The Lost & Found (chapter 1)
As he sat propped up on his bed, clutching his prescription bottle of Oxycontin in his brittle hand, Mark Briggs thought back to a time before his life had derailed. At this moment, the intense pain inflicting his body and soul came from more than the terminal cancer eating away at him like an enzyme. His girlfriend of the past three years, Samantha McDormand, had just broken up with him. Her reasoning seemed selfish and cruel to him. She had told him, simply, that she could not stand by and watch him wither away to nothing and die.
The memory currently running through the hippocampus of his brain recalls a moment frozen in time; him sitting in his car at the passenger drop off at Eppley Airfield in Omaha. His mother in the front seat, father in the back. Him being in too much of a hurry to even help them retrieve their luggage from the trunk or walk them to their terminal. He had a date that night and, at that moment, he was eager to ditch his parents and return home.
Once unloaded, he gave his parents a listless wave out the window and half-heartedly requested they bring him back a t-shirt from…wherever. Honestly, at the time, he couldn’t even remember to which island they were going. They told him they loved him and would see him in two weeks. Mark had responded with some vague retort then speedily left the airport. He loved his parents and was elated with their felicity, but he just had other things on his mind at the time of their departure; a gorgeous little redheaded spitfire named Samantha whom he had met the previous weekend.
Mark’s parents had been engaged for over two years before they had enough money for a nice wedding. When all was said and done, they had nothing left over for a honeymoon. They returned to their apartment after the festivities and spent December 29th, 1978, their wedding night, watching the series’ finale of Rhoda on CBS. Eleven months later, in November of 1979, their only child, Mark Alan Briggs, was born.
It took over thirty years but Mark’s parents finally had the time and means to take the honeymoon of which they had always dreamed. After Mark dropped them off at the airport, they boarded their flight transporting them to Los Angeles where they would hop on another plane that would spirit them away to Hawaii for twelve days in paradise; far away from the biting cold of Nebraska’s winter.
Mark had just stepped out of the shower with Samantha when he received the call informing him his parents’ tour-guided helicopter went down in the mountains of Oahu, leaving no survivors. He recalls his vision blurring and slowing kaleidoscoping back into focus as Samantha continually shook his shoulder attempting to reacquire his attention.
Shortly after he had spread all that was left of his parents into the breeze over Lake Zorinsky, where he and his father had spent many summer days fishing, Mark received a substantial sum of money as a settlement from the tour guide’s insurance company. He didn’t care, though. The money meant nothing to him. He wanted his family back, or at the very least, another chance to give them a proper farewell instead of the rushed, apathetic wave he offered up as they wheeled their luggage into the airport and out of his life forever. The clichéd hope of all recently abandoned, he thought.
He moped around his house for almost a month. He was fired from his job and his only means of support was the monetary gain that came with his parents’ demise. He left his apartment and moved into his parents’ house, which was bought and paid for and left to him. Samantha took up most of the domestic duties around the house and had all but moved in. One night, while lying in bed together, in an attempt to cheer him up, Samantha reached her hand into the front of Mark’s pajama pants in the hopes of getting something started. She began juggling his testicles with her fingers and then suddenly stopped. He turned to look at her, to give her a smile, and discovered the cold look of arrant concern that formed upon her face.
“Babe, what’s this?” she inquired in a dire timbre, her hand rubbing the lump on his right testicle.
Now, nearly two years after his parents left him, he sits in the bed he has all but been condemned to die in. He released a heavy sigh and popped the cap from his pills. He tipped the bottle slightly to peek inside and make sure there was enough in there to get the job done. In actuality, he had no idea how much Oxy it would take to kill him and release him from his misery, but he still had to try. He slowly poured the pills into the palm of his left hand and dropped the bottle beside him on the bed. He extended his right arm towards his night stand and wrapped his cold hand around a bottle of water his nurse had left for him, the cap loose.
So this is how it ends, he thought. A nobody. A thirty-three year old man with no family, no girl. A broken down shell of a human being with one testicle and metastasized cancer rapidly draining the life from him. At least he had beaten his expected timeframe. His doctor had given him six months, he was now heading into his seventeenth. He felt it was a grim and rather meaningless accomplishment, but an accomplishment nonetheless. His mortality clock was ticking, though and he knew it. Up until then, the pain had been bearable with proper medication and rest, but with Samantha’s absence it didn’t seem to matter anymore. He guessed he didn’t have more than a month left on this planet, probably not even enough to get him to Christmas, and decided it was better to go out on his own terms than to leave it up that cruel mistress called fate.
He emptied his medication-filled palm into his mouth and took a deep guzzle of water, ultimately swishing the pills around in this mouth for a few seconds before deciding to take the plunge. The tablets made their pernicious jaunt down his throat before colonizing in his gut. From there they began to slowly secrete their chemicals throughout Mark’s anatomy to subdue the descending paths to his brain and block the transmission of pain.
He picked up the remote control, aimed it at his stereo and hit the play button. From the speakers came a song about Santa Monica. About swimming out past the breakers and watching the world die. He reached for his iPhone, opened up the notebook app and typed a few words then placed the phone squarely on his chest. Over the music he vaguely heard the sound of someone knocking on a door, somewhere far off, perhaps in another world, but he ignored it and focused solely on the pleasant euphony the music was providing. When his eyelids became heavy and started to descend, he had a smile on his face and a picturesque view of a luminous, glimmering blue ocean filling his imagination; something he had only seen on television and in the movies. And in his dreams.