"You're all family?" The nurse inquires, not looking up from her clipboard.

"Yes," Dad answers tersely. "May we see him now?"

"You can. Follow me."

Mom sighs and squeezes my hand once more before letting go. We follow the nurse into the large ward hallway, trying not to look at all the seriously ill people through the room windows. The atmosphere is dark even though every direction I turn I see the same sterile white. I hear a baby crying somewhere in the distance. Then the voice of a grown man screaming in the room we just pass.

Coming to the hospital for an appointment is bad enough. But to be here for this?

We make it to Phil's room at the end of the hall, which is where the nurse said they moved him to from the operating room because he was stable. At the sight of Phil awake in bed, Mom gasps and surges forward to grab his hand. "Oh my—Philip, how are you feeling? You look terrible!"

She's not wrong. Phil's body is shockingly more gaunt than usual, sunken into the bed, strapped and hooked up to numerous machines. His left eye is bruised purple and swollen completely closed; his nose is covered in plaster; his dark hair, unlike the polished disarray he usually keeps it as, looks like he just went skydiving; and his arms are covered in scars varying in depth and length. His skin is as pale as the sheets he lay on, which are speckled in his blood. I've never seen him look worse.

"Thanks," Phil deadpans. His voice is low and raspy, as if he hasn't spoken in years.

Mom coos and fawns over him, while Dad remains studiously silent near the door. I drift further into the room, stopping to lean back against a cabinet in front of the window and cross my arms. There's a draft that carries the pungent smell of iron.

Dad eventually comes forward, wordlessly dropping a hand on Mom's shoulder, a tacit command for her to move aside. She glances up at him warily, but takes a few steps back from the bed. Dad and Phil glare at each other, with Dad gripping the railing of the bed, his knuckles white, and Phil having a guarded look on his face, as though in preparation for a battle.

Neither of them backs down until Dad slowly sighs and, in a near-whisper, asks, "What were you thinking, before all this?"

Phil drops his gaze and scoffs. This seems to cause the dam that was holding back all of Dad's anger he'd been building up since he'd gotten the call, maybe even before that, to collapse, as his veiled resolve of calm dissipates before our eyes and his outrage flows through the enlarging cracks.

He throws his hands in the air, pacing away from the bed, his voice raised to a shout as he says, "So you were selling drugs. Then you botched that and that's the reason you were stabbed."

"Yeah, Dad." Phil gives a bitter smile, and I notice one of his teeth is missing. "I'm a fuck-up who can't stop fucking up. You were totally right, yeah?"

Mom tries to cut in. "Phil—"

"For how long have you been doing this under the roof of my house?"

"It's only been a year."

"A year?" Dad repeats, astonished. "A year."

Phil rolls an eye, a skill he'll always put to use, even after being stabbed in the gut and having one eye out of commission. "God, you make it sound like I've done it long enough to be some drug lord or something."

Dad stops pacing and places his hands on his hips, facing the bed. "You didn't tell anybody about this?"

"I told Emily."

Dad swiftly turns my way, and I flinch. All of his irate energy is now being directed at me. "You knew about this?"

I take in a breath to speak, then close my mouth. What could I possibly say to not make him more angry than he already is?

So I shrug my shoulders and look down at the linoleum.

Dad whirls back on Phil. "I cannot believe this. I cannot believe it!"

Mom takes cautious steps closer to Dad. "Please calm down, Walt. Your son was just put through surgery. And he's alive! Can we focus on that for right now?" she reasons.

"No. I can't look at him," Dad says, heading back to the door. He mutters something on the way out, but I don't catch it. I notice Phil stiffen in his position on the bed, though.

"I'm going to talk to him. I'll be back in a minute, all right?" Mom says, flustered. I nod, and Phil doesn't respond. Now it's just me and him in the room, no sound save for the steady beep-beep-beep of his heart monitor and the general ambiance of a hospital. I don't move from my spot, and Phil's gaze is transfixed on the sheets that cover him.

I speak first, just to get that scary vacant look off his face. "Nice job pulling me down the well with you, Phil. Now he's mad at the both of us."

One side of his lips perks up. "It's a good feeling, isn't it?"

"No, it's horrible, thanks to you."


I come a little closer to the bed, resting my hands on the railing at the foot of it. "Anyway. How do you feel?"

"Why do you guys keep asking me that? I could have died. But I didn't. All I feel is… I'm alive. No different than being alive yesterday or the day before."

I squint my eyes at him. I guess that makes sense. Phil wouldn't be the type of person to feel like he was given a new chance at life, or redeemed or whatever. Everything's the same to him.

It's quiet between us for a few moments. I watch Phil idly pick at the baby blue gown they put him in, and notice the dark coloration of his knuckles, telling of his own involvement in the calamity that brought him here. Involuntarily, and probably belatedly, my eyes begin to water. I sniff, and Phil glances up with his one able eye.

"Don't," he says.

I try to keep my voice steady and fail. "How did this happen?"

Phil shakes his head slightly. "You know."

"No! You tell me. How… why did they do this to you?"

He keeps shaking his head like it's none of my business. Like it doesn't affect me. Like everything he does is his problem, all about him, always.

Something in me snaps, and I can't keep myself from talking unfiltered. "You're so selfish! Just ratting me out to Dad like that when you know we're already on thin ice… and, God—stupid, so stupid to sell drugs! You have a freaking job, Phil! Did you want to feel important, or something? Like you weren't just some kid with below-average grades and an entirely uncertain future?" The tears won't stop now, everything is fuzzy, and I'm just mad, so mad. "Dad… Dad is so right about you. I always thought he was being out-of-line when he talked about you, but I see it now. You can't do anything right, and you don't care about anyone except yourself. How could you—hey!"

Through my blurred vision I could see that Phil's one eye had closed, and his head had lolled back against the bed pillow. I'm trying to talk to him, and he's going to sleep?

"Listen to me! Oh my god, you never—"

One of the monitors that Phil is strapped to starts making higher pitched, longer beeps, and his body completely relaxes. Something is very wrong.

"Help," I whisper at first, not tearing my eyes off my brother, forgetting that I'm the only other person in the room. And then I shout it, running to the door, feeling the breeze against my wet face, pleading with a woman in a white coat jogging at me. She hurries by me through the doorway, followed by other people dressed in blue scrubs, shouting jargon I can't begin to understand. They don't notice me coming back into the room after them, while one of them reclines the bed so that Phil lays flat, his body remaining motionless. The doctor says he isn't breathing, tells a nurse to start compressions, and said nurse begins pounding on Phil's chest, putting all of his weight into it, Phil's body bouncing against the pressure.

I yell for them to stop, even though I know they're trying to save him, and the nurse nearest to me says I have to leave, placing a firm grip on my arm and leading me out the door. I see Mom, Dad, looking at me, and then past me through the hall window into Phil's room. Mom uses one hand to cover her mouth, and the other to reach out blindly for me. I go to her, burying my face into her shoulder, trying to block out everything the people are saying, everything that tells me Phil is not okay, everything.

And it works.