Authors: Ellie J. LaBelle
Reagan won’t wake up.
I try everything from pouring a little water on his face to shaking him violently but nothing seems to work. He still has a pulse and his heart rate is normal but he’s stuck in his sleep. I wasted time cleaning up the camper and even went into the city to get a cup of coffee, but he still hasn't woken up. I would start driving with him asleep but I have to fold up the bed before we can go anywhere.
His limp body is heavy but I manage to get his arms around my neck and pull him up to a sitting position. I try and pull him off the bed but I’m not strong enough. When his torso flops back onto the mattress, he murmurs something and I take the opportunity to get him awake enough to get him over to the pull out couch.
he mumbles as I lift his torso back up, this time with a little effort on his part.
“We’re going to go on the couch, okay?”
I put Reagan’s arm around my shoulder and help him get moderately upright. He stumbles like a drunk person and falls onto the couch with a thud. I grab him a pillow to prop his head up and throw a blanket over him. Then I pull the mattress off the bed, folding it in half, and throwing it on the floor in case he rolls off while I’m driving. I go outside to fold up the bed and struggle with the weight of it but eventually get it locked into place. When I return, Reagan is still passed out as I maneuver around him to secure everything.
Once everything is in place, I lean down to kiss Reagan on the forehead. I don't know what possesses me to do it but as soon as I do he pulls me down onto the couch. For a moment I think he is awake but his eyes are glued shut and his breathing is still calm.
he mumbles quietly and I smile.
“I’m not going anywhere,
I say, pushing his hair out of his face.
“I love you,
he says clear as day and my heart pounds out of my chest. Does he know it’s me he’s talking to? Does he think I’m someone else? I stand and walk over to the driver’s seat, unsure of what to make of his comment. Well, at least there’s more driving and therefore time to think about the grand cluster fuck that is my life.
I stop after about an hour, somewhere in Indiana, to find a Verizon store and get my phone situation figured out. The employee eyed my phone like nothing had happened to it and I feel better knowing that my phone isn't the craziest thing he’s ever seen. When I’m back on the grid I find literally fifty unread messages and twenty-five missed calls. A handful are from Simon but most of them are from Francesca. She probably thinks I drove off a cliff or something in grief.
Quite the opposite actually.
One notification stands out. Waiting in my Facebook inbox is a message from Madelyn. Without a second thought I open it and start reading.
Hi Josie. I don’t know if you remember me but I dance with Francesca at the company and I just found out from her that you and Simon broke up. She told me that you were engaged and were living together all this time and I just wanted you to know that I had no idea. I realize that we aren't friends and this is probably more for me than it is for you but I need you to know that Simon told me you two had broken up after graduation. He said that you were still friends and saw each other occasionally but were no longer romantically involved. Since you never came out with the girls from the dance team and no one ever saw you together, I didn't think to question that he might be lying. You can image my shock last night when I found out that you two were still very much together and I had been the other woman this entire time. I’m so sorry he cheated on you with me and if I had thought for a second he was with someone, I would have never been with him. I know it isn't the same, but I feel like I’ve been cheated on too and I’m so embarrassed for not realizing it. You were always so nice to everyone and I never wanted to hurt you. Needless to say I won’t be seeing Simon anymore and I know it might not feel like it now, but you will be happier without him. I hope I haven’t overstepped or offended you by reaching out but I just wanted you to know the whole truth.
I can feel the tears threaten my eyes and brush them away as I am unable to decide if it hurts or helps to hear that Simon was lying to Madelyn as well. Without another thought, I dial Francesca’s number and she answers on the first ring.
“Ohmygosh Josie, thank goodness. I’ve been worried sick. Where the hell have you been?
The urgency in her voice is apparent and I feel bad for not calling her sooner.
“I smashed my phone,
“I’m oddly proud of you for that,
I laugh somberly and jump into my break up with Simon and message from Madelyn, sparing no details. Francesca remains silent as I explain everything and takes a few minutes to process once I am finished.
“I’m so happy that’s over,
she finally says.
“I know you hated Simon.”
“I hated the way he treated you. Cheating on you was just the icing on the cake.”
“Very bitter icing.”
“You honestly don’t sound that upset,
she states questioningly.
“Reagan and I had sex.
There it is, I said it out loud. Now it’s real.
“Yeah, last night. Twice.”
She says nothing but I can hear her rapid breathing. I hope I didn’t cause her to go into cardiac arrest.
“How was it?
she finally asks.
“Exactly how you’d imagine it would be and then multiply that by a hundred,
“I’m so proud of you,
she says and I think I hear her tearing up.
“Are you going to cry?
she says quietly.
“I think you’re more excited about this than I am.”
I hear some commotion coming from inside and glance toward the door. “Reagan’s awake, I gotta go.”
“Just waking up? It’s eleven thirty. Or, wait, is it earlier? Where are you anyway?”
