Robert’s eyes flickered, wanting to stay shut, but his rested mind wouldn’t let them. As much as he tried to keep them closed, there was nothing he could do. They finally snapped open, taking in the surroundings that he’d so desperately wanted to keep from processing.

     Finding himself lying in a hospital bed, the world around him came into focus. His brain taking in the information all around him. Everything from the clean, whitewashed sterile room. To the white bedsheets and cold metal bed railings. A curtain had been drawn closed, separating him from his room neighbor. An old cheap TV set hung from the wall across the room. To his right, a small dining cart that unfortunately lay empty. Feeling a rumble in his stomach at the very sight of it. He couldn’t remember the last time he’d eaten.

Robert groggily lifted his head to peer around some more, feeling a sharp stinging pain in his neck. For that matter, the movement started a cascading ripple effect of similar sensations throughout his body. His arms ached ferociously like he’d just finished a powerlifting competition setting a world record for bench-pressing. Even his fingers stung as he moved them, stretching them out. His thighs burned, feeling the muscles nearly knot up as he extended his legs, pointing his toes out. Then, quickly receding them, remaining still for a moment. The last thing he wanted to do right now was force the issue, causing a painful charlie-horse. His entire body was sore, but to his partial dismay, he was still alive.

The last thing he could remember was that he’d had a drunken insight of killing himself last night. So either something went wrong or right; he just couldn’t remember anything after leaving the bar.

As he moved, regaining full consciousness, he spotted a clear tube extending out from his arm. Following it up to an IV monitor. A few other gadgets had been connected to him, allowing someone to monitor his vitals. The constant annoying beeps and pulses from the machine as he watched his heart rate line rise and fall. He laid his head back down, staring up at the ceiling, trying to remember what had happened that landed him into his perfect nightmare.

Robert hated hospitals with every fiber of being. To him, just stepping foot inside of one was akin to entering into his own personal hell. One specially designed to torture his soul for his own past misdeeds. So maybe, he had actually accomplished what he’d set out to do, and this was his punishment for all eternity. Having to relive his nightmare over and over.

No, he thought. There would be much more to his torture if this was indeed hell. He deserved much more than this. So, figuring he must still be alive, unfortunately, and also still finding himself in the place he dreaded the most—A hospital room.

Though, Robert hadn’t always felt this way about hospitals. In fact, earlier in life, he’d worked in a hospital similar to this one as an overnight security officer. Which was where he’d met his wife Rebecca years ago when she was an overnight Emergency Room nurse. The two would go on to eventually marry and have a son.

His greatest accomplishment in life, his beautiful and bright son, his little baby boy, Roland. He adored him from the moment he was born. He’d been so nervous the months proceeding his birth, but once he was out in the world, he knew there was no greater joy. He’d do anything and everything to protect his little man. Something that he’d failed to do.

     A wave of anger began to rise in Robert, trying to shake the memory of everything he’d endured the past three years. The events that had spurred his disdain for hospitals. That had all started with a routine check-up for his little man when the doctor had discovered something irregular about Roland’s heartbeat. He would soon be diagnosed with Aortic Valve Stenosis or AVS for short, which meant that Roland’s heart valves were narrowing.

     Over the ensuing three years, Roland would be in and out of hospitals as his condition worsened to the point where the doctor had suggested an Aortic Valve replacement surgery. However, sadly Robert’s son wouldn’t make it to that surgery.

     His years-long ordeal created a deep disdain and hatred for hospitals.

Now, sitting in a hospital bed connected to the IV drip was part of his worst nightmare. These days, the very thought of entering a hospital made Robert’s skin crawl like thousands of spiders with all their spindly legs were trampling all over him. He snapped his eyes shut, trying to remove the visuals from his mind. He could hear over his shoulder the beeps and pops of his heart monitor rising, increasing as his heart fluttered with fear and anger. Fear over being in the place he despised with all his heart and anger over not doing the one thing a parent should be able to do. Protect their child.

