A short story I wrote for a class, but never turned in.
The pale blue was sickening. It just looked...blah. Why did all hospitals smell like this? It literally smelled like the color. It smelled like a drab, pale, blue. The kind of blue that perhaps once tried hard to be a vibrant blue, but gave up and is now dying. The wallpaper was peeling in countless places. If this room is where some people spend their final hours, couldn’t we make it a bit more appealing? An air freshener wouldn’t kill them. Rick couldn’t take it anymore. He lit a cigarette, took a drag, and blew it all around his head. Smoke smelled a hell of a lot better than this place. He thought of something, something he’s always wanted to try. Rick took out his last three cigarettes and held all four in between his fingers. He lit them all and put them all in his mouth. He sat up coughing. He probably looked foolish. But he tried again. After all, what did he have to lose? A nurse walked in and told him to put the cigarettes out. “Why?” She said it wasn’t good for his health. Rick stared at her until she walked out of his room. Not good for my health? It’s not like he could get any sicker. He took another long drag from his four cigarettes and flicked the ash onto the floor. This was Rick’s life. Laying in bed, smoking a pack of cigarettes a day, occasionally listening to his radio, waiting for his friend. Sometimes he’d clamber into his wheelchair and go outside, but that was rare. Rick didn’t like the outdoors. Too much color. He finished his cigarettes, and decided to get a gift for his friend, Samuel, who would show up soon. He does a lot for Rick, it’d be nice to do something for him. Rick slid out of his bed and plopped onto his wheelchair, put his bad leg up and strapped it in. Then he headed for the door.
Rick tried to quiet his mind when he was going down the street. It was all so vibrant and oppressive at the same time. And the looks he got from people didn’t help his mood. They acted like he was the first guy with one leg they ever saw. Bastards. He eventually got to the store. Once he was in, he could concentrate better, there were less colors here. Samuel, Samuel… what screams, “Samuel?” He looked at all the toys. All different colors. Different smells. Red, green, blue, yellow, brown, white, orange, purple. They all smelled different. A brief note about Rick; he was synesthetic. He could smell colors. It just meant that certain smells correspond with certain colors, and they induced different feelings. That’s why he hated his hospital room. The pale blue color smelled terrible. Rick grabbed a bright red toy that smelled warm, and left the store. He sped down the street, trying to get back to his room as fast as possible.
Rick opened his door and saw that Samuel was already there. Sam was sitting in his chair, curled up and resting, but when he saw Rick he jumped off his seat and ran towards his wheelchair-bound companion. “Hey, pal.” Samuel dropped his usual gift in Rick’s lap. A pack of his favourite brand of cigarettes. “Thank’s, boy. I got you somethin’ too,” Rick teased as he slowly pulled the rubber toy from his shopping bag.
Later, after Rick had a coughing fit and spit up blood, he was laying in bed with Samuel at his feet. He loved just laying there watching Sam chew his new toy, tail wagging happily. Sam always calmed Rick’s nerves. There was a sudden beeping sound; an alarm clock. Rick reached over and turned it off, then he grabbed his phone and told the nurse he’d like to make an outgoing call. Every day at five, Rick would make an outgoing phone call, to his twenty-six year old son. His successful, dental surgeon of a son. At least, that’s what he heard. Straight to voicemail. Every time, voicemail. Rick listened to his son’s message, just to hear his voice: “Hi, you’ve reached Toby Walker’s personal cell. I’m sorry I missed your call, leave a message and I’ll get back to you.” *beep* “Hey, Toby. I uh… Just sayin’ hi. Uhm, listen, you’re gonna have to take my calls sooner or later, I mean, I’m on my deathbed here…” Rick hung up the phone. It smelled like pathetic sorrow. Rick never had a good relationship with his son. He wasn’t around for him much, and when he was, he was piss-drunk. As Toby grew up, he didn’t need his father anymore, even with the first phone calls where Rick swore he would never drink again. Even with the first mention of the cancer. Even with the calls after his mother died. Even with all the teary messages. And Rick really did quit drinking, for a time. But now, well, now he had nothing more to lose, so every other time Sam left, he’d write down the usual cigarette order, but he also wrote down some of his favourite liquor. He’d put it in the envelope along with the money, and pin it to Sam’s collar, and Sam would leave with the order.
Rick grabbed the bottle from under his bed and started drinking. Didn’t bother to use a cup. It smelled better out of the bottle. He started to figure, if he was going to die, shouldn’t it at least be on his own terms? Why surrender to a disease? Why wait around and let cancer have the satisfaction of ending his life? About half an hour later, he had an empty bottle in his hand, and he could hardly see straight. Rick saw a bunch of colors he’d never seen before, they all smelled new. It was overwhelming. Rick got into his wheelchair and wheeled himself to the bathroom, told Sam to stay, and shut the door. It was a lot calmer in the bathroom. Only a few colors. But they smelled awful, like tears. Tears and pain. Rick turned on the water and filled the tub. Once it was full, he got undressed and climbed into the warm water. He soaked for a while, then grabbed the empty bottle and smashed it against the side of the tub. The smell of self-loathing. The next morning, Rick’s day nurse came in and found a dirty dog scratching at Rick’s bathroom door. She shooed the animal out and went to open the door, saying that it was ok, the dog was gone and Rick could come out now. She found Rick’s body still soaking in the bloody water.