Never Been Loved, p.3C.M. Kars
Holding out my arms, Eddie places him on my chest, and the little guy wraps his arms around my neck, holding on tight. I feel his heart beat next to mine, and whatever tension my body had as I came through the door, slowly bleeds out of me. No matter how much I hate everything that’s happened to me, no matter what happens in the future... I need to make it better for Matty.
Whatever happens now, is all for him.
First things first, I need to tell Aly.
Yeah, that’s gonna go over well.
Aly’s gone, and left the door unlocked, too. Her perfume still lingers in my room, in the hall and by the front door. I’ve been dismissed like the lowlife I am, and that’s good. I don’t have to face her and endure whatever shit she’s going to throw my way when I tell her I won’t be the recipient of her blow jobs anymore.
The place is a mess. At least the kid’s room is a contained disaster, sheets on the floor from the day before, toys and kiddie books covering every inch of floor space. If I walk in there, I’m bound to slip and kill myself.
Aly’s left the kitchen, right across Matty’s room, full of shit. She ate something on a plate, stuffed in the sink with half her breakfast. The coffee pot is shoved into its place in the coffeemaker, sputtering because the fucking thing is still dripping. I bet the babe next door wouldn’t leave shit lying around like this.
“Matty,” I say, rubbing his back so he wakes up. Only when I get eye contact do I continue, gently placing him on the couch. “I want you to clean your room, all right?”
He nods sleepily. “Daddy, I’m tired.”
Fuck. Shit, fuck, fuck!
Shame presses down on me like a living thing, burning through me as I settle Jules’ kid on the ground. I locate his pouch on the counter, hidden behind some bananas that I know I didn’t put there and pull out his glucometer.
Heart in my mouth, and dread settling into the pit of my stomach, I crouch and put Matty up on the kitchen counter, watch as his shoulders slump forward and he squints around, trying to see. My hands shake, like I haven’t done this a million times before, as I jab in a test strip, and ready the mini-piston by pulling back on it. I always give Matty the choice of which finger he wants to use for blood.
He gives me his middle finger of his left hand, holding out all five fingers and staring at me like I’m the one who caused all this. Fuck, maybe I am.
Swallowing, I stab his finger with the mini-piston and watch his finger bead with a perfect red dot, ready to be sucked up by the test strip already in his glucometer. When the blood’s in the test strip and the five second countdown starts on the glowing surface of his machine do I let myself breathe normally. My part’s done, now I have to see what the result is.
I might as well be crucified with the way the number of his blood sugar levels hit me. Twenty-fucking-five. He should be at a five – a normal level. Jesus, what the hell did Eddie feed him – sugar-rolled donuts? There’s no time to get pissed right now. I need to get him his insulin.
Opening the fridge door, I go for the drawer bit under the glass-cased butter, open it and pick up the refrigerated pen that contains his fast-acting insulin.
Turns out once your pancreas gives up on you, you need two kinds of insulin to take care of the food you eat – slow-acting that acts as a baseline so your body constantly has some sort of circulating levels of insulin, and the fast-acting kind – the one you need right after meals to deal with whatever shit you ate.
Matty lifts up his shirt once I’ve put a needle on top of the pen and squirt out any excess in case of air bubbles. I ended up bruising his skin last time I injected him with his insulin, probably hit some capillaries on my way in. I pinch his little boy fat and insert the needle in, watching his face the whole time.
His blue eyes so much like my sister’s stare at me, then through me, like he’s gone somewhere else. He doesn’t utter a sound, and his face doesn’t crumple like it does right before he starts crying. He takes it like a champ while hot bile rises up my throat.
Jules’ son shouldn’t be sick like I am. He did nothing to deserve this. Me? I knew something bad was coming. I deserve to be sick. Not Jules’ kid, not him, not when he hasn’t done anything wrong.
“It’s okay, Daddy,” he says, patting my arm when I’m done discarding the needle in a special box we get from the pharmacy, and putting his insulin away. “Can I go to sleep now?”
