The prune juice is ugly purple in the bottom of the soft plastic cup. It is too soft, repulsively gel-like in my hands. A piece of metal foil curls back from one corner. The edge of it curls around far enough to touch my finger. I don't like that feeling. I can see a little of the label at the bottom of the curl. Quickly I throw the cup in the trash, holding it away from me, but not too far as to be obvious. The tray it came from is repulsive too. A hospital metal rectangle, silver but not shiny, it makes me think of bedpans and headaches. More contaniers, soft like disease, sit inside it. The ice has long since melted and the assortment of juices rests in an inch of water, somehow more transparent than normal against that metal, deceptively hard to see. The towel around the tray is spotted with those yellow-brown hospital stains. Every stain in a hospital looks the same, a sort of unidentifiable yellow-brown color, against white, always against a white background. Some packets of ketchup beside the stains. No food there, only ketchup. The whole assortment sits on a shelf that holds a variety of games, all of which are missing at least one piece, one card, one die, one something. The people here are missing pieces too. Perhaps some have too many pieces. They are good people, better than most. It is why they are here. I look at him and I am happy to be in his presence, but sad that it must be here. He moves with an uncanny slowness, not bogged down and sluggish like I feel when my mind is full to bursting, but light and gliding as if his arms are filled with helium. I know this slowness. It is like moving while standing still, and it comes from a tired, sad patience. Or perhaps, a tired patience with sadness. Something like that anyway. His dad sits on the couch, watching television, never before man enough to be a father, but now finally trying somehow to find it within himself. When this is over that will disappear again, but we do not know that. We cannot. A woman who looks like she is struggling sits between her husband and the alcoholic. Across from her is an older lady. They are playing cards, and laughing quietly. There are telephones on the wall, functional, but strange. Nothing more than hard, square silver boxes with hard square silver buttons on them, and black handsets resting on hangup switches. That is all there is. It is all that any telephone is, really, but something is unsettlingly absent, something vaguely ergonomical and middle class. I cannot place it exactly.

Back in his room we speak of poop and slim-jims. It is a good, relaxed talking. He does not speak of what happened and I do not ask. Perhaps another day when things are better. Perhaps on one of those endless afternoons that feels like the last day of summer and the first day of autumn, like the sunday before school starts again, feels like friendship. Time enough in the future. We don't have our whole lives ahead of us, as our elders seem to believe, but we have the rest of them. Even if it is only one day, it is enough. He shows me his drawings, child-like and beautiful. They give him chalk and paper, but the chalk has square, blunt ends that make the pictures lack definition and clarity. The world is a blur at the edges.