#Charlie by Ian S., Horseheads High School

She sat on the indoor bench of the hospital, the corridor as narrow as a subway train with an ineffable odor and blinking lights. Charlie was her name, her label, what they would shout once her time came. A cold draft she could feel waft under the flap of her floral bandana across her bald scalp. She had sunk into the chair, into the floor, her tears weighing her head, though they could not escape; puddling in her eyes like rainwater in a leaf. Like night enveloping the day, she crunched her black jacket into her blue undershirt.
Around her strangers chattered, ghost that had not realized their death. They talked of birthdays, weddings, family dinners. All the dead memories that had lived vicariously, long ago. Before, the posthumous talk of a woman who once was. One of the strangers arms around Charlie’s shoulder, muttering “Honey, it’s okay,” though his words were whispers underwater.
Across from her a teenage girl sat with her legs crossed, chewing on gum like a cow munching hay. Big blue eyes like earth from a distance popped behind lens-less glasses. Her long blonde hair seared through her cloudy white beanie like sunbreak. To herself and to her friends she babbled.
“You know,” she said. “I think love is like a cancer.”
With a slow movement, Charlie raised her head as the girls gaped in awe at the girl’s comment.
“It starts off small, sometimes it’s benign, sometimes it’s malignant; it spreads all over your body and in the end it kills you.” Charlie began to laugh with a low chortle of a motor before her voice echoed down the halls as tear trickled down her cheeks.
“What are you laughing at?” The girl asked.
“Nothing.” Charlie said. “Just nothing.”
“Well you’re laughing at me.” The girl said. “What’s so funny?” She cleared her throat as she set up in her seat. The lifeless arm of the stranger rising with her.
“Okay, I don’t know what juvenile love drama you’re going through but you have no right to compare that to my disease.”
“Lady my problems are my own,” she scoffed. “Everyone dies.”
“Because you really know that?” She asked. “So have your grandparents died yet? Have your parents died or are you dying?”
“Everyone is dying,” she said shrinking back.
“NO.” She said. “Not everyone is dying. I am dying; I have less than a month to live. You have the rest of your life. You do not understand, you don’t even know what life is and I’ve figured out the meaning of life. Do you know what it is?!” she yelled?
“Well I’ve learned that people die, I learned first my grandparents die, my parents die, and now I’m dying. There’s your meaning, there’s your love. And all of that doesn’t matter anyway, all the memories I had all my life will be gone. No more dead. There are two kinds of people in this world. There’s me, and there’s everyone else and when I go, they go.”
She then slammed her back to the chair in silence. The entire room in a deafening silence. The girl had cried.
“I have ovarian cancer.”

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