“It’s ok, Robert, you’re, you’re fine. It’s all going to be ok,” whispering to himself. His breathing became more rapid as he took in a deep breath, holding it for a few seconds before releasing it. This, followed by a few more repetitions of the same process. A technique his therapist had taught him to help control his breathing, preventing a panic attack. His hands clenched tightly to the bed rail, he felt a bead of sweat begin to trickle down his forehead. Eyes closed tightly, not wanting to move.

“Mr. Pikeman is everything ok.” Said a soft voice entering the room. Robert opened his eyes to find a young blonde-haired nurse with a huge bright smile coming in carrying a clipboard in her hands. “I am nurse Macy.” She continued before checking his monitor and IV bag.

The interruption was a welcomed distraction, bringing Robert out of his panic mode. “I…I am fine. I think,” he said timidly, not sure of what to make of his current situation. He still couldn’t remember exactly what transpired that landed him in the bed. “Do you know why I am here?” He asked.

Macy looked at him curiously. “You don’t remember?” The blank expression on Robert’s face gave away the answer immediately. “Mr. Pikeman, you’re a hero,” she said, somehow managing an even brighter, broader smile. “Last night, you jumped into the river and managed to pull a woman and her child out of a sinking car. You saved two people’s lives.” The excitement and joy in her voice were uncontainable.

“I did what?” Robert quickly searched his memory, trying to retrieve every bit of data he could on the previous night’s events. Then, like a tsunami, everything came racing back to the forefront of his memory. He’d gone to Fisherman’s bridge to kill himself, only to instead wind up pulling a mother and her daughter out of their car after he watched it go over the bridge after the tire had blown out.

However, those memories weren’t the only items that had come back to him—the dream did too. He’d dreamed of his last day with Roland in the park, the day before his diagnosis. The nurse started speaking, but her voice was now nothing more than muffled background noise. Vividly recounting details of the rescue. A chill rushed over his whole body, almost as if he was back in the freezing waters. His chest began to hurt like the oxygen was being pulled from his body again. A visage of his son’s face flashed in his eyes. Recalling that he’d practically drowned at one point, but then Roland appeared to him, telling him there was more to his life. He had another purpose, spurring him on and back to consciousness.

The whole memory was too much to handle, being back in the hospital and remembering his son. Robert sprang from the bed, startling the nurse. “Mr. Pikeman, are you ok?”

“Um, yes, just a little sore,” he said, looking around desperately wanting to leave. Where are my clothes? Um, when can I leave? I, um, I need to go. Where are my freaking clothes?” His voice became more panicked, not immediately finding them.

“Well, technically, you can leave whenever you want. But, I’d still like to have the doctor come in and clear you medically before you do.”

“Um, no, that’ll be ok. I…I would really like to just leave right now. If I can just find my clothes? Where are they?” Searching the room once again more urgently.

“Uh, I think someone took them to dry them. They were soaking wet.”

“Yeah, cool, um, thanks for that, but can I get those back as soon as possible,” He asked almost pleadingly, “and can you get this thing out of me, please,” tugging at the IV.

The nurse taken aback by Robert’s eagerness to leave. “Will do, Mr. Pikeman.” She said, flustered, putting the clipboard down. She removed the IV needle and the other monitors from Robert’s body. She could tell he was antsy because his leg was continually moving the whole time. “Just hold still for a moment, please.” She begged, pushing his leg pinning it to the bed. “There, ok,” having removed the nodes from his chest too. “Just wait here for a few moments while I go get your clothes.” She turned, rushing out of the room.

Robert sat on the edge of the bed, looking around for what felt like twenty minutes. Taking in the familiar surroundings, torturous images flashed through his mind. Flashing him back to all the times he had spent waiting in a hospital. Hours upon hours hovering and pacing around Roland’s bed. Anxious for any news from the doctor about his son’s condition. Always hoping for a good prognosis but never receiving one.

“Here you go, Mr. Pikeman.” The nurse said, entering the room with a plastic bag containing his clothes. “All washed and dried for you.” Handing them to him.

“Great, thank you,” leaping from the bed, the nurse pointed behind her to the restroom. Robert slid past, closing the door behind him.

