He Ain't Heavy
'What did you tell him? What the hell did you tell him?'
My own common sense told me, before Simon could, that strangling the psychiatrist wouldn't help Blair, who was still fighting for his life one floor above us. Gallows humor alright. The horrible thing was that he wasn't actually fighting. He had intended to die, and apparently still wanted to.
Fortunately, the doctor's grim expression told me he would have none of that. He was stubborn, someone I trusted to win the battle. He had to.
Our department shrink wasn't stupid or anything. During the long wait, sharing too much suspicious tasting coffee from the vending machine with her, I finally acknowledged that. She'd been with the department for almost six years, longer than Blair had been, and his attempt at taking his own life was a tragic confirmation of her diagnosis.
She was devastated.
I was dying inside with his strength waning, but contrary to him, I refused to give up yet. He couldn't die.
They were a family, Mom, Dad, two kids, on their way to a camping trip. The father had decided to take a break from driving, so they had parked at the rest stop. Fortunately, the parents were both paramedics, and their children educated enough to handle a 911 call in their stride.
They were in time.
It was touch and go for a while, but we won him back from the doors of death; again.
I hadn't really faced the facts we were about to deal with, all I could feel was the utter gratitude when I was finally allowed to sit with him. For a while even all my anger - both that directed at the shrink, and at myself for not recognizing the signs for what they were - could be kept at bay.
Blair, however, wasn't happy to realize he was still alive.
"Welcome back, Chief."
"J-jim," he managed, looking embarrassed.
No, he obviously hadn't planned to be around for that conversation. I suppressed a shudder, emotion wanting to creep through that thin layer of sarcasm. I had to keep it together here!
"That's right, I'm here. I'm so sorry that can't be said for the times you've needed me most. I'll do better, Chief. I promise."
When that didn't help to erase the despair from his expression, I tried to lighten the mood a little. "You do realize that I'll have to kick your ass right after you make it out of this bed, don't ya?"
I was rewarded with a small, tired smile. It was a beginning. Right?
"First it's the... back rent, now you t-threaten me with... bodily harm?"
Ah, hell. I brought that up, didn't I? "I just can't seem to get it right here." I hoped it sounded like the apology it was meant to be, and not like an accusation. "What I'm trying to say here is... I would have wished you all the best career chances in the world. I wouldn't want anybody else as a partner."
Now his eyes were bright with hardly controlled tears. Well done, Ellison! I had a little more to say though.
"But when it comes down to what we have, none of that really matters. I want you in my life, no matter what."
There was hope, yet doubts in his expressive face. No wonder. Whenever I had talked about my feelings before, it was always about me, and something that he had done wrong. "And yes, I do need you because of those senses, but that's not what I'm talking about."
I took his hand in mine, glad when he squeezed my fingers with what little strength he could in his condition. By touch, I was much better at bringing the message across.
But then he shook his head. "You can't need...*me*." The emphasis was unmistakable, but he was way wrong.
"Chief. I never thought I'd ever say this, but about that, we're going to have a good long talk - when you're better. Now try to rest some more. I'll be here."
Blair obliged and I pulled the chair a little closer, so I could reach out and ease him into sleep by softly stroking his forehead.
I had yet to tell the young family as well as the doctor how much I owed them; for the rest of my life. The upcoming battles were mine to fight.
It wasn't easy to argue with someone who was convinced that everything was black; you see what you want to see, and some time ago, I would have gladly agreed with anyone who thought that there was no real meaning to life.
My Guide had taught me how precious life was, and I would help him find this perspective again, whatever it was going to take.
July 2, 2003