“Oh to be a rock star.”
I giggle and hang up just as the door swings open. Reagan walks out, squinting and totally disoriented.
I say with a big smile.
“Where are we?
he asks groggily.
“Why didn't you wake me up?”
“I tried, I really did, but you wouldn't get up.”
“How did I get to the couch?
he asks looking annoyed.
“I helped you stumble over there before we left Chicago,
“I really wouldn't wake up?”
I answer with an amused smile.
He descends back into the RV without a word. I was expecting a good morning kiss or something but he must not be feeling well. With a shrug I walk back over to the driver’s seat and pull out an atlas to map our next destination. Winging it so far has been going pretty well but I want to pick a place I’ve never been but always wanted to go. Maybe somewhere on the southern East Coast or we could head north toward Maine or New England. Martha’s Vineyard is probably nice this time of year.
A few profanities come from the bathroom and I worry that something might be wrong. I knock lightly on the door but get nothing in return. “Is everything okay?
I ask. Reagan mutters a yes and I roll my eyes. Mr. Cranky has made an appearance this morning. I brush it off and return to the driver’s seat, waiting for him to emerge so we can get going.
After twenty minutes he finally takes a seat next to me. I don’t know whether I should address last night or let this thing ride out naturally so I do what any logical person would do: I avoid the topic completely.
“So where to next?”
Reagan mutters as he slides a pair of sunglasses over his eyes.
“I’m between heading south toward Kentucky or east toward Ohio.”
“I don’t care.”
What the hell is up with him? Did I offend him in some way this morning? I pull out of the parking lot and head toward the highway. We sit in silence and I’m left simmering in my own thoughts. My mood swings from anger when I think about Simon to confused and hurt when I look over at Reagan ignoring me. Do I just deter every man from wanting to speak to me after I have sex with them? Or was I just another easy conquest that’s been marked off some arbitrary list? Please don't tell me I’m a groupie now. The thought puts a bitter taste in my mouth and I suddenly feel gross, like I need a shower.
After three hours of going between tearing up and gripping the steering wheel to keep from exploding, I pull off the highway and into the parking lot of a Hilton. I need a hot shower and a warm fluffy bed. The RV door slams as I march through the automatic doors and up to the front desk.
“One room please, two beds.”
“Hold on a second,
the girl says as she types something into the computer. Reagan walks in with a furrowed brow and I look away, annoyed. “It’s your lucky day, we have a double room discounted for sixty-three dollars,
she says with a bright smile.
. That’s a hoot.
I say, handing her my debit card and driver’s license. She types in my information and hands me a room key. I thank her quietly and walk back out to the RV to grab my bags. Reagan takes the larger one from my hand and I don't bother fighting him on it, or letting myself feel warm at the kind gesture.
We walk silently back into the lobby, up the elevator, and into the room. I immediately grab my shower kit and lock myself in the bathroom. The hot water feels like heaven against my back as I let the filth of yesterday wash off of me. I scrub the smell of Reagan’s skin off my body and once I’m clean, I feel like I have control over myself again.
When I exit the bathroom, Reagan is sitting on the white duvet looking at his hands. When the bathroom door clicks shut, he looks up at me with a haunted expression. I stop to stare at him curiously and he looks away like a small child who just got bullied at school. It takes everything in me to not walk over and comfort him.
He stands and moves toward the bathroom with his own shower supplies and after a minute I hear the water running. I suppress the images of his naked body in the shower as I dress myself and climb under the covers. My whole body aches and my head hurts from the overflow of emotions.
My mind starts to drift as I hear the shower cut off. Reagan emerges from the bathroom and I listen as he gets dressed. I grip the sheets to keep myself from rolling over to watch him and cringe when I hear him put his wallet and the RV keys in his pocket.
“I have to go pick up a few things,
he says cautiously.
I whisper quietly, willing the tears to go back in my eyes.
He swipes the room key from the table and shuts the door quietly with a click. It’s my first moment alone in days and I let all of my feelings rush to the surface all at once, releasing them into the pillow. My mind runs in every which way and I can’t focus on any one thing, so I try to think about nothing and let everything flow out in whatever order it wants to.
I hear my name coming from a million miles away. My eyes flutter open and I momentarily forget where I am. Oh yes, the hotel. The smell of dough and pepperoni hits me before anything else, causing my stomach to grumble.
I roll over to find Reagan sitting on the bed next to me holding what better be a pizza box or I’m going to slap him for coming back smelling of cheesy doughy goodness. He holds out the box with a small smile and I realize it’s a peace offering. I sit myself up and he lays it on my lap. Like a precious gemstone, I gently lift the lid and reveal a treasure more valuable than any piece of fine jewelry. He’s not even playing fair at this point.
“It’s not New York pizza but I asked some locals and they said this place had the best pizza in town.”