“Are you sure you want to go, Mr. Pikeman? I can have the doctor here in a few minutes.” Robert shook his head as if she could see him. “No, that’ll be ok.” He said, remembering the door between them. He also knew full well that a few minutes meant an hour or more in hospital speech. “I just want to be sure you’re good to go.”

“I feel fine, much better.”—a lie clearly as his body was sore from head to toe. He felt like he’d gone the full twelve rounds in a championship boxing match with Mike Tyson. Still, he wasn’t going to spend any more time than needed in the hospital. Emerging from the restroom, fully dressed, tossing the white gown onto the bed. “See all better now. Thank you, nurse, but I’ve got to be going now.” He paused, turning back to the nurse. “My truck?”

“I think the police had it towed here.” She answered.

“Great,” he turned and walked out of the room, pausing again. “The mother and her daughter, are they ok?”

The nurse gave him a look of pause. She really couldn’t give him too much information without violating any laws. “All can I really say is, they’re both alive. And that’s because of you.”

Robert figured that’d be all he’d get, but it was worth a try. “Ok, thanks again. I’ll just be going now.” He said, backing up, almost stumbling over his feet. His legs still somewhat wobbly.

“Mr. Pikeman,” Robert turned around again to see that Macy was pointing at the nurse’s station. “Can you at least sign out for me, please?” She asked.

“Oh yes, of course.” Robert changed directions towards the nurse’s station.

Several moments later, and after multiple urgings by the chief nurse on duty to not leave without having his doctor sign off on his discharge, Robert signed the last page giving the nurse an obligatory smile and thank you before heading out.

Walking down the sterilized tiled corridor transfixed in thought. Why did he have an alcoholic-induced nightmare of that particular day in the park? Though more worrisome was the hypoxia-induced conversation with his son. It was so life-like and vivid. He could even feel the warmth of his son’s touch when he hugged him. And what could he have meant about a larger purpose in life?

Robert had become so transfixed in thought. He never noticed that his body’s autonomic response system had kicked in. He had been led through the hospital on autopilot by sheer muscle memory. Boarding the elevator instead of hitting the lobby, his finger had naturally gravitated to another floor. The doors opened up, and he began walking down the hall in a zombie-like fashion.

“What the fuck!” Snapping out of his transfixed state. Robert found himself standing outside of room 611. “No, no, no, this can’t be.” Looking around as if he would find an answer for what had just happened. “No, no, no way.” Staggering back in disbelief. He had sworn to himself he would never, never, see room 611 ever again.

How could he have just subconsciously guided his way to his son’s old room? The room that had brought him and his family such heartache. The only solace Robert could take was that his son didn’t have to spend the last days of his life in that room. As they’d let them take him home a month before passing.

Robert’s heart fluttered, pounding in his chest. Sucking in short, stabbing breathes rapidly. He clutched at his chest like he wanted to claw and rip his heart out. Sweating and panting, the world around began to spin. He turned to rush out, stopping frozen in his tracks. His skin flushed and pale like he’d just seen a ghost because he was practically staring at one.

His son.

Roland stared back at his dad. Robert blinked, thinking the visage would disappear. Opening his eyes to find Roland still standing there. Several more blinks ending in the same result. His beautiful baby boy staring at him. He took a step forward. Roland snapped up his arm, stopping Robert in his spot again. Slowly raising a finger to his lips, he pointed to the door of room 611.

“I don’t understand,” Robert said, prompting another shush signal.

Robert stayed quiet for a few seconds inching closer to the door. Roland clearly trying to tell him something. He heard what started out as muffled voices from behind the door, but they were steadily growing in volume. It sounded like an argument. As Robert listened closer, he could only make out small portions of it at first. However, something about it felt all too familiar. Continuing to eavesdrop, the couple inside became louder and more animated. He heard the woman practically shout, how are we going to pay for this.

He’d heard those very specific words, uttered in that exact combination and with the same zeal before, triggering an avalanche of memories and emotions.

Robert found himself back inside room 611 with his wife, Rebecca. It was like it’d just happened yesterday.

