the sheet up. Leave now.