17: “Chicks dig scars, right?”

Dylan was at work at the restaurant where he waited tables when his appendix ruptured. Fortunately, he worked with Luke. Luke was a chef at the restaurant, one of four, and he had managed to get Dylan a serving job with no experience, for which Dylan was grateful, even though he often pretended not to be. In his defense, being a waiter was terrible. One time, some bratty kid had thrown cole slaw at him. He’d kept finding cabbage in various places for a solid week. There was some in his hair. He’d smelled like vinaigrette for days.

Dylan had had abdominal pain for a little while, but he didn’t think much of it. He assumed he was developing an allergy or some sort of food intolerance. Given that it was most likely lactose intolerance, he didn’t want to investigate it too thoroughly because he loved cheese. The other likely option was some form of gluten intolerance and, since bread was his second biggest love, he was willing to ignore that as well. In retrospect, it was possible he should’ve at least googled it because he ended up on the somewhat dirty floor of the restaurant dining room with the remains of what had been a full tray of wine mostly on his body. His manager was really angry initially. In her defense, Dylan was a terrible waiter, mostly because he just didn’t give a shit. In his defense, he was in excruciating pain, lying on a grimy floor next to someone’s slush-covered winter boots, and he smelled like the inside of a wine barrel. He was also fairly certain he was either going to vomit or black out; possibly both.

Fortunately, Gin was at the restaurant. She had come to study at a table by herself, which Dylan’s manager hadn’t loved. But Gin had ordered food and so there was really nothing she could do about it. His manager, Elsa, was trying to turn the restaurant into the kind of fancy, dim-lit place wealthy middle-aged bankers took their mistresses to. It was not going well. It was too close to Roehampton University. It attracted a lot of students, who brought homework and set up camp for hours. Sometimes a professor would come in and Elsa would be delighted at the sight of their tweed blazer, but it was usually a particularly harried philosophy professor who didn’t eat meat for ethical reasons.

Somehow, Gin managed to slip into the kitchen without being seen, though it might have had something to do with the fact that Elsa was fully shouting at Dylan for lying on the floor and wasting wine, as if he had managed to take a wee nap in between the tables in soaked and sticky clothes. She came back seconds later with Luke, who loomed over Dylan in his apron with his brows furrowed.

“What’s wrong with you?” He demanded.

“Dying,” Dylan replied, wincing. Elsa was still angry, but she had at least stopped shouting at him.

“You’re not dying,” Luke argued.

“No, I’m pretty sure I am,” Dylan returned.

“What’s wrong?” Luke repeated.

“My stomach is mutinous. I have horrible pain in my abdomen,” Dylan answered, wincing again. He still felt nauseated. He wondered if it would be worse if he threw up on his wine-soaked shirt or pretty much the same.

“Maybe it’s your appendix,” Gin cut in, also looming into view. Dylan thought it over.

“Oh,” he said. It made a lot of sense. It certainly put his previous ache in perspective.

“You fucking idiot,” Luke said.

Luke and Gin helped him off the floor and Elsa drove the three of them to the hospital. Dylan got the impression she did it because she had previously shouted at him in a room full of witnesses for lying on the floor and spilling wine when in fact his appendix had ruptured and she didn’t want him to sue her. Her gracious act of apology only went so far it seemed, however, as she dropped them off at the curb in front of the hospital and screeched out of the parking lot back to the restaurant. Dylan hobbled inside with an arm around Luke and Gin and seriously considered passing out. It was beginning to seem like a pretty good idea, especially as he rapidly approached its inevitability. Passing out in a hospital was the best place to pass out. It was perfect.

Luke went to the triage nurse to explain what was happening, leaving Dylan with Gin for a very short moment. Then he was surrounded by nurses. He was hoisted onto a gurney and immediately wheeled away, Luke and Gin quickly hurrying after him. He saw a doctor in record speed, who very quickly explained that Dylan’s appendix had in fact ruptured and that he would need immediate surgery. Dylan did not want surgery. He was brought to a room, changed and dressed by a couple nurses, and then prepped for surgery. While he was waiting for the nurses to come back and take him to the operating room, Luke and Gin came into the room.

“Chicks dig scars, right?” He asked them, looking specifically at Gin as she had the most personal insight into the matter.

“Not appendix scars,” she answered. “Scars you get fighting a bear or, like, joining a biker gang.”

“Oh man, I couldn’t do either of those things,” Dylan replied. His palms were really sweaty. He could barely stand to get a flu shot. He was so nervous and nauseated, but now for an entirely different reason.

“To be fair, no one could fight a bear,” Luke interjected, rolling his eyes.

“I don’t think that’s true,” Gin told him.

“Sorry,” Luke said, rolling his eyes again. “No one could fight a bear and win. A lot of people could fight a bear and lose.”

“What if I want to keep my appendix?” Dylan cut in, trying to think of other options that didn’t involve him having surgery.

“What, like in a jar?” Luke frowned at him.

“What if I die?” Dylan continued.

“You are in no way dying,” Luke told him flatly. “Small children have this done all the time.”

“Yeah, but what if it’s like Shingles?” Dylan protested. “You know, kids can have the Chicken Pox, but old people are dropping dead all over the place because of Shingles.”

“Yeah, it’s not like that,” Luke told him. “And that is not at all accurate.”

Gin was watching them, chewing on her thumbnail. Dylan fought the urge to tell her that she was going to get polio from ingesting all the hospital germs, but it felt hypocritical since he’d literally ignored appendicitis for fear of not being able to eat cheese.

“Will you be here when I wake up?” Dylan asked Luke as one of the nurses came back into the room.

“Maybe,” Luke answered. Dylan stared at him with wide eyes until he sighed resignedly. “Fuck. Yes, alright? Where the hell else would I be?”

When Dylan woke up, he was back in his original hospital room and Luke was sitting in the chair beside his bed, reading a book. As Luke explained, Gin had gone because she had a night class she needed to go to.

“She said you were boring because you were just sleeping,” Luke explained.

“That seems right,” Dylan nodded minutely.

“Also, your parents are at the cabin,” Luke told him. “So your sister and four hundred of her children are here.”

“I only have three children,” Dylan’s oldest sister Carolyn interrupted, walking into the room with Dylan’s oldest nephew, Jake, and two of his nieces, Molly and Kelly.

“Uncle Dylan, your boyfriend is really grumpy,” Molly, Dylan’s eight year old niece, told him, wrinkling her nose in Luke’s general direction.

“You’ve got to be kidding me,” Luke sighed, getting up from his chair with his book. “I’m going to get a coffee. I need you to know that you’re the worst and I wish you had Shingles.”

Dylan grinned at him. Luke shook his head and walked away, leaving Dylan with his family members.

“He is so unnecessarily grumpy,” Carolyn told Dylan, coming to sit on the edge of his hospital bed. “But he knew well enough to call me, your favourite sister, in Mum and Dad’s absence.”

“I think you’re the only one whose name he can remember,” Dylan told her honestly.

“Yeah, well, whatever,” she replied dismissively. “I’m going to pretend you didn’t just say that. I’m glad you’re okay. He’s a pretty decent friend.”

“He’s cute even if he’s mean,” Molly offered. Cute was pretty much the last word Dylan would ever use to describe Luke, but he’d make sure to tell Luke what Molly had said later nonetheless.

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