It was the day the doctors had informed them that Roland had AVS, and they laid out the course of treatment for him and its cost. Which was astronomical comparatively speaking, for their simple means. Why was Roland’s spirit forcing him to relive it all over again? But instead, through the lives of the two people on the other side of the door and he was pretty sure how it would end. He leaned in closer, still curious, though.

“Jordan, how are we going to pay for all of this.” The woman shouted but in a restrained tone.

Robert mouthed the answer just as Jordan said the words. “I don’t know how, but we will.”

“How Jordan, we’re not rich, and we’re barely making it as is.” Robert knew the following answer as well.

“Stacy, we will.”

“But how.”

“I don’t know yet, but we’ll find a way.” Robert was now pantomiming and mouthing everything happening on the other side of the barrier.

“How can you be so sure?” Hearing the start of tears.

“Simple, he’s our son. There’s no other option. I am not going to let him die in this hospital bed. I will not have him thinking his daddy doesn’t love him enough to save his life. Not a chance in fucking hell. Even if I have to get two or three jobs, I will find a way to get the money.”

“But it’s a lot of money.” More tears and sobs.

“What the fuck Stacy,” the man bellowed through clenched teeth. “Why are you coming up with ways this won’t work. Do you now want him to live?” A turn in the argument Robert didn’t see coming. He and Rebecca were always in lockstep with what was best for their son, and she supported everything Robert would do from this point forth in their lives.

“Oh my god, Jordan, how could you say something like that. Of course, I want Edward to live.” The woman clearly took offense to the accusation levied by her husband.

“Well, sure sounds like you don’t. How about you start coming up with solutions and not only problems. I am going to make this work one way or another. Even if I have to rob a fucking bank.”

“Jordan—“

“Excuse me, sir, what are you doing?” Robert turned at the voice. “Oh, Mr. Pikeman.” The owner of said voice looked stunned to see him.

“Oh, hey there, Anna, I um…um.” Robert couldn’t reasonably come up with an explanation as to what he was doing. “I…I don’t even know how I got here.” Which was a true statement.

“Is everything ok, Mr. Pikeman?” She asked, sensing something off in his demeanor right away. Observing his movements with an odd expression. Robert’s hands were shakey; his fingers twitched, he rocked side to side nervously, like a kid who’d just been caught with his hands in the cookie jar. “I know times like these can be challenging.” She added comfortingly, having noticed the room he was standing outside. She’d been one of Roland’s nurses, so she had gotten to know Robert well and could see the hurt in his face.

“Um…yeah everythings…everythings been ok,” Robert answered, stepping away from the door. “Like I said, I don’t really know how I got here.” The look of pity on Anna’s face was soul-crushing.

“You know Mr. Pikeman there are—“ The door to the room flew open, and Jordan, the man on the other side, rushed out. He threw his hands in the air out of frustration, stomping off towards the elevator. An act Robert himself had done once or twice, leaving the same room. “Poor family,” Anna said, lowering her voice veering off what she was about to say.

“Why?” Robert asked, turning back to Anna.

“Their son Edward needs a heart transplant, sadly,” she said, adding a curl of her lips. The two watched the angry Jordan board the elevator. She began to finish what she was about to say to Robert before Jordan’s stamped.

Though Robert was no longer listening. Over Anna’s shoulder, he saw Roland again. He was gesturing for Robert to go after Jordan. “Go after him?” Robert confirmed with his son.

“What?” Anna asked, confused, stopping mid-sentence following Robert’s dead gaze over her shoulder, but seeing nothing there.

Roland nodded. “I am so sorry, Anna, and I’ll look into that. But I’ve gotta go, I…I just remembered I’ve gotta be somewhere.” He said, rushing off towards the elevator after Jordan. Leaving the nurse bewildered.

Reaching the lobby, Robert looked around for Jordan, not seeing any sign of him. “Excuse me, sir. Did you just see a tall thin man in a red shirt just come through here?” Asking the security guard.

“Yeah, he just went out that door.” The guard responded.

“Thanks.” Robert raced outside, barging past a couple with flowers. “Sorry.” He said apologetically. On the sidewalk, Robert’s head bounced back and forth, searching. Roland appeared again, pointing to his left. “Thanks.” He took off racing, finally seeing his target. He wasn’t heading for his car, though. Thankfully as Robert still had no idea where his was. The man crossed the street, heading for a bar. “Gotcha,” Robert said, following the man. He watched as he entered, then waited a few minutes before going in himself.

