“Mr Davis?” the voice on the other line asked.
“This is he.”
“This is Doctor Shepard. I regret to inform you that your roommate, Mark Cohen, is in the hospital, and we dont think he’ll make it..” Doctor Shepard kept talking but Roger wasn’t listening. He collapsed on the floor. His whole world came to a screeching halt, and there was nothing he could do about it.
“Mark.. no… why him.. I have to see him..”
Roger didn’t even bother hanging up the phone before heading out to the hospital. He felt sick. His head was spinning. He wanted to throw up. The cool November evening air bit at his skin, numbing it.
Soon, he arrived at the hospital. He barely stopped to ask the lady at the front desk where Mark was.
“Hi. Hi. I need to know where my friend is. Mark Cohen. Please. I’m all he has left and he hasn’t got much time..”
“Cohen you said? Mark? He’s in room 358 of the critical care unit. Down the hall, past those those double doors and to the left.”
Roger rushed into the unit. He ran past rooms with people coughing and strapped to machines. Mark didn’t belong here. He finally found the room, but stopped in the doorway.
Mark was in really bad shape. He was attached to so many wires and he had bruises everywhere. There was a huge gauze over the left side of his chest. He let out a gasp. “Mark…”
Roger stood in the doorway, holding on for support. He was dizzy, and seeing his best friend like this hurt. “Roger?” Mark asked, his voice shaky and strained.
He walked over to the filmmaker. His neat blonde hair was sticking out at odd angles. There were scrapes on his arms and face. It looked as though he had been beaten, and badly. He didn’t deserve this, if anyone did, Roger did. Mark had so much to live for, he was supposed to be the one to survive.
“Hey, man, look who I picked up off the street!” Collins announced, walking in the apartment with a small blonde man-fresh out of college-holding a suitcase and camera close behind.
“Mark!” 23 year old Roger got up and ran to the blond man, and pulled him into a hug.
“Yo, you two know each other?”
“Know each other? Are you kidding, we grew up together! We’re practically brothers!”
“I’m here, Mark, I’m here. What the hell happened to you?” Roger knelt next to the hospital bed, and held his hand.
“I don’t know, I was walking home and all of a sudden i got attacked.. They beat me, I got stabbed.. They stole my scarf Roger! I’m scared… I don’t want to go..” Marks voice was breaking, he was crying.
“Mark… God.. I’m so sorry.. I should’ve been there for you… I should’ve known something would happen to you..”
“Well at least in the end I wont be alone.. I love you, Roger. I always have.”
“I know Mark..” Roger was silently kicking himself. This was the last time he’d be able to say it and he says ‘I know’?
Before he could take it back, a doctor walked in and asked Roger to wait outside for a few minutes.
Outside, Roger collapsed, shaking, against the wall. He was pleading silently. “Oh god.. no.. not Mark.. Why him… Take me instead.. Mark doesn’t deserve this..Please take me.. let him live…”
After a few minutes, the doctor came out again and addressed Roger. Roger stood up.
“Listen, we just gave him painkillers which will make it easier for him. But they tend to knock people out kinda fast, so if there’s anything you need to say, Id do it quickly.”
Roger walked back in, and Mark seemed to be more relaxed. At least he didn’t have to go in pain.
A short haired Roger sat outside in the rain, shaking. He should be in his prime, yet he just hit rock bottom. He just found out he had HIV and his girlfriend slit her wrists. He was addicted to heroin and was going through an agonizing withdrawal. He couldn’t take the pain anymore, he wanted it to end.
Mark ran to him, fear and concern in his eyes.
“Roger, listen to me. Don’t do this. Please Roger don’t do this..” Mark pleaded, scared of what might happen.
“Why not, Mark? Why cant I? Who cares if I’m gone? No one will miss me. I’m going to die anyway.”
Mark took the razor from his best friend’s hands, and threw it as far as he could into the alley.
“Roger, I will. Ill miss you. I cant imagine a world without the great Roger Davis that’s always been there for me. You have so much to live for. So do it for me. Please. Come on, lets go inside. You’re freezing.” Mark gave Roger his jacket, and led him inside to the loft.
Roger walked over to Mark, whose breathing was slow, yet steady. He tried thinking of everything he wanted to say but nothing came to mind.
“Listen, Mark. I just have to thank you. You were always there for me. You believed in me even when I didn’t believe in myself. You showed me I had a life worth living, and I should live it. I’m so sorry Mark. It should be me where you are. What I would give to turn the clock back and stop this from happening..” He leaned down and held Mark in his arms. He then put his head on Marks shoulder, sobbing.
17 year old Mark Cohen walked up to his best friend’s locker. Roger was sporting his trademark leather jacket, tight jeans and slicked back hair.
“Hey whats up, my little dork?” Roger teased, gathering his books.
“Nothing really. No one wants to go to prom with me.. Guess being valedictorian doesn’t win you many girls… I bet all the girls are lined up trying to ask you..” Mark sighed.
“Well, yeah. But I don’t want to go with any of them.”
“What? Come on, Roger, you can go with the hottest girl in the school! Or are you too cool for prom?”
“I don’t want to go with the hottest girl in the school. I wanted to go with you..”
“What?! You’re not serious are you? Me?” Mark stepped back, bumping into someone.
“Hey! watch it, nerd!” They called at him.
“I’m dead serious, Mark. So will you go with me or not?”
“Yeah, of course I would, Roger. I still cant believe-” He was cut off by the late bell. “SHIT I’M LATE TO CALCULUS! DAMSKY IS GONNA KILL ME!”
“Better run, you little nerd!” Roger yelled after him, smiling.
After noticing Mark’s breathing had slowed considerably, Roger stood up. Glancing at the clock, he saw it was almost midnight. Marks eyes were closed, it seemed the meds had kicked in. For once, he looked at peace. The musician walked around to the other side of the bed and climbed in next to Mark, holding him as close as possible. The filmmaker didn’t stir.
6 year old Mark sat alone on the bench of the Scarsdale Elementary School playground, crying. Roger, even then popular, dropped his soccerball and ran over to his classmate. “Whats wrong?”
“Everyone keeps picking on me. For being Jewish. For me being me. No one likes me.. Everyone’s mean to me.”
“Don’t listen to them, they’re just a bunch of bullies okay? I bet you’re awesome! Why don’t you come play with me, I wont be mean to you. I’m Roger, by the way.” He held out his hand for Mark to shake.
“I’m Mark. Mark Cohen. Are you my friend now, Roger?”
“Ill be your friend. Forever and ever. Now come on, I bet I’m better at soccer than you!” Roger ran off, Mark close behind, smiling. From that moment on, the two were inseparable.
By now, Mark was on the edge of death. His breaths were shallow and far in between. He looked pale, paler than normal. Roger, who vowed to protect Mark since they were in first grade, could no longer save him. The heart monitor got bleaker each second. Roger sat up, and cradled the dying filmmaker. His whole world, the reason to keep fighting was coming to an end. This would be the last time he could see or hold him.
“Mark… I love you, okay? I do. I always have. This isn’t fair. You cant go, you have so much to live for. Mark, I love you. I love you i love you iloveyou. Mark…” Roger pleaded, scared of the inevitable.
Mark drew in one last shallow breath.
“I love you too, Rog…” was the last thing he said. The heart monitor flat-lined as Roger cried out. Mark was supposed to be the one to live through all of this. Instead, it was Roger.