I grunt, because I can’t talk. I lift him off the counter and settle him in his room, not giving him any shit on the state of it. I’ll clean it up later, when he’s out cold. I help him into his Iron Man pajamas, and tuck him in with the blankets that I take up off the floor. Matty’s eyes stare at me and he gives me a small smile like I’ve done a good job.
I hate that smile – the exact one Jules used to give me when she was grateful for a ride home, or the five bucks I’d give her for lunch at school when Mom gave her weird diet shit instead. This is all I have left of my sister – her little boy who calls me Dad. Her little boy who deserves so much better than me.
“See you later, kid,” I say, leaning down and I get a wet kiss on my cheek. I’m going to eventually have to tell him girls don’t like that, but that’s another conversation for another time. I sit on his bed with him and watch him curl around the hand I’ve planted on one side of my body.
My eyes burn and my throat gets thick and I want to punch something, make it bleed, make it hurt. I didn’t ask for this, I didn’t ask for this kid to be in my life. I didn’t want this. But I have to try and make it better – for him.
I clean up the entire apartment, and go over my finances, because hey, why not end a shitty day with an extra dose of shit, right?
I was smart back in the day, when I cared. I got good grades, and my soccer team was so fucking good, we had scouts coming to the games. I could’ve gone to school in the States on a scholarship and made something of myself. Then the world fell apart when a teammate commented on how much water I’d been drinking. All I knew was I was thirsty. Turns out I’d drunk the equivalent of four litres in the span of two hours.
Red flag. I went to the doctor by myself, ’cause Mom sure as shit wasn’t going to come with me, and Dad was fucking some poor intern at work, and I didn’t want Jules to worry. I explained my symptoms. They did some blood work and I walked out of there with a name for my condition - diabetes.
Now I work construction since I don’t have a college degree, and whatever money I’m going to get when Mom dies is going to help me, but for now I’m treading water and barely getting enough air. Even Matty has nicer clothes than me. I sure as fuck have t-shirts older than twice his age that I’ve kept since I moved out after Dad left nine years ago.
I do the math by hand, trying to prove to myself I don’t need the calculator when I know I’m going to check the sums and differences with my phone later on. I don’t know why I try. At the end, I find we’ll be good for this month. I have enough money to cover everything, and the money I got from selling my motorbike goes straight into Matty’s account for college.
So this month, I get the oxygen I desperately need. Next month might not be as good. Rubbing my head, I let my neck fall loose on my shoulders and take in a deep breath. I lie to myself, mouthing the words over and over and over again. Everything’s going to be okay. Everything’s going to be okay.
Everything has to be okay.
I don’t see Aly for a whole week. Then, like clockwork, when Saturday comes around, I get another video that has my dick twitching and my stomach twisting. My dick doesn’t care who it’s getting its sink and glide from, as long as she’s willing. My brain is getting in on the whole thing, finally giving me a conscience, and I don’t know what to do.
I can’t look away. The way Aly’s hips are jerking as she dips her fingers in her pussy, moaning my name. Then I think of her positioning her phone on her dresser or whatever, knowing exactly what she’s going to do, knowing I’m going to come running. I hate being played.
I close my phone and try not to look at it. The hard-on will be taken care of as soon as I can get Matty to the doctor’s for his check-up.
“C’mon, kid, we’re going to be late.”
Matty nods and stumbles forward and plops his ass down to get his Velcro sneakers on. He wailed for a whole week until I relented to buy him those Iron-Man sneakers with the heel that lights up. He nearly walked into four walls a day just looking down at his feet and trying to catch them flashing red.
I grin, remembering. Then I rub it off my face, wondering what the doc is going to tell me now about Matty’s health. How good or bad he’s doing, and what that means for me and for him. And how the doc is going to look at me like it’s all my fucking fault.
I ignore the way my guts twist into knots as I stuff my feet into my boots. Grabbing a hoodie, I toss it on top of my clothes and help Matty zip up his jacket. I stuff my keys and wallet, and some candies for my hoodie pockets, I lock up and we move to the elevator together.
Once inside, the kid starts in on the questions.
