It’s Easier to Love You, Chad
I had a roommate in the hospital and his name was Chad.
One day I remember laying in my bed next to the window and looking out I saw an ambulance arrive. Next a stretcher was pulled out of the ambulance and they started bringing a cartoonishly injured guy into the hospital, with crazy medical devices forming a superstructure around his body.
I knew where he was going, was the only free bed in the hospital, the one located in my room.
Some minutes later a stretcher is parked just outside of my hospital room with his feet tentatively poking through the doorway. In comes a slight man in his twenties wearing a large backpack, a tie died shirt, and a dopey face with blood shot eyes.
“Hey, I’m Will.”
“Okay cool, hi. Who’s that out there, coming in the room?” I asked.
“Yeah… that’s my boyfriend.”
He appeared guarded, even cagey, despite our polite if curt opening exchange.
“We were told the roommate’s name would be Nolan and he was a shooting victim,” he said, “I was expecting like a Vietnamese gangster. You are the exact opposite of what I was expecting.”
I’m given no time to process this as Chad is wheeled in and the true extent of his injuries is revealed.
Chad came in looking like a wreck. He wore a neck brace, and then above his head was a halo held by steel screws drilled into his skull. Further apparatus on his hips belied surgery in that area. Additionally, he was grunting as he laid board stiff like a manikin across the the stretcher.
“What happened to you?” I inquired after he had been settled in his hospital bed.
Will moved to answer but Chad spoke first, halting and hesitant in his speech.
“Uh, I got in a car accident… on Monterey highway.”
“Oh that’s too bad,” I replied.
“Too right,” he chuckled, “I’m okay though. It’s my last time drinking and driving I’ll tell you that.”
Whether he cared to see my reaction or not, if he registered the drop of my face in shock at the casual confession, I do not know. Because he continued on and told me his story without any prompting.
“I mean, I was at my friend’s house and had some shots of whiskey in my pocket so I was drinking them while I was driving home from this party. I ran a few red lights and this guy about to make a turn… I didn’t even stop, just hit him.”
Looking at Chad, seeing how tore up he was, hearing how he talked about his accident. Like it was nothing.
And Chad, he was a talker. He kept on going, telling me about all the cars he was going to buy when he got out.
Sometimes, he would make remarks like: “Imma sleep now… imma sleep coffin-style.”
Then I would look over and he would be sleeping with his arms crossed like a dead person.
“Yeah… when I get out imma buy a hearse. Imma have a coffin in the back and fill it with subwoofers. My car’s gonna be like the subwoofer-coffin-driving-mobile.”
One day my mother visited me looking anxious. Chad was fast asleep in his bed – he slept a lot due to all the pain medication he was on – and so she pulls the curtain around my bed for some privacy.
“Mom, what’s up?”
With a furrowed brow she pulls her phone from her pocket and holds it aloft in front of my face. There is a news article about a significant accident on Monterey highway, one where a 73 year-old man driving a truck was killed instantly by a drunk driver.
And there just below the victim’s photo and opening lines was Chad’s face, only less tore up. A lot less.
I was sharing a hospital room with a killer.
The morbidity of it all, his coffin-style sleeping, the times in group therapy where he would say: “Oh yeah I broke all these bones but the other guy had it way easier than me. I came off far worse.”
But the unbelievable thing was not that he was almost certainly soon to be convicted of DUI and manslaughter. It was that he genuinely appeared to have minimal awareness of his situation. He seemed like a man troubled – Chad was definitely 100% whack – but not someone who was wracked by guilt.
I was convinced that Chad is going to bail from hospital. His parents would come to visit and I started hearing snatches of hushed conversation.
“You don’t need to go to court… maybe you can go to Canada.”
Chad was mostly just funny and, at least, mercifully entertaining with good conversation. Being trapped in a hospital bed for a year makes this a saving grace.
Will spent a lot of time at the hospital and would come at all hours. My mom even got his and Chad’s phone number, because sometimes she would sleep at the hospital and could let Will in if he was locked out. There was a strange closeness between us by this point.
Will vaped. A lot. The hospital kept having to kick him out because of the enormous clouds he would rip. He would even go to the dispensary and get me CDB for my pain, and my tinctures nurses could scarcely distinguish from essential oil mints which is what I told them on the long painful nights. Will would tenderly drop it under my tongue with genuine care. Perhaps Chad’s condition made him more nurturing, more empathetic.
He’d also go across the street to get me food because the hospital cuisine was… well typical hospital-style. Disgusting. So bad actually that my mom brought the food back to my dog and he would not eat it either.
This one time I was laying in bed in the early hours. I couldn’t sleep much because my pain was bad, but things had advanced a bit. I’d noticed that Will had been slowly emptying Chad’s possessions from the room over the course of the week, picking up little things here and there, so by this fateful morning there remained just one bag. I guess so it wouldn’t be too obvious that they were running away.
I was awake but as soon as Will entered the room I snapped my eyes shut and pretended to be sleeping. His feet softly creep across the hospital floor and he presses his face near to mine, close enough for me to feel the warm, jittery breath from his nostrils. Satisfied I’m sleeping, he helps a slightly recovered Chad from the bed, into a wheelchair and takes the bag before leaving the hospital.
Looking out of my window I eventually see them appear to a car parked close by for a quick getaway. Chad wheeled himself to the car, got on a slide sheet and was helped inside by Will.
Then they took off.
The following day, detectives swarmed over the hospital to look for clues as to where Chad may have gone. They had called every day to check he was still in there and, I suppose, one day got the “nope” response.
So there was no Chad.
I didn’t hear from him ever again, save for one time when I was transferred to another hospital. I picked up a payphone and dialed Bren’ts number, just to see if he would pick up. He answered. I immediately hung up.
One day I was wondering what happened to him, if he got away, so I looked up prison records online and did some search.
And the dude’s in prison.
Whatever was going on inside his mind during his stay in hospital… whether he knew what he did, or not, if there was a part of his brain protecting him from the reality of his actions.
I guess Will and his parents were trying to protect him, too.
I remember Will setting ground rules for Chad going to live with him after they escaped, talking while they thought I was sleeping (they were sure that police didn’t know about their relationship).
“No WiFi, no friends over… in fact scratch that: no friends, period. No using the phone. Your parents can’t know where you are. No leaving the house. This is the only way it’ll work, Chad… it’s for your own good.”
One day Chad showed me his tattoo.
“My grandma told me to remain hopeful, so I got it tattooed across my chest.”
I looked over and he was lying wonkily, spread across his bed with only boxer shorts on, with “HOPEFUL” in huge old English-style writing that stretched from shoulder-to-shoulder.
“Hey Nolan, I’m done drinking. Yeah… for now, I’m gonna be just chillin’ n’ grillin'” he said, with a big goofy grin on his face.
Perhaps all Chad ever needed was written on his chest. Who knows what was going on in that mind of his, but the level of devotion from Will could make anyone jealous.
There was a lot of love there and I was lucky that some of it came my way. But in the end, no one could protect Chad from himself. Maybe that’s the way it was always meant to be.