Tony watches Mark sleep on the hospital bed. His left leg is in a cast, he has small thin tubes connected to his arms, and his face is covered in red scratches. “That’s where his face hit the cement,” the doctor had told him. He seems so helpless in this bed, and Tony wonders how could he have ever said anything cruel to him. “After all,” Tony thinks, “I don’t need Mark to approve of my choices. He can hate Jill all he wants. It’s not as if Liz is my favorite person.” As he thinks this Mark’s eyes open, he half smiles at Tony before his eyelids close again, and he goes back to his morphine induced dreams. Their parents are sitting on the couch; their mom laying her head on their dad’s shoulder while their dad is reading something on his Kindle. Tony likes the idea of his brother being surrounded by people who love him, and he steps out of the room to buy himself a soda.
As he walks down the long hospital hall, he remembers his first stay at the hospital. He had been seventeen and he had appendicitis. He did not mind the needles forced into his veins and the sight of his blood filling empty vials hypnotized him. However, once the medical procedures were over, and he was confined to his tiny computerless hospital room, he was consummated with boredom. Luckily, his boredom did not last long because Mark came home from college to stay with him. They watched movies together during the day, and made fun of infomercials at night. Mark also ate hospital food because he felt Tony should not be the only lucky one to enjoy the fine gourmet food provided for the healers of humans. After Tony was able to go home, he discovered that his brother had a missed a trip to Mexico in order to stay with him. His brother had never been good at expressing affection, and Tony felt that Mark’s sacrifice showed his love for him. He wonders if Liz left him because she was tired of seeing only actions and hearing no words.
As if he conjured her with his thoughts, Liz appears before him. “Tony,” she says, and although she does not actually ask him anything he replies to her, “Mark ‘s in room 255. His leg is broken, but he is okay. Our parents are with him right now.”
“I know,” Liz says. “Your dad just called me.”
Liz seems hesitant to go inside her soon to be ex husband’s room, and Tony, sensing her discomfort, asks “You want a soda? I was about to get one myself.”
Liz happily agrees and follows him to the soda machine. He buys two sodas, and as he watches Liz sip her drink, he notices that her eyeballs are tinted red and that her eyelids are puffy. “Are you really only staying married to Mark because of money troubles,” he suddenly asks her. He is surprised at his own question, and he is about to tell her she doesn’t have to answer, when she says, “mostly”. She stares at him with hard and unapologetic eyes, takes a sip of her soda and adds, “I know what you’re thinking. Of course I love him, but….” She takes another sip of her soda, and silently stares at her hands.
“But…,” Tony says to help her out.
“But loving him is not the same as loving to live with him. Marriage is different than dating.”
Tony thinks of his poor defenseless brother who has too much morphine is his system to defend himself from such accusations, and he says, “ I lived with Mark for almost two decades. It’s not so bad.”
Liz snorts, and replies with a half smile, “I think I’m ready to see him. You said room 255, right,” and she walks down the hallway before Tony has a chance to answer her. He half considers following her, but then he decides that his brother has enough visitors at the moment, and instead buys himself another soda.