Losers Can’t Be Choosers
Chapter 16 — A Shitty Conversation
When she was just a child and her parents were going through the most horrible of divorces in the history of horrible divorces, Mary Wilson dreamt of being a top model. Her blue-eyed blonde Barbie knockoff was the one to blame, plastic perfection at her fingertips whispering it was okay to have wild fantasies, that the nasty days would soon be over.
The doll was a liar, and she never forgave her for that. She didn’t forgive her mother either when, after another intense fight with her soon to be ex-husband, she unleashed all of her frustrations on her with an open lighter. Most of her burns eventually healed except for one, a wound so deep that, even after months of surgeries, left a permanent scar on the back of her right arm. Mary’s imagination had its wings clipped on that fateful night and, for years, she refused to talk about what happened, bottling everything up because of unspoken trauma and stubbornness.
She ended up in the system, the bureaucratic machine that sought to protect her from the ghosts of her dysfunctional family only to come face to face with even more. At thirteen, she saw her foster father, a Pastor well-loved in the community, try to take his own life with too many pills because of an unrequited love. Two years later, in another house where everything seemed perfect at first glance, a family dinner with her two new sisters exploded in broken glass and bloody wrists because of a stupid joke. It was then Mary realized the universe was insane, a certainty that, against all odds, kept her alive.
Becoming a paramedic wasn’t something she decided on a whim, oh no. She spent the next two decades of her life keeping herself together with occasional jobs here and there. She was a babysitter, waitress, cashier, saleswoman, even a tattoo artist. The owner of the place that hired her gave her a lovely butterfly to cover her scar, and would have given her a lot more had she been willing, if only things were meant to be. Their separation was amicable enough yet it seemed her streak of bad luck was to be endless.
A prized lottery ticket changed all that. The money wasn’t enough to live a carefree life until the end of her days but it allowed her to go back to school, learn all the things she never had the chance to in the past. She wished to become a surgeon yet wasn’t smart enough for it and so life led her along the ambulatory path where she met Nick. The two of them worked well together and she could smile for once. Most of the times, she kept to herself to be more efficient but when she was in a talkative mood, well...
“Mary, you know I love you, but you can be a real jerk, sometimes.” he had said not so long ago before heading out to patch Gail.
“Only sometimes? It’s part of my natural charm, sweetie.” she had replied, yet another truth she would do well not to forget.
“I promise I won’t take long.”
“Take as much time as you need to keep her satisfied. Nobody likes a guy that comes too early.”
Yes, she had overdone it a little with her sexual innuendo but seeing Nick blush was a joy to behold. The only things she loved more than that were reading forbidden pulp erotica novels and taking a dump the size of California after more than her fair share of burritos. As she almost choked laughing while her co-worker trailed off with the deviant secretary in hand, her stomach growled, a strong abdominal pain telling her it would be “the size of Texas” this time around. She ran to the closest bathroom and...
... that’s how she talked to Angela for the first time.
“This horrible day will soon be over,” Mary heard her mutter the moment she entered the adjacent stall and sat on the cold white porcelain. The therapist’s silky voice was unmistakable, and so were her shoes.
“Amen, sister,” Mary muttered in reply, breaking off her mantra.
“I’m sorry, what?”
“I’m sure your mother will be fine,” Mary reassured her, head leaning against the thin wall that separated them. It wasn’t her first awkward bathroom conversation. It wouldn’t be the last.
“Oh? And how do you...? Ah, you’re Nick’s partner, right?”
“That’s me all right and let me reiterate what he said in the ambulance. What you did to calm your mother was impressive.”
“Thanks. Oh God, what is that smell?” Angela frowned.
“I call it ‘How-to-not-eat-healthy-while-on-the-clock-101’. An easy subject to learn, yet tricky as hell to master.”
“No offense but it seems you’re quite the expert by now.”
“None taken. I practice it a lot more than I should because of the job.”
“Yes, I imagine it’s rough.”
“Not as rough as it is for the doctors and nurses around here but yeah, the responsibility still wears us down. Junk food keeps me focused for longer periods of time. At least, that’s my excuse. What’s yours?”
“I can smell what’s going on there too, sister. Did you pee yourself or something?”
“Oh my God, you did!” Mary cackled. “What the fuck?”
“It’s not what you’re thinking, okay?”
“I wouldn’t be so sure because I can think of some crazy shit. Hell, I lived through some crazy shit most of life.”
“Haven’t we all?”
“I guess, but not all grown women end up sitting in a hospital bathroom because they peed themselves. Too much stress because of what happened to your mother?”
“I’d... rather not talk about it.” Angela’s voice choked.
“Understandable but I think you should. It will do you good.”
“And why is that?”
“It will keep your mind off the scent... sorry but a woman’s got to do what a woman’s got to do.” Mary’s buttocks cracked wide open as a foul stench enveloped the air.
“Yeah, not my finest moment but look who’s talking!”
“Is this a strange attempt to cheer me up?”
“Good question. Do you need cheering? And if so, is it working? Because I have a few more routines up my ass if it’s not.”
“Don’t you mean ‘up your sleeve’?”
“No, sister. With everything going on around here at the moment, it’s really up my ass.”
“Congratulations. You’ve grossed me out more times than I can number already and I don’t even know your name.”
“Mary. And yes, you’re Angela. A pleasure despite the circumstances.”
“Likewise, I suppose,” the hypnotherapist covered her nose. “God, how is that smell still going?”