My greedy eyes don't leave the delicious looking red sauce as I lift a slice in the air and hold it like it’s made of gold, pure cheesy gold. I fold it in half like a good New Yorker would and take a huge first bite. It melts in my mouth and I realize I don't remember how long it’s been since I ate something that wasn't pretzels or Cheez Its.
Reagan reaches over like he is going to pick up a slice and I pull the box away. He smirks and lets out a quiet chuckle as I look into his eyes with a mouth full of pizza.
“Can I please have some pizza?
I shake my head.
“But I’m hungry,
he says with an adorable pout.
“Too bad. This is
“Am I forgiven?”
“Maybe after another slice,
He laughs and I can’t stay mad at him. I offer him the box and he lights up like a kid on Christmas morning. Even I’m not cruel enough to withhold pizza.
“I wasn’t feeling well this morning, I really am sorry,
Reagan says through mouthfuls of pizza.
“It was just poor timing to be acting like a jerk, you know?”
he says, tucking a piece of hair behind my ear. I smile a little as I grab another slice. This is the last one, I swear. By the time it’s gone I am completely stuffed and look over at Reagan who is finishing slice number two and begins to wipe his hands off like he is done.
“Oh no, you’re eating at least one more,
I command, holding out the pizza box.
“But I’m full,
“I ate three, you eat at least three. You can’t let me out-pizza you.”
“Out-pizza? Was it a competition?”
“An unspoken competition, yes. Don’t you know anything about pizza culture?”
“I guess not,
“The laws of pizza culture state that you must eat at least one more slice.”
“Well, I don’t want to get arrested,
Reagan teases as he pops a third slice in his mouth. I push the pizza box to the end of the bed and recline onto the pillows in a stuffed and sated bliss. When Reagan finishes eating, he flops onto the pillow next to me and sighs. I straighten my arm and rest it on the middle of the bed hoping he will catch on. He does immediately, lacing his fingers with mine. Reagan has a way of making me forget the bad stuff that’s going on. One minute he’s part of the problem and the next minute he’s the solution.
Suddenly, Reagan lets my hand go and jolts out of bed, running into the bathroom. I hear him start to vomit and quickly move toward the door. Knocking would be the polite thing to do, but he doesn't sound like he can answer and he might need me. I walk in and rush over to him. He tries to push me away but I swat his hand in protest.
“I am a healthcare professional…almost,
He manages a laugh but the vomit starts again. I grab a towel and run some cold water over it before ringing it out. Placing the towel over his forehead, I rub his back and mutter encouragements as he relieves himself.
“My jokes that bad?
His laugh turns into a dry heave and I start to feel bad. “Please stop making me laugh,
he says through heavy breaths.
“I’m sorry I forced you to eat more,
I say once he is finished.
“You didn’t force me to do anything,
he says. I help him sit on the floor and lean his head against the cool tub. “I told you I wasn't feeling well this morning.”
Taking a cup off the sink, I fill it with water and hand it to him. I assess the area around the toilet and determine everything got inside, so I shut the lid and flush. Reagan drinks his water and watches me move around the bathroom, fixing him another towel to put around the back of his neck and a washcloth to wipe off his face.
As I tend to Reagan, he sips his water and looks deep in thought. I don’t press him on what he is thinking, instead I focus on wiping the sweat from his forehead and making sure he doesn't have a fever.
“You’re going to be a good doctor,
he finally says.
I say, trying not to grin like an idiot.
“You really like it, don’t you? Caring for people.”
“All my friends tell me I have a motherly instinct, an inherent need to comfort people. I decided on medicine because, well, I didn't see another way for me to make change while helping people. I’m good at thinking quickly, diagnosing problems, and developing solutions on the spot so I decided to become a doctor, or surgeon maybe. I think I like the idea of an ER because I’m not fazed by a whole lot, except heights strangely.”
“I hear the people that work in the ER see some pretty fucked up shit.”
“Yes, but, please don’t think I’m a total creep for saying this, I’m fascinated by the idea of weird stuff that I might encounter. It forces doctors to be more creative in their solutions.”
he says with a smirk.
I laugh, swatting him on the arm.
“I’m going to clean up and then lay down for a while,
Reagan says, cueing me to leave.
I smile leaving him to his business.
I find myself worrying about Reagan as I clean the pizza mess off the bed. He sleeps an abnormal amount, I noticed that a few days ago, but now he’s throwing up too? I try to recall how much I’ve seen him eat. When I sit down and think about it, he never snacks in the car and when we have full meals he never finishes his plate.
My brain runs through everything that causes fatigue and nausea. It takes ten-seconds to realize that just about anything that can be wrong with someone has a symptom of fatigue or nausea. Unfortunately, being in med school means your brain is basically a walking Web MD and every symptom ends up leading to death. Have a headache? It’s probably a brain aneurism. When it’s in regard to myself, I don’t conclude that I am going to die because I think of myself as a logical person, but when thinking about Reagan, my heart races and I fear the worst.