Illustration by Marley Ridgill

Balding, cheating and the other self-afflictions

By Dylan Greer

The flowers had faded by the time I made it to the front desk. They started life as plain brown seeds and have returned to that color, wilting away from their eponymous violet on the long ride from Billings, Montana. The blossoms now face the linoleum floor, drooping down the stem with suicidal petals.

“Can I get your name?” The nurse was tall and dark haired. She blinked at me and it seemed like flirting.

“Junior.” I said.

“Your legal name.” Her computer screen lit blue on her face and her eyes bugged out, red lines streaking across them urgently, like bolts of lightning.

“Mike. Michael Danryd Jr.”  I wiped the sweat from my brow and with it came a hair from my hairline.

“What do you do for a living Mr. Danryd?” I couldn’t tell if she was flirting with me so I tested the waters.

“I work at Chippendales.” She smiled and looked back to her screen. She was blushing and that seemed like a good sign.

“Who are you here to visit?” She looked like one of the girls I kept back home. The same round face and harsh voice.

“My fiancée, Debra Harris.” The pink fled from her cheeks like a fly from a swatter.

The nurse gave me a badge with my name on it and directed me to room 154. I walked away aware that I hadn’t been for a run in four days and my holiday pudge was spilling out over my waistband. I hoped the nurse didn’t watch me leave.

Room 154 was in an open area of the hospital and had a clear view of the still-lit Christmas tree in the main waiting room. I used the reflection of myself in the window to straighten my tie, tuck in my shirt and fix my hair. Inside she was laying in bed, flipping through channels on the TV above her. She shared the room with an empty bed and a man in a white coat who sat next to her. They laughed as I walked in.

“Junior!” she said. “It’s so good to see you.” They smiled at each other. She had told him about me.  “This is Doctor Heath.” Still smiling, he got up and shook my hand.

“I’ll give you two some privacy,” he said. “Let me know when you have a date, I’d love to come, I do a mean electric slide.”

“Of course, Doctor,” Debbie said, and he left the room. “Are those for me?”

“Who else would they be for?” I handed her the flowers but she put them to the side. “They were alive on the way here.”

“They’re violets. You know I hate violets.” She kept smiling at me and I checked the window to make sure that nothing was on my face. “Come here.” She said, and I kissed her. “Thank you for the flowers, I’m sure they were beautiful. But no violets for our wedding.”

“Sorry,” I said. “Who was that doctor?”

“Doctor Heath? I’ve told you about him. He’s the one looking after me post-op. He’s such a nice man.”

“Is he single?” I picked a candy wrapper off of her bedside table and threw it into the trash.

“Are you jealous?” I shrugged. “Is it because he has a full head of hair?” She reached out and rubbed my head.” I pulled away. “How’s the house?”

“It’s good. Clean. Tell me again why you had to come all the way out here for the surgery?”

“My parents are here. They wanted to be around me. They’re in the café if you want to say hi.” She turned off the TV and smiled at me again.

“How’s the stomach?” I asked.

“I’m in a lot of pain, but the doctors say I’m cancer-free and I should be able to go home any day now. Let me kiss you again.” She sat up and we kissed. Her lips were like a home-cooked meal.  “I miss you.”

“I miss you too.” I said and my phone rang. It was Veronica. I had seen her a few nights ago for the third time and she was getting attached. It was understandable; we had great sex, and I liked her because she always made the bed after. “I have to take this, it’s work.”

“Okay,” she said and I went out to the hallway.

“Hey baby, I miss you,” She said.

“I miss you too, listen, I can’t talk now, I’m with Debbie. I got her violets. I don’t know how I could mix that up.” I looked into her room but the blinds were down and all I could see was my reflection. In the waiting room three brothers shot each other with finger guns while their mom talked on the phone nearby.

“Well you can always bring them back to me. You know they’re my favorite. Why are you wasting your time with her anyway, she’s too skinny for you.”

“I’ll talk to you later okay?”

“Okay.” I hung up and went back inside.

“I’m sorry about that. Jake’s worried we’re not attracting enough customers.”

“Did you tell him I said hi?”

“No, sorry I forgot. Listen I’m gonna go to the hotel, I’m pretty tired, but I’ll come back tomorrow and we can pick a band.”

“I was thinking we could just have a karaoke machine. When my mom gets drunk she does a great Stevie Nicks.”

“I can’t wait.” I said. “I love you.”

“I love you too.”

That night in the hotel room, Veronica sent me a picture of her tits and I masturbated to it thinking about my future with Debbie. About our children with my nose, unfortunately, and, god-willing, her hair. I loved her hair. I thought about our honeymoon: a week of mediocre sex in the islands of Greece. Veronica was better. So was Angie before she called me fat during a fight and I kicked her out. I finished into the hotel’s complimentary tissues and carried them to the bathroom trash before taking a shower and falling asleep, naked, between the sheets.   

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