Jordan spent his days and nights alone. His family had disowned him years ago. His partner took off when he became seriously ill, telling Jordan, "I just can't deal with the drama!"
When I asked what he meant by drama, he waved his arm around the isolation room and said:
"This, this drama of dying. It's too much for him to deal with. The hospital, the machines, needles, spacesuits, me leaving him forever when I die. Kenny is at his breaking point. In a way, it is for the better. I don't want him to see what I've become."
"What have you become, Jordan, besides sick?"
"I am a monster, I looked in the mirror in this table during the night. I don't even look like me anymore."
"You've lost a lot of weight, but you still look handsome to me, Jordan"
He got quiet for a while, not saying anything while I changed his many dressings. Kaposi's Sarcoma can be aggressive. Jordan's lesions had spread from his back and chest to his face. Each lesion teeming with virus, a blatant reminder that KS can be unforgiving and deadly.
"Poppi, I've often thought of you as an ally in all this, just in case I don't get a chance, I just wanted to say thank you."
"For changing your bandages?"
"Yes, for that, but for not running out the door when you are finished. Not many stay and just talk to me, or sneak in pizza deliveries." he laughed.
"It's no problem, Jordan. I like our visits, and I cannot let you be pizza deprived while you are stuck here in this room."
"I miss Kenny, I've called and left him messages. I need to see him, just one last time. I just want to hug him one more time."
"I'll call him and see what I can do to get him here."
I called Kenny several times, left messages and got no response. The weeks flew by, Jordan's illness progressed. he developed lung infection and lost his sight. Kenny still did not return my calls, Jordan was running out of time. I gowned up to say goodnight after my shift.
"Poppi, I feel weird, like I'm not really here. I'm scared." Jordan began to cry. "He's not coming, I'm going to die alone."
"Sssh, you're not alone. Don't be afraid, you are not alone." I said as I stroked his hair and gently picked him up into my arms.
"Don't hug me, Poppi, you'll get sick and die too! I'm a plague!" sobbed Jordan.
"Jordan, stop, you are not a plague, you are Jordan, and I am your nurse and your friend, you are not alone here." I said softly.
His blind eyes began to look far away. I had seen that look a thousand times before. He would leave very soon.
"Poppi, I'm so glad you're here. Don't let go!" he whispered.
"Not letting go, Jordan, I've got you right here." I whispered back.
"Look, my grandma is there, and my aunts and Grandpa!! Wave to them, Poppi!"
I waved in the direction he pointed. The air there seemed to glimmer.
"I think they are here for you, Jordan. Let go and run to them, there's no need to stay. Your family is calling you, it's okay"
"I heart you nurse flower girl....thank you...." he whispered and was gone. The air in the room got cold, the strange light he had pointed at was gone. I let go of Jordan and gently lay him on his pillow. I called the house officer to pronounce him.
The doctor did his cursory examination and pronounced Jordan dead.
He looked at me puzzled and said: "Are you working an extra shift?"
"No, I am off duty, I stopped by to say goodnight and he was getting ready to go, so I stayed. He didn't want to die alone. I stayed and I hugged him. Nobody should die alone."
"He was a nice kid, I'm glad you stayed. Nobody deserves this damn disease. You were probably the only person to hug him in the past year."
It was one am by the time we finished Jordan's final care and trip to the morgue. Plus I had to explain why I had stayed to the supervisor. She started to grumble about boundaries, the doctor told her it was kindness that made me stay with the boy no one else would hug. She shut up very quickly.
As I walked to my car, I thought about Jordan, how he missed Kenny and ended up alone in his illness. When I got back to my apartment, I dialed the number I had memorized and left a final message.
Kenny never returned that call either.
Copyright 2010 Poppi Iceland
***Names have been changed for privacy