Inside, Robert spotted Jordan sitting at the bar, having already ordered a shot of something. “What am I doing?” He asked himself. “This is insane,” turning back for the door. “I am following a ghost of my son.” Pausing, just now thinking about how ludicrous this whole situation had become. Reaching for the door about to leave, only to see Roland again. “Oh, what the fuck.” Spinning back around, steeling himself. “Here goes nothing.” Robert cautiously approached the bar, having no idea what to do or even what to say to this man. He took up a stool two spaces away from Jordan. “Barkeep,” waving for the bartender to come over. “Can I get a rum and coke, please?”

“Sure thing, sir,” the bartender answered, preparing the drink putting it down in front of Robert.

The two men sat near each other in an eerie awkward silence. It was only about mid-day, so only a few people were inside. Which meant it was exclusively staffed by the bartender and one sultry-looking brunette with wavy hair stashed away in the corner. Her attention was mainly paid to her compact fixing her makeup than with her one table. The man sitting at the table had been trying to get her attention for the last minute. Finally, the barkeep snapped his fingers, pulling her attention from the small mirror, springing her into motion.

Robert looked around the bar with a sense of familiarity. It wasn’t his usual bar, though; it still had all the same elements about his that he loved. Several TV screens on the walls for sports games, which were now only playing sports talk shows. This bar even came complete adding in the dark and dusky atmosphere, sans the sliver of sunlight penetrating through the tiny tears in the windows tinting. Most of all, though, Robert’s favorite part, lots and lots of alcohol.

He’d never been much of a drinker before. Only really drinking on special occasions and every now and then after a brutal week at work. Since the accident, though, drinking had become a part of his everyday life. Or more like his every hour life. Waking up, he immediately took to a bottle drowning his world of hurt and sorrow away as fast as possible. In fact, it’d been more than twelve hours since his last drink. Which was the longest he’d gone without in over six months.

Robert stared intensely at the drink in front of him, contemplating even if he wanted to drink it. Should he? After all, he’d been seeing visions of his son already, and he was sober. Looking around the bar for a sign. None coming. Tapping the glass with his fingers thinking. He looked around again, this time locking eyes for a second with Jordan. Maybe he shouldn’t get blasted? Roland had led him here not to drink, but Robert believed he wanted him to talk to this man. But how was he supposed to do that?

“Don’t like drinking alone?” Jordan asked, “Well, if that’s the case, buddy, here’s one to the both of us.” The man raised his shot glass, throwing his head back, gulping the drink, pounding the empty glass on the bar. “Another, please.”

Robert followed suit. If anything, just to take the edge off. He still had no idea why he needed to talk to this guy. “Yeah, something like that.” Answering the man.

Jordan swiveled in his stool to get a better look at Robert. “Do I know you?” He asked almost in an accusatory tone. Robert froze in terror, unable to answer. Had he seen him eavesdropping on the argument? “Yeah, you were talking to nurse Anna outside of my son’s room just a bit ago, weren’t you.” The man answered his own question, placing Robert’s face. “You got a kid up there too?” His tone shifted to a more somber note, looking away.

“Um…um yeah. Or…I mean, I did.”

“It’s fucking shit, man, all fucking shit.” Jordan’s voice rose this time in anger, tilting his head back again, throwing the glass of liquid into his throat, slamming it again. “Another Frank.”

“Jordan, I am warning you. No more bullshit like the last time, or I’ll ban you from coming back. Got it.” The barkeep held the bottle abstaining from topping off Jordan’s drink, clearly waiting for an answer.

“Yeah, yeah, relax,” came Jordan’s nonchalant answer. “Look around,” twirling around himself, waving a dismissive hand around the nearly empty establishment. “There’s practically no one here to argue with.”

“Still, best behavior got it,” Frank ordered, jabbing a stern finger at Jordan before pouring, then walking away.

“Fucking stick in the mud,” Jordan mumbled.