“Daddy, if something bad happens, I have to call nine-one-one, right?”
“You got it,” I say. Am I ruining his childhood with this information? But if something happens to me and I can’t talk on the phone, he needs to know what to say – it’s only me and him after all.
He grabs my hand and squeezes my palm. I squeeze back, hating myself that I’ve treated him so badly these last three years. I don’t know how else to be.
“And I’m s’posed to say: ‘in-su-lin de-pen-dent di-uh-be-tic’, right?”
Quiet, then, “Can I have a bubble gum because I remembered?”
Don’t I feel like I’m giving a puppy a treat. I clear my throat and ignore the incessant buzzing of my phone after I strap him into the car and drive out of the indoor parking lot. “Sure thing.”
“Thank you, Daddy.”
Daddy. Dad. I don’t deserve the title. I really don’t.
“Daddy, where are we going?”
I strangle the steering wheel and my knuckles crack. I hate this. Matty has a fucking phobia when it comes to hospitals and doctors. He doesn’t like how they poke and prod at him, no matter how much I explain that it’s all for his own good. My chest burns like someone’s taken a blowtorch to it, or decided to set up shop welding muscle and bone together.
“We’re going to see Dr. Saunders, Matty. After we’re done that, I’ll get you five bubble gums, all right?”
No use. He starts wailing like I’ve gone and told him he’s going to die tomorrow. Settling into a very noisy drive, I fiddle with the radio, hoping to find something to soothe him. Nothing helps, and after half an hour, I’m ready to beg someone for a gun so I can blow my brains out.
After parking, I go to unbuckle his car seat, get a few sucker-punches from feet and hands as Matty tries not to leave the car like his life depends on it. I have to tickle his ribs to get him to let go of the door frame, and haul him over my shoulder like he’s a water barrel instead of a four-year-old kid.
“Daddy, please! Please! I don’t want to go! I’ll be good, I’ll be good!” Enough to crack even my black heart wide open. I close my arms around his body, feeling his little one fight off the shakes like he’s a junkie going through withdrawal.
“You’re going to be fine. I promise. We’re just going to see the doctor and everything will be all right.”
“I don’t want to go away. I don’t want to!” He howls into my chest, and the sound is so awful, I want to drop him and run away from the noise.
“I’m going to be with you the whole time, kid. I promise. Just stop making yourself sick,” I say, but he doesn’t hear me. He keeps crying, clawing into my hoodie and shirt like he wants to get inside my body and hide from whatever evil the hospital holds for him.
After checking in, I fight a forty minute battle trying to get him to calm down. A spastic four-year-old who does not want to be where you need him to be is a tough thing to control. Especially with all the other mothers in attendance that seem to know exactly what they’re doing as they sit there, casting judgements on me for my shit parenting skills.
I’d flip them all off if I didn’t need two hands to restrain Matty in my arms and keep him from bolting.
He doesn’t stop crying the whole time, only picking up his hysteria as we walk into the examination room. The walls are sterile white, and I heft him up onto the bench covered with the requisite paper sheet. Classy.
Doctor Saunders is a sweetheart, and she doesn’t look at me like I don’t know what I’m doing, even though we both know it’s true. Her eyes are compassionate and understanding.
“Matty! How are you today?” Doc Saunders is in her late fifties with strawberry blonde hair that I’m sure is dyed, and she’s as tall as I am. She could kick my ass if my sugar was low enough, and I try to take the hit to my ego like a man.
Matty sniffles, and hyperventilates, looking at me with accusation in his eyes. I feel like a shit already, kid, don’t need to add any more, thanks.
“I don’t want to be h- here...”
“I know, sweetie, but let’s get this quick and over with, okay?” Doc Saunders says and manages to calm him down enough with her magic touch that she gets what she wants from him, and goes through her routine.
I watch without seeing, the fuzziness in my brain pissing me off and making my heart stumble in its beats. Sugar’s going down. Awesome. Stuffing my hand in my pocket, I open a toffee and stick it in my mouth, sucking on the sugar and hoping I’ll be all right sometime soon.
