Nothing Left to Give
It came in like a wave, like unstoppable rising tide, a tide that aimed to swallow him whole. It came as phone call, a simple phone call, that crashed unrestrainedly over his carefully constructed world.
“Mr. Hargrove?” The voice said from the other side of the line. It was a man, Billy registered. “Mr. Hargrove, are you still there?”
He swallowed hard. Breathed. In, out. “Yeah.” He answered. “Yeah, I am.”
Another beat of silence. “Are you coming, then?”
In, out. In, out. In, out. Thinking was hard with the whole ocean crashing and pulling inside his brain. “Yeah. Yeah, I’m coming.” Was his answer.
The line dropped. He put down the phone.
In, out. In, out. The ocean crashed.
Hawkins’ General Hospital smelled as any hospital should smell, like heavily chemically cleaned environment, like they were constantly trying to forget that the whole building might as well be coated in overlapping blood stains of varied age and size. Eight years after and Billy’s nose could still make up the smell, reconstruct it from the particles dissolved by the peroxide.
“I’m here for Hargrove. Neil Hargrove.” He announced at the reception, two pink-cladded women answering phones there. The brunette looked up, looked at him, smart and quick as any overwhelmed worker.
“What’s your name?”
“William Neil Hargrove.” He gave her his ID.
The woman - Regina, her name tag read, as if this was a diner or something - checked the books. “Third floor, room 301.” She informed him. “The nurses will be able to give you more information.”
Billy nodded, took the elevator up. He felt like he was floating. As soon as the elevator dinged and the metal doors opened, the sign “Mental Health Ward” graced his vision.
Billy looked, the rooms were on the wrong order. The receptionist from the ward gave him a weird glance before coming to him. “Who are you here for?”
“Neil Hargrove.” Every time he said it he wanted to puke.
“And who are you to him?” She had a writing board on her hands.
He didn’t know. “His son.”
The nurse nodded. “Follow me.”
He walked and walked, it seemed like he went forever. She entered a room, open door. There will be no locked doors in this house, you hear me, boy? He stopped by the door, as if waiting for permission, as she troddled in, dark eyes and darker skin, grabbing his old man’s file.
“He’s got a concussion, but it ain’t too bad.” Nurse Layla informed him. Those people aren’t good, Billy. Those monkeys have to be kept on a leash. I don’t want you or your sister anywhere near them. “Are you with me?”
“Yeah.” Billy snapped from his daydreams. “Yes, I am. Concussion, you said.”
She stopped. Sighed. “I know this is a lot, Mr. Hargrove.”
“Billy.” He corrected her immediately, feeling cold.
“Billy.” She repeated smartly. “I imagine this is a lot, to suddenly see your father in an hospital bed. It can be quite shocking.” The woman put a hand on his arm and guided him inside, gently. “Your father has a concussion. He got confused while waiting on the line at the bank and, in his desperation, he punched a security guard, who in turn restrained him, which was when he hit his head.”
“You said somethin’ ‘bout an illness.” He interrupted her, trying not to imagine if his dad saw his face in that guard’s expression.
“He was diagnosed with Alzheimer five years ago.” Layla looked confused. “You didn’t know?”
Billy shook his head. “Haven’t talked to him in eight years.” He revealed to her.
Her eyes widened slightly. Looked at Billy’s expression, then at the man lying down on the hospital bed. “I feel like you had a good reason not to.” Layla added. “But at this time even specialized care won’t take him. He’s too far gone his illness and needs a familiar face around to help him settle at the bad times.” She paused, looked at him. “We are as of now discharging him into your care. You are legally obligated to take him, honey.”
He felt fear as an electrical shock from the floor up through his whole body, inside every single one of his bones. “Is he going to recognize me?”
Layla pondered. “Maybe. Maybe not. It varies. He may also recognize you in one minute and remember nothing on the other.” Was her answer. “Alzheimer is a very fickle thing.”
Billy just nodded, turning to her. “Where do I sign?”