Liberty’s Roommate

His hospital room had a view of the Statue of Liberty.

It seemed like a twisted sort of joke, since he was bound and wired to gadgets that kept track of his vital signs, and the symbol of freedom stood there in the harbor, a deaf and blind sentinel with a false promise in her mute mouth, holding a long extinguished torch.

His nurse, Jeanette, was pretty, though, so that was something. Young, efficient, professional, eyes bright with hope.

He hoped once. Hell, he even saw the Bright Path to Promise back then, but somehow took a detour and ended up on the Dirt Road of Busted Dreams, telling himself that it wasn’t his fault, the lie dying like a gunshot victim before he spoke it.
It didn’t matter now, did it?

He was still where he was, and had to start over again, again.

It was getting to him, all this starting over.

As much as he still thought of himself as young, his eyes, knees, and nether region told him he was way beyond that now. He was slowly accepting it, but felt no obligation to do it gracefully.

People called him ‘sir’ and ‘mister’ now when he was perfectly fine being called by his name, and gave him senior discounts he didn’t ask for.

He took another look out the window to see the sun going down.
Ha! In more ways than one.
“Don’t be maudlin…” he muttered.
“Did you say something, Mister Locke?” Jeanette had come in, and he never heard her open the door.
“No. No, Jeanette, I didn’t.”
She puttered around and checked his vitals. “You okay?”
“I’m in a hospital. Does that make me okay?”
“I’m sorry, sir. I didn’t mean–”
He waved her off. “That’s fine. I know, I’m sorry. I’m just tired…”
“I understand.”
No, my young bright, sweet, hopeful girl,  you don’t. You can’t. Not really, and not for a long time. Hopefully, if you play your cards right, you never will.

She finished, flashed him a bright smile. “See ya later.”

“All right.”

The light from the setting sun caught the metalwork of Liberty’s torch flame, reflecting flares that looked like pennants, as if to let him know her presence in the harbor was no joke, and not to be taken lightly.

He shrugged, turned away from the window, and shuffled back to the bed, clicking the remote for the tv, a hollow laugh track filling the silence, chasing the dark thoughts with empty ones.

Freedom, huh?  

He’d enjoy it, he guessed, however limited, in the time that remained.
For now.

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