“And you? How are you, Hunter?”
Busted. I swallow some toffee-flavoured saliva, and try to get my head in the game. She was asking me a question. Simple enough. “I’ve been better. And you?” I don’t really give a fuck how she’s doing, but manners are manners.
“I’m really good, thank you. Now, Matty here is doing well. How are his sugars doing?”
“Lately, they’ve been kind of high. I don’t know how, I don’t keep junk in the house, and neither does my mom. I might have to go speak with his daycare supervisor sometime soon to make sure his meals are healthy.”
Doc Saunders nods, and pets Matty’s hair, something I’m not sure he would let me do. Or if he did, he might pass out from the shock of it.
She goes on, running her fingers through his hair, and wiping the tears off his cheeks, even rubbing his back until he gets his breathing under control. I should be doing that. I should be in her place, trying to offer my nephew comfort, but I can’t bring myself to get up. I’m just tired. Really fucking tired.
But Christ, he needs someone like Doc Saunders, someone to give him comfort and love. He deserves that. Jules’ kid deserves that.
Her hawk eyes turn back to me, still rubbing Matty’s back. The kid soaks up the attention. “And you? Who’s taking care of you?”
I jerk, eyes flaring wide. “Excuse me?”
She grins, a twist to her mouth at my expense. “I know you heard me. You know you can only take care of Matty as well as you can take care of yourself. You’ve lost weight since the last time I’ve seen you.”
I clear my throat, and work my hand into my pocket again, searching for more candy. “Yeah, I work out. Helps regulate my sugars. So what?”
“Are you eating well?” Scrutinized. I’m being scrutinized, and I’m sure whatever tell-tale weakness shows on my face is as bright as a neon light.
“When I can.” I hate this. She does this sometimes, trying to pull me into the conversation. I want to remind her that she’s a pediatrician, and I don’t need her help.
Another twist of her mouth. “Right. And your girlfriend, is she making sure you’re eating properly... when she can?”
Ah, fuck. I look at Matty, whose blue eyes won’t meet mine. How was I not paying attention enough to hear him mention Aly? “I don’t have a girlfriend. She doesn’t take care of me, all right? Are we done here? I need to get home.”<
“Wait!” she says, doing something under the cabinets of the bench and pulling out a juice box. Apple juice; the sugar jackpot. “Here, drink this, and wait twenty minutes before driving home.” She sighs, and asks Matty for a high five. The kid gives it to her, happy to comply.
“You need someone to help you, Hunter. Or else this little boy here is going to suffer.”
I jerk like I’ve been electrocuted and give her the requisite smile. We both know it’s just another way to say fuck off. “Sure. I’ll get some help.”
On what fucking salary?
I repress the sigh, and refuse to put my face in my hands and cover my eyes with darkness. I move instead to heft Matty back up in my arms, and move out of the examination room, ignoring the looks of all the mothers in the waiting area. Some are checking me out, I know, but I can’t even bring myself to give them any necessary eye contact.
They don’t want someone like me, they just want someone who looks like me. Two very different things.
I schedule Matty’s next appointment with the front desk secretary who tries to give me the eye. I want to snarl at her to make her go faster, but she’s drawing it all out to look at me. I go into asshole mode, and that seems to get the process to go a little quicker, thank God. I don’t wait the twenty minutes Doc Saunders told me to, but get Matty in the car and strap him in. I just want to go home and sleep for hours.
The drive home is a hundred times more pleasant than the drive going in. Matty even sings to Aerosmith’s “Dream On”, getting only half of the words right. I didn’t know I could smile after the day I had. The elevator ride up to my apartment is uneventful, and I’m happy he’s forgotten about the bubblegum balls I bribed him with like a pro.
When we get upstairs, only then do I realize I forgot my pouch in the glove compartment of my car. Heat and small electronic instruments don’t mix. I tell Matty to sit tight, lock up, and make my way down again, pissed when the doors open in the lobby instead of the basement like I’d intended them to go.
Never Been Loved by C.M. Kars / History & Fiction have rating 4 out of 5 / Based on32 votes