With one less appendix he lays on the hospital bed recovering after his surgery.
Andrew remembers vividly that it’s thundering outside. The loud, crackling, can't be ignored kind of thunder. The rain that follows is pit, pit, pattering against the window and it provides a momentary release from the pain and delirum.
Katherine stands right outside his room, arms crossed, talking to the doctor. “How long do you think recovery will take?” She asks, genuine curiosity and concern dripping in her tone.
“It always depends but the surgery went very well. He’ll take the antibiotics for three weeks and then recovery: could be two weeks, could be two months. Depends.”
Her tone starts to change. More severe. “Right. Okay. So there’s no way to know for sure?”
She’s wasting his time. “No way to know for sure.”
“Because he’s an actor, you know, and he’s still filming.”
This gets an uncomfortable smile from the doctor. “The main goal here is to get him walking a little more than he did each day. He can’t do any strenuous work for two weeks at the very least. Appendicitis is no joke. It’s a good thing you came when you did.”
“Right. Yes, absolutely. It’s why we’re so happy about painkillers, right?” She laughs. He doesn’t. “It’s just that all the contracts have been signed, this is a big deal for him. There must be a faster process with this, yes? The exact time limit where he’d be able to get back to normal. So I can know and relay it back to the production teams. We've been emailing.”
"Like I said, best to play it by ear. Have him take the antibiotics, rest, see how he's doing in his recovery. A nurse will be in to check on his bandages in a few hours. Have a good night.”
Katherine goes down the hall in a huff to make some more phone calls.
She's barely been in the room as it is and says even less when she is. The most spirited she seems is when she grabs her charger because, "the reception is better outside and my phone's been blowing up." Also when she instructs him how to lie down, "and don't lean on your side so much."
Andrew keeps his eyes shut tightly and pretends he's sleeping just in case someone comes in. He's heard everything. Before he can help it, and god he wishes he can help it, tears start rolling down his cheeks. The unbearable, loud, aching knot in his chest extends. To his stomach, his throat. A tight and uncomfortable sensation has taken over his system and it overwhelmes his senses completely. He breathes heavier, faster, rougher.
He has never had to truly wonder about the way his mother cares about him. There’s never any time. He’s always on a set and if he’s not on a set he’s practicing his lines and if he’s not practicing his lines he’s at an audition and if he’s not at an audition he’s thinking about his next audition and if he’s not thinking about his next audition he’s thinking about techniques to improve his acting skills so he can always be his best.
His eyes jolt everywhere: up to the ceiling, to the ugly abstract painting in front of him - wait, is that supposed to be a horse? are those two girls dancing? is that an alien? - to his tattered up forest green knapsack placed on the chair with all his pins and stickers on it to the machines on his left side to the empty styrofoam cup on the table.
He feels the familiar sense of terror make its way back. He starts sweating, his heart feels like it's drumming in his ears, he gets lightheaded. He turns his head slightly and looks out the window. He tries to focus on the little plant, the rain, the fog. Anything to try and distract himself from the anxiety that has started to manifest physically. He thinks back to a moment a few years ago with one of his tutors.
You know, The guy who came up with this technique is also named Andrew.
Mmhm. Dr. Andrew Weil, So you know it’s meant for you, too. A sign. Here’s how you do it. You take a nice big breath in through your nose for 4 seconds, focus on nothing but breathing it in for 7 seconds, then with a big woosh! sound, exhale for 8 beats.
That sounds kind of lame.
It kind of does now that I hear it back but it works, I promise. it's about focusing your attention on something else. Come on, let’s try it.
His voice is shaky, vision blurred, cheeks still wet.
4 - 7 - 8
4 - 7 - 8
4 - 7 - 8
4 - 7 - 8
He doesn’t even argue. He takes another look at her and thinks, you know what, I can have fun with this.
She takes another look at him and thinks, you know what, I'll do it for the exposure.
They get little nudges to go to cafes, restaurants, nights out together by their respective management. At some point it isn’t odd anymore, it’s oddly comforting. Forced photo opportunities turn into real photo opportunities as they huddle together. The transaction of goods and services becomes a transaction of good times and servicing memories.
At some point, they test limits.
No, they shove limits down, stomp on them, and make a game of it.
One night at a bar as he’s coming back with their drinks he sees a guy with a hand on her ass whispering in her ear. He doesn’t care if she’s about to push him away, he doesn’t care if she’s yell-whispering back that she’s got a boyfriend, he doesn’t care if this guy is her happily married and very gay best friend.
He sees red. He pushes the drinks in hand on a table and marches over, promptly grabbing her arm and pulling her away with him. She’s giggling. It’s part of their game. Rather, it's their game on a regular night but tonight this infuriates him. He isn’t sure what part of it sets him off. Maybe it’s the mix of drugs and alcohol coursing through his veins, maybe it’s the built up tension from weeks of silently daring each other to one up their last move, maybe it’s just the fact that she moved locations and in the dark atmosphere it was hard to see and that alone was enough to piss him off.
They argue, as they always do. She yells, as she does. He stays as neutral and as calm as possible until eventually he yells back. This is usually the lead-in to the much awaited make out session that happens in less than an hour from now.
She thinks it’s back to neutral territory and leans up to flick a strand of hair away from his face.
He takes a step back and raises his hand to point a finger and make one more statement. He doesn't even get to his point because the piercing look she gives him sobers him up. It's not exhilaration, it's trepidation.
His heart catapults to the ground and he goes pale. A story he's repressed of two people who were older, who should have known better, who shouldn't have let it get that far, now floats in his mind. His hands drop to his sides and he takes a few steps back, looking down on the ground, never at her. He turns and makes his way through the crowd. She calls after him. He doesn't look back.