"Everybody has a story. What's yours?" Paul shook himself out of his reverie and looked at the young woman in the chair next to his. She had tubes running to one of her arms, and a bright yellow blanket across her lap. She smiled at him, waiting.
"What do you want to know?" He focused on her while the nurse hooked similar tubes into his arm. She was interesting, approachable, much more so than most of the people in the room. Most were absorbed in their own misery and unaware of those around them. She watched him closely, thinking.
"Well, for starters, what are you in for? What do you do, and what do you like to do when you're not otherwise occupied in this little shop of horrors?" She grinned. "My name is May, by the way."
"I'm Paul. I've got chronic lymphocytic leukemia. When I was younger, I was a private in Vietnam. I thought I was going to be a lifer, but after three months there, when they started pulling us out, I decided I was done. I got out as soon as I could, when my tour was over. I went to work for my father after that. He was a handyman, and I learned how to fix pretty much any problem folks had, well, the ones that could be fixed anyway. It's steady work, and sometimes interesting. Pop kept saying that I needed to go to college, meet a girl, and settle down, but I liked my own company well enough. I just never got around to it."
"My dad thought I was too quick to get married." May smiled. "My husband Rick and I got married when we were 19, and he enlisted. We've been all over the place since. He's overseas right now, actually." She leaned forward a bit. "So why don't you get married now?"
"Well, that involves actually approaching a woman and talking to her, in complete sentences, mind you!"
May laughed hard at that. "You're talking to me now!"
Paul harrumphed. "You're too young for it to be good for me to get nervous talking to you. Anyway, you're married."
"I'm only 29! You're what, 50? That's not too much of a difference."
Paul grunted. "I'm 57, actually, and that's old enough to be your father! Heck, at 50 I'd have been old enough."
May's eyes twinkled. "You never did answer what you like to do in your free time."
"Long walks on the beach and cuddling." He deadpanned until May laughed again. "Actually, a book and a comfortable recliner suits me just fine. How about you?"
"I like to garden. I've not had the energy, lately, but I hold out hope that I will soon." She touched her blue flowered scarf, wrapped tightly on her head. "I wear this as a reminder that I'll be back out there soon, that there is an end to this." Paul pictured her deep in dirt, weeding, with dirt smeared up her arms and across her forehead and color in her cheeks. It would definitely suit her.
They talked about the weather, the President, trips they had been on, and favorite movies before the nurses came back to disconnect the IVs.
"Thank you for making this bearable." May reached out to shake his hand.
"I look forward to seeing you next time!" Paul said as he took it. She paused, her hand in his.
"This was my last session. I'm done with treatment now. Now I wait, and hope that nothing bad happens. Waiting is worse, somehow. I'm not looking forward to it." She frowned a bit, the first Paul had seen since he met her.
"You'll be fine. Besides, you need to get out there and whip that garden into shape!" She smiled again.
"Goodbye, Paul. Good luck." And she was gone.
When Paul walked into the chemo room for his next session, there was a young man seated in May's seat. He looked nervous, and almost queasy.
"Hi. I'm Paul."
"Uh, Carl." He watched him as Paul settled into the chair and the nurse came to hook him up.
"Everybody has a story, Carl. What's yours?"