This isn’t one of those stories where the protagonist goes through a series of trying events which lead to some monumental epiphany and becomes a better person at the end of the series of events, I am not that evolved, at least that’s what my therapist always says about me.

See, I hate hospitals, there is something very deathly about them, but right now, here, sitting in the hospital waiting room, I feel comfortable, at home. I have been here so many times for the very same reason so many times, I start to miss it when I’m not here for days.

My boyfriend is sick. And I use the words “boyfriend” and “sick” very loosely. Jack is not my boyfriend. He is a boy that I know and I like or liked, I don’t know and by “sick”, I don’t mean Cancer or something serious like that. Jack is an alcoholic, we never call it that though because denial is probably the strongest force of nature on the planet.

The lady next to me has not moved since she got here. She came in an ambulance with her son, he can’t be more than ten years old and when they wheeled him in here on the stretcher, something died in her. A nurse led her to the seat next to mine and she has been sitting here, not moving. I hand her the untouched cup of coffee in my hand, I figure she needs it more.

She looks up at me in surprise and takes the cup. She smiles wearily.
“My son relapsed. Cancer,” she says almost quietly.
I figure she’s not looking for a response.
“You’re here for family?” she asks me
“A friend,” I reply quickly.
“What’s wrong with them?”

What is wrong with Jack? I have never tried to answer that question. The most obvious answer would be “everything” but that’s not something I can tell a stranger. I can’t say that he is an alcoholic either, you go to rehab not hospital for that. How do I explain that I’m here because my “friend” drank chemical alcohol just to see if he could get away with it?

Or how the last time he was here, he got so drunk , he fell off a balcony or how he drank and wouldn’t wake up for three days the time before that or how he drunk walked into a pool the time before the time before that. How do I tell this woman that Jack’s entire life is like a rerun of Season 2 of Shameless, only this is real life and it’s really not as funny? Jack is dysfunctional.

I am too, according to my therapist. She says although I do not actively go out to look for dysfunction, I am drawn to it. I do not create chaos but once it is there, I willingly go into it, she says. She believes I throw myself into impossible situations to avoid dealing with my problems. I don’t think I willingly chose to be a 19 year old girl who spends most of her time in a hospital waiting on her 24 year old alcoholic “boyfriend”. I didn’t not choose it either, there are so many turns where I could have stopped this.
The first time I met Jack, he was drunk out of his mind, (no surprise there) and I knew it, but I just didn’t care. I think that’s what drew me to him, his attitude, he walked into the room, slouched into a seat, pulled down his cap to his face and by the time I saw the tattoos up and down his arms, I was sold, I had to have him.

Then he had an episode just after and this was before I knew how dire his situation was. He had been rushed to hospital and I remember staying up the whole night in his hospital room, waiting for him to get up. I remember crying although I had only known him for a few days. Crying because for the first time in a long time, I had met somebody who understood me, never judged me, made me laugh and also thought I was hilarious. I remember praying that night and crying to God to keep him alive. Prayed and interceded and did everything religious that I could get my head around. I had nearly given up and by the time he woke up, I was dying inside. But he survived-my miracle had been granted.

“Thando,” a nurse calls. It’s Lynne, I know the entire hospital staff now and they know me too. I stand up and go to her before I can respond to the lady next to me’s question.
“We pumped his stomach, he’ll be up in a day or two,” she says
“Good, That was close,” I say with as much excitement as anyone can conjure up in a hospital at 2am.
“Thando, you need to get him help, it keeps getting harder to save him,”
“He says he’s not sick, I can’t make him do anything he doesn’t want to,”
“You’re too young to be going through this, don’t you have friends or better things to do?”

I think about the shallow girls at the university then my mind rivets to my family. My dad who shot my mother’s lover, my mother who overdosed after her husband got life for killing her lover. I then think about the “friends” who would not stop talking about my family’s saga long after it happened.
I figure I do not have better things to do. This is as good as it can ever get for me. Jack is the kind of distraction I need.
“No Lynne, I don’t have better things to do. I’ll see you next week.”