Fiction, Monologues, Plays & More
a monologue by Sean M. Kozma
AUTHOR’S NOTE: Although this monologue is ostensibly written for a male actor, it is deliberately written with no reference to the performer’s gender, and as such is intended to be performed by either a female or male performer.
I broke up with her in August, and it was the hardest thing I’d ever done at the time. In every other relationship, I’d always been the one getting dumped. I hated it. I thought it sucked. I always figured it would be so much easier to be the one who initiated the breakup, to be the one breaking someone else’s heart, rather than the other way around. I had no idea how wrong I was.
See, I didn’t break up with her because I didn’t love her any more. Loving her was easy, I guess. She had a beautiful, sweet, cutie-face that lit up when she smiled. She was from Texas and proud of it, even though she was a godless, liberal, vegetarian. She talked constantly. It drove me crazy, but it made me love her more. Maybe it wasn’t “easy” to love her after all, but one way or another, she won my heart.
I knew when I got involved with her that her liver was failing. She was very up front about it, though at the time, she was in pretty good health – still able to work and get around. It wasn’t until after the first couple of years that she started to get sick again. The first time I took her to the hospital, she’d been throwing up all night, and all day while I was at work. I was worried about her getting dehydrated, and told her if it didn’t stop soon, we should probably go to the ER.
When I got home, she finally confessed what she’d been hiding from me for almost twenty-four hours – she’d been vomiting blood the whole time.
She insisted on taking a bath before we left, since she knew she was going to be there a few days. When she got done, she had difficulty standing up so she called me into the bathroom to help. When I got in there, she managed to stand up on her own, but in doing so, her blood pressure was so low that she feinted. I tried to catch her, but she was still all wet. It was all I could do to keep her head from hitting the wall or the porcelain on the way down.
I’ll never forget the scared, fading look in her eye as she fell.
We got her to the hospital, and they performed a few endoscopies. First they had to find the bleeding. When your liver fails, there’s a big vein that runs into it called the portal vein… that gets all backed up, and it causes a lot of back-pressure on the veins just before it in the flow… the veins in your esophagus in particular. They form these things called varices that are swollen veins that can burst and start bleeding into your stomach.
Anyway, they stopped the bleeding and she eventually recovered, but the ER visits started happening regularly. Every few months would bring a new bout of bleeding, and another hospital stay. It wasn’t until we started trying to get her back on the transplant list that I started to get an inkling that there was more going on than I was aware of.
We first tried to get into UCLA’s transplant program, and had to spend they day getting batteries of tests and evaluations done. A couple of days later, we got a notice informing us that she’d been rejected from the program for failing the blood alcohol test. I spent an hour on the phone with the primary doctor, screaming at him that his tests were wrong. That we didn’t keep alcohol in the house and that she didn’t drink.
There had been other little things before that… she would act kind of strange, but I always figured it was minor symptoms of her liver failing. Sometimes if I took a sip of her tea or something, it would taste funny. Like booze. Hard booze. I didn’t understand at the time that I was just living in denial, ignoring or explaining away all the little things that didn’t add up. When I found the first liter bottle of vodka, tucked away in a hidden corner of a closet, I was dumbfounded. This started an extended and excruciating period where I would frequently tear the house apart, emptying cupboards and closest, looking for hidden booze. Sometimes finding some, but usually not. To this day, I’m convinced that all I ever succeeded in doing was force her to get better at hiding it.
We kept on trying for a long time after that. Despite the stress, the constant worry, the creeping paranoia, and the fighting over her drinking, it was not a good or a happy time, but I loved her very much, and wanted to make it work. And it was slowly killing me. It was killing me to watch her health deteriorate. It was killing me to watch her give up on herself and her self-control. It was killing me to watch the woman that I love wither and decay before my eyes. Finally, I had enough. I couldn’t stay, so I broke it off. It devastated her. Every day when I’d leave to go to work or something, I’d hear her collapse into uncontrollable sobbing once the door was closed. I was trying to find another place to live, and move out as soon as possible.
But before I could, I had to take her to the hospital again. She kept putting it off, saying she felt bad, and probably needed to go, but wanted to wait as long as possible. By the time the Labor Day weekend rolled around, it was clear we couldn’t wait, but she didn’t want to go in on a holiday, because we would be waiting forever.
It turned out that waiting was the least of her problems. She’d been developing pulmonary edema — fluid in her lungs and around her heart.
Two days after she went into the hospital that time, she suffered respiratory failure and was intubated and put on a ventilator, slipping perilously close to death. For two weeks, she hovered around death’s door, eating and breathing through tubes and machines. Most of that time, the doctors kept saying, “If one more thing fails, I don’t think she’s going to make it.” Yet somehow, two weeks later, she was off the ventilator and breathing on her own, but her recovery still had a ways to go.
She spent three months in that room.
I spent three months in that room.
I put my plans to move out on hold, first in case I needed to put her affairs in order. Then later because someone needed to take care of the apartment and the cat while she was in the hospital, and it was just easier for me to stay there. For a long time after she came off the ventilator, she suffered from major delirium. She couldn’t tell you where she was or when she was, or how she got there. She didn’t always recognize me or her mother.
Part of it was because people sometimes just become delirious when they’re put on ventilation for a long time — it’s a form of partial sensory deprivation.
Part of it was because…
…Have you ever seen some of the older cartoons from the thirties and forties, where they make jokes about alcoholics seeing pink elephants? They even referenced it once on the Simpsons.
It turns out that’s a very real thing, called encephalopathy. Basically, your liver stops filtering out all of the nasty stuff it’s supposed to filter out, and it starts letting chemicals like ammonia into your brain. You start… hallucinating. But somehow it’s more than that. They’re not hallucinations to you. It’s reality.
I don’t recall her ever mentioning pink elephants during our three months in that room, but I heard every other crazy thing you can imagine come out of her mouth during that time. A lot of it dealt with the nursing staff plotting to kill her. Some of it involved laser beams coming out of the paintings on the walls. To kill her. One day, I sat in that room, just her and me, and listened to her carry on conversations with the thirty other people she saw in the room, including at least one more of me.
She never once talked to the real me really sitting in that room.
Eventually, she started to rebuild her memory, and get healthy enough to leave the hospital, just before Thanksgiving.
And then I had to break up with her all over again.
That Room was originally performed by Jason Britt at the Eclectic Theatre in North Hollywood as part of their Eclectic Voices series.
Sean Kozma is a writer, sound designer, and audio technician living in Los Angeles, and working in professional theatre. He also works behind the camera on independent films as production manager, assistant director, and line producer. Originally hailing from southeast Michigan, he has worked as a dishwasher, a fry cook, a delivery driver, a taxicab driver, a dispatcher, an engraver, and an office drone. He is currently writing a novel, among other projects.