“What was that about?” Robert asked, gathering that this wasn’t the first time Jordan had found solace in drinking at this particular spot.

“Last week, I…I sort of overdid it. Again,” he said, relenting. “Got into with someone throw a few punches. Nothing big. So, you said you had a kid up there on the sixth floor.” Changing the topic.

“Did,” now it was Robert’s turn to somberly look away.

“Yeah, like I said, man, it’s tough. What did they have?”

“My son had AVS,” Robert answered after a moment steeling his nerves. This was the first time he’d even talked about Roland after the accident to anyone outside of his family.

“I am sorry, pal,” Jordan came over, sitting next to Robert, slapping him on the back in comfort. “How long ago?”

“Excuse me,” Robert asked.

“How long ago did you lose him. Oh fuck, man, I am sorry. I didn’t mean to.” Jordan apologized. “My wife keeps telling me I have no boundaries. You don’t need to answer.”

“No, it’s ok. Six months ago.” Robert answered.

“Wait, then what were you doing there today?” Jordan’s accusing tone snapped back.

“Oh…um, I just wanted to stop by and give my thanks to the nurses. My wife and I—” Robert stopped choking up, fighting back a tear. “We’d gotten to know them very well, and they wanted to offer condolences for my losses.”

“Losses?”

Robert thought for a moment. He didn’t want to get into specific details, but maybe this was why Roland had guided him here. “Yeah, I didn’t lose my son to AVS exactly; he and my wife were actually taken from me in an accident.”

“Oh, wow, that’s a whole bag of fucked up,” Jordan responded, signaling for Frank. “This drinks on me then,” patting Robert on the back again. “There’s no manual for this type of shit, is there?”

“Manual?” Robert, thrown by the analogy.

“Yeah, man, like a car repair manual. Sorry, I am a mechanic. I am used to having some sort of guide to help when I can’t figure something out.” Jordan clarified, seeing the confused look on Robert’s face.

“Oh, yeah, unfortunately, I don’t think they do,” Robert added.

“I mean like, I don’t know. Life doesn’t really prepare you for this. The instant you find out you’re having a kid, there’s this level of elation. Then you find out it’s a boy, and you’re over the moon. You’ve got your little man. Your little fishing buddy, you start dreaming of teaching him how to work on cars, women.” Jordan nudging Robert before continuing. “You know all the usual stuff. Then BAM!” smashing the empty glass for the fourth time. “It’s all taken away, in just a few simple words from a doctor. ‘Your son needs a heart transplant.’” Jordan snarked in a mocking tone. “Some type of genetic disorder. Then you’re all like, did I give that to him? Is it from my side of the family? You wonder.”

“A million in one thoughts race through your mind in those few seconds after hearing the words that your son is sick,” Robert added. “Then you realize, you’re helpless. You’ve geared yourself up for what you know will be a lifetime of protecting your boy. Only to find out there’s something you can’t protect them from. You know, what good is being a father if you can’t do the one thing you’re supposed to.” Robert said, timidly lifting the shot to lips before putting it back down, still full.

“See, you fucking get it, man. You get me,” Jordan shouted, drawing the ire of Frank again. Robert waved him off, letting him know everything was ok. “Finally, someone I can talk to about these things.” An overly dramatic sigh of exasperation. “I can’t talk to my wife, every time I start to, she starts crying or shuts me out. Lately, it feels like the only time we speak to each other is to argue. And boy, do we argue.” Something Robert had gotten a behind-the-door seat to earlier. “We never used to argue this much, but lately, we can literally argue about anything. Hell, last week I wanted to paint Eddie’s room. Which is my son’s name, by the way. Actually, come to think about it. Hi, I am Jordan.” He said, extending out his hand.

“Robert,” taking his hand, shaking it. Robert didn’t want to let on that he already knew that part.

“Anyways, so as I was saying,” after formal introductions. “I wanted to paint Eddie’s room last week, you know, for when we’re finally able to bring him home. You would’ve thought by the way she started screaming at me that I was about to repaint the Sistine Chapel or some bullshit.” He chuckled, shaking his head.