“That was just the opening, sorry. Perhaps you should run out of here while you still can.”
“Right... the pissing contest. I hope you won.”
“It wasn’t... fine! Are you sure you want to hear this?”
“Positive. I’m all ears.”
“My brother almost ran me over a few minutes ago and I... well...”
“I see. Well, almost is better than the real deal, isn’t it? I was run over three times in six months a few years back. How’s that for good fortune?”
“No, but it could have happened. Bad things happen all the time in this crazy world.”
“Luckily, people like us exist to pick up the pieces whenever it’s needed. I don’t envy your job, you know? Being a therapist must be hard.”
“It is, but I don’t envy yours either.”
“Nor my stomach at the moment, I presume.”
“Yeah, I don’t envy that either. You’re a weird person, Mary.”
“Guilty as charged and thank you for the compliment. Is your brother okay?”
“Yeah, he got upset at what could have been but everything is fine. I asked him to get fresh clothes for me and... I have no clue why I’m telling you all of this right now!”
“Because talking to another person even if it’s a shitty conversation is better than mumbling to oneself with your pants down? One of my former therapists told me that once.”
“I’m not falling for that this time around, sorry.”
“Oh, but you should because this one was true. He was a nice guy and all but he had issues of his own. He too was caught one day with his pants down if you know what I mean.”
“I can imagine...” Angela noted, surprised at how long the strange conversation was running already. Mary was right about one thing though. The odorous nightmare could only grow worse from there and she was getting dizzy because of it.
“I need fresh air...” she mumbled, head against the stall door. “Jonah, please hurry!”
“You don’t have to wait for him, you know?”
“I’m sure I can get you something to wear the moment I stop shitting myself if you wish.”
“Please tell me you’re for real because I can’t stand being in here any more!”
“Cross my heart I am for real. And I’m sure if you had asked Nick, he would have said the same thing but I understand why you didn’t.”
“Do you always work together?”
“Oh yeah. We’ve been at it for about... let’s see, it will be almost two years next February. He’s a sweet guy, though you probably know more of him than I do.”
“What a weird thing to say. What gave you that impression?”
“I have eyes and I can tell you have some history together. Most likely an embarrassing thing but that’s okay. If you tell me, I promise to keep your secret safe.”
“Now you’re trying to be my therapist, huh?”
“No, just drowning out unpleasant sounds... sorry, here comes another bomb.”
The “plop” was so loud the paramedic’s intentions fell flat. Angela bit her lower lip, almost ready to pass out. If the horrible day didn’t end up soon, it would end her instead.
“This is as awful as it gets,” she said.
“You can say it again. Or rather, don’t because another one is about to...”
“Mary, I get it. Please stop, okay?”
“Got it. I hope this shitty conversation helped you though.”
“It was... hmm... interesting.”
“Good to know. By the way, I want you to know you’re way prettier than the other one, okay?”
Angela’s ears perked up. “Other one? What are you talking about?”
“Nick’s new ‘patient’. Oh right, you know nothing about it because you’ve been sitting on your piss for a while now.”
“You lost me. Why are we talking about Nick again? And who is this other ‘patient’?”
“Some woman with her face all battered up. Don’t know her name, sorry, but if you’re into Nick on some level, you need to be ready for some fierce competition from what I could tell.”
“Competi...?” Angela gasped. “Face battered up? Wait, Gail went to talk to him?”
“If that’s the name of baby doll/nightmare face, then yes, Gail went to talk to him. She asked for help with her wounds but if you ask me what she wants is...”
“Trouble. That’s what she wants, I’m sure. She’s been nothing but trouble since this day started. Fuck, we wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for her!”
“That doesn’t sound good.”
“Damn right it isn’t. I need to get out of here, pronto. He can be in danger!”
“Please tell me you’re giving me a taste of my medicine and making shit up as we speak!” Mary pleaded.
“Trust me, I’m not. Gail is a vicious bitch that turned the life of my family upside down. She’s cold, calculating, and if she targeted him, it’s to tear his life asunder. Do you know where they are?”
“Last time I saw them, they were heading towards the ambulance. Damn, you’re truly worried, aren’t you?”
“Yes. Yes! A thousand times yes! You would be too if you knew what she did. Mary, please! Finish up what you’re doing and get me those clothes a.s.a.p.! Nick needs to know what he’s getting into.”
“I can’t leave right now! Oh God, I’m never eating burritos again!”
“Then give me your pants!” Angela exclaimed.
“Your pants. I’ll run to warn him and bring them back to you the moment I know he’s safe.”
“Or we can do the next best thing and call him.” Mary grabbed her smartphone and tossed it underneath the stall. “Want to do the honors?”
“Sure,” Angela picked up the small black device. The display was shattered in three places, acrylic spiderwebs blocking most of the light and the colors were off but it would have to do. Nick’s number was on speed dial but would be she be fast enough?
She called. And called. And called. Nothing. The horrible day continued its relentless onslaught on her mental sanity. It was too much.
“He’s not picking up. Mary, I will not ask again. Please give me your pants.”
Mary sighed as another natural explosive splashed dirty water all over her butt crack. “You know, this is not how I imagined our conversation would end.”
The paramedic stretched her legs against the worn out door, white fabric coming undone. Angela reached out to grab them and, the next moment, she was already up, running from all the shit yet to come.
“Please don’t let this become a storm,” she prayed to all the Gods in existence as she made her way out of the hospital. She stopped dead in her tracks when reality collapsed around her once more.
The ambulance was gone.