The Meaning of Hell
I inhaled, the flavor of fire polluting my chest. I exhaled, the smoke tickling my nose and curling its way to tingle my lips in pleasure.
My chest suddenly felt like it was crashing with a colliding force against my lungs and I coughed to give them some space, making me feel like a hot-brand iron had been pressed down my throat.
I kissed the mouth of the cigarette again, sucking in the taste of burning mint until none remained but the end of the stick. I don’t like the way I grasped it. With need. I hated it. I threw it away.
I automatically took the lighter out of my pocket, my fingers expertly pressing the tip of it and a small fire danced in the darkness
“You really shouldn’t play with fire.”
I looked up to see who had spoken for his voice was oddly familiar. He was wearing a long white gown, a stethoscope had snaked its way from his neck to his broad chest. His eyes– the intensity of how blue it was held me paralyzed. They were the color of the sky, almost the same shade as mine– only mine had a storm of dark gray clouds swirling around it. I found myself irritated with the striking resemblance. He regarded me with sympathy.
“You look new,” was all I said.
“I’m the new intern, fresh from medical school.” He told me, his voice laced with pride as he flipped through my medical records. His eyes– my eyes– flickered to me once again as he held his palm towards me.
I sighed, with difficulty, handing him the lighter.
“Lung Cancer,” He said the words slowly, his lips forming a thin line. “If I were you, I’d stay away from this baby.” He told me, shaking the lighter in sync with his head.
“But you’re not me.” I retorted, smirking.
He copied the gesture, but his was more pronounced that made me feel like that I need to be reassured. “I’m just saying, Mr. Smith. And besides, the closest we can get is our names.”
Sure enough, Smith was printed in bold white letters on his name pin.
“Big deal.” I rolled my eyes, slumping on my pillow.
“Almost half of this country had the same last name, huh?” He tried carrying a light topic but his words are a bit heavy towards me. “Just like in college, I remembered having a fair amount of them in most of my classes.” He chuckled at the memory.
I did not share the laughter. In fact, a sour taste filled my mouth.
What I remembered from there is a lot of classmates alright but not in the sense of classes. From an invisible distance, I can hear the bass of loud stereos, yells wavering among the crowd, high heels clopping against the dance floor, beer being gulped down till the last drop, and a lot of drained air sounds of snoring when their heads pressed the cold marble tiles. Along the commotion, I finally hear my grades fell until it hit rock bottom– how my papers quiver in the flare; my future caught into the bonfire of disappointment.
I dropped out of college. The same day my dad got diagnosed with cancer.
Tricks– that’s how life plays with us.
“It wouldn’t be a surprise that my first patient would have the same surname as I do. You have my father’s name as well. It brings back memories of that old man.” He continued, sighing deeply with a lingering look.
My dad also named me after him. Huh. That’s the only thing the old bastard bothered to give me. Well, I can’t blame him. He expected so much for me. Good grades, a slot for medical school, good grades, a license for practicing medicine, a family. A lot more contributions to the million Smiths in the country. But no– I am here, stuck in this tiny white room.
Someone came rushing from the door, face painted with a pallet of sweats. “Joshua, I need you in the operating room.”
I frowned at him, confused. What can I possibly help him with? Can’t this fool see that I am held prisoner in this bed?
“It’s your father.” He continued, catching his breath. “He’s asking for you.”
The time has finally come, then.
“I’ll be right there.” I told him, attempting to make a move out of my bed.
The other doctor looked at me as if the smoke I had engulfed all these years had finally crawled up to my brains. “What do you think you’re doing?”
“You asked for me, did you not? My dad has also been brought here and he’s asking for me now.”
The doctor just shook his head and nodded towards Dr. Smith.
Dr. Smith sighed, “I’ll be right there.” His voice was a low monotone as he nodded to the other doctor. The latter shook his head before disappearing.
He turned to me, “Well, Joshua. I think I’ll see you later.”
“Are you going to visit my dad for me?” I asked, my voice barely a whisper. I seemed to be forcing the words out of my mouth until they hang into the thin air.
“I’m going to visit my dad for me.” He replied, slowly walking towards the door.
My senses cleared. “Your dad?”
He sighed, turning back to look at me with a sad smile. “Our dad.” Then his back disappeared with the white walls.
Then it struck me.
Tricks– that’s how life plays with us. A playful sinister trick.
I laughed bitterly.
“Hell is when the person you became meets the person you could have become.”