Vanity

The emergency room at Mercy West Hospital was small and crowded, like most emergency rooms across the country.  The seats were worn and frayed; they must have been peach and sea green at one time.  People were sleeping and strewn about lazily as if they were on their leather couches at home, watching competing nighttime talk shows.  They had makeup-free faces with messy bird nest hair.  Some wore pajamas.

About 15 folding chairs were pushed in where space was available; three were empty.  Lana signed in at the front window.  A nurse grabbed a clipboard briskly.  “What’s the reason for your visit today?”

“Possible poisoning.”  She lingered.

“Sit down.  Might be a four-hour wait.”

Lana sighed.  She guided Dean to a folding chair and they both sat down.  The metal was warm and slightly sticky like melted lollipop.

“We’re not even real, we’re like feathers,” Dean finally said. He hadn’t spoken for the past three hours.  “Mystical feathers.  I can’t feel my face,” he added.

“That’s why we’re here.  I wish I had a pillow.  The nurse said we’d be here for hours.”

Dean looked peaceful.  His eyes were placid pools of blue and green and he barely blinked.  “I feel terrible.  I would kill for a pillow, except I’d have to ask you to kill for me since I can’t move.”

“It’s enough that I drove you here instead.  I warned you—that stupid party—it isn’t something that comes with a ‘Don’t do this at home’ label screaming at you.”  She shut her eyes and hoped to nap.  “Try going to sleep.”

“My eyes won’t shut.  I tried last night and it never happened.”
“What’d you do instead?”  Lana asked, hardly trying to conceal the lack of inquisitiveness in her voice.

“I contemplated life—my life.  I was thinking—why’d we do this?  So stupid and vain.  There are people worse off.  People in America—AMERICA, who can’t even afford to eat out!”  Dean attempted to gesticulate for emphasis, but his face was frozen.  Lana didn’t respond.

“Life is so crazy, and we’re just a slot machine, you know?  It just keeps spinning and spinning and we can’t control it.”

Lana’s eyes opened and she glared at Dean’s pale lifelessness.  “You think your life is spinning.  Get a grip.”  She had a wonderful day-long date scheduled with a handsome television editor she met at a brick-walled bar last Friday.  They chatted all night and were very drunk.

“One more thing—you’re a guy.  You do not need botox.  Ever.  And if you somehow think you do, go to a professional, not some clown who does birthday parties.  You’re thirty.  Face it, we’re getting old.  Wrinkles happen.”

Dean’s forehead was as smooth as velvet.   “Why do you have so say such mean things?”

He willed a frown but it didn’t work.

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