“You know, maybe that’s just her way of dealing with things. When we first found out Rebecca, my wife, I don’t think she said more than two words to me for a week. She’d talk to all her friends about it, co-workers sometimes, but never to me. I finally asked her why, and she said something about not wanting to upset me because if I started crying, she’d cry or vice versa.” Robert said, trying to recall what had finally broken the stalemate between them.

“I get that, but that’s bullshit, man,” Jordan said dismissively, anger rising. “And you know the worst thing, at times I don’t even think she wants to keep fighting for him. I think she’s given up, which makes me so fucking angry. I can barely even look at her now. I don’t know what she’s thinking if she wants to keep moving forward and get Eddie the help he needs. Every time I come up with an idea of paying for the surgery and the hospital bills and visits, she just keeps coming up with ways that it won’t work. And I am pretty sure I just ended our marriage today with this last fight.”

For the first time, Robert saw in Jordan’s eyes a sense of pain and sadness; he’d been masking it over with anger the whole time. Robert himself knew this feeling, covering his own sorrow and grief first with anger and rage, then with drinking. Robert placed a hand on Jordan’s shoulder. “I wish I could tell you it’s easy, or there is some sort of manual to all this stuff. But there isn’t.”

“I am sorry to ask about this, knowing what happened and all. But how’d you and your wife get through it?”

Robert thought about his answer for a bit. Knowing that they too had their own set of ups and downs. But, always keeping in mind that they were in it together always helped. They both wanted what was best for Roland. “Honestly, communication,” Robert said.

“That’s it.” Jordan was shocked by the simple answer.

“I know, right. It seems simple and easy, but trust me, it’s not. You have to talk when you don’t want to. Talk all the time, compromise, understand each other viewpoints. But, most importantly, don’t give up. Because your fighting for someone who can’t do it for themselves. You talked about wanting to protect your son and feeling like you can’t. Well, you can. And,” Robert paused, fighting back more tears. “I know this from personal experience; you don’t know when the end will come, so you fight like hell every day. You make sure that Eddie, your wife, know that you love them at every moment you can because that moment can be their last one or yours. Trust me, you don’t want to ever lose anyone you love without letting them know that. I would suggest just talking to your wife, being there for your son, and never losing sight that you two are in this together and that if your hurting, she is too. She just expresses it differently than you.” Robert’s eyes flicked down to the glass in Jordan’s hand.

The man set down the full glass, tears welling up in the corners of his eyes, pushing it away from him. His entire demeanor had shifted in seconds like he’d just been bestowed the gift of clarity. “You know what, Robert,” he said, standing. “You’re right. I can’t give up or be angry anymore. I have to fight for my family in every sense possible. Thank you,” shaking Robert’s hand, patting him on the back. “Frank, this man’s drinks are on me.” He said, dropping down a hundred-dollar bill. “The rest is for you, and I am sorry I’ve been such an ass every time I’ve come in. But, I’ve got to go fight to keep my family.” Turning to Robert. “And, I am genuinely sorry for what happened to yours. I hope you find some solace yourself in the future, and I can’t thank you enough for today. Truly man, thank you, you’re a lifesaver. Good luck in the future.” And with that Jordan, rushed out of the bar.

Frank breezed over, picking up the bill and cashing out the tab. Robert stared at the barkeep, the man’s face and eyes wide a bright smile creased his lips. “What?” Robert asked.

“Nothing, but that man’s been here two maybe three times a week for the last four months complaining about his wife and how sick his kid is. Almost every time, I’ve had to call a cab for him or talk to his wife to come and pick him up. He’s gotten into arguments and fights with customers. I’ve never seen that man leave on his own willpower and not hammered until today. I don’t know what you said to him, but whatever it was seemed to work. I don’t know what brought you in here today. But my future customers and I thank you.” The bartender walked away as another customer sat down at the other end of the bar. Robert glanced up from his still full shot. In the large reflective wall behind the shelves of drinks, Robert saw what had brought him into this particular bar on this day. His son, Roland. And now he knew why he had been sent there. To save a man from making the same mistakes he did. He gave his son a simple, then left. The shot glass—still full.

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