“Thrush,” the doctor says, shining a light into Leon’s mouth. “Unfortunately there’s nothing I can really do for it. Don’t smoke. Avoid spicy foods and alcohol.”
All things Leon is already doing. The thick white coating that’s taken over his tongue makes eating an agony, smoking impossible, drinking a chore. He takes small sips of water through a straw, trying to get it as far back in his mouth as possible. Simon is suffering from it too, and Rain goes between one and the other, coaxing them into bites of cold cream of wheat, bland but the least painful food they’ve found.
The high that had carried him through the show lasted another week, then out of nowhere he crashed hard, unable even to get out of bed, every joint on fire. The intestinal infection that started all of this came back with a vengeance, and Diego and Sorrento have learned in a hurry to deal with bed pans when they can’t carry him to the bathroom fast enough.
Not that the carrying is so difficult. He’s dropping more weight every day.
“Nothing?” Sorrento’s voice is full of barely-contained fury. “This isn’t more ‘helpless doctor’ bullshit?”
“I haven’t done that to you yet. Why would you think I’d start now?” Dr. Phillips peels off the rubber gloves he wears whenever he touches Leon or Simon. “I know you’re scared and frustrated. Believe me when I tell you I’m doing everything I can to help.” He pulls out his prescription pad. “I can give him more penicillin for the infections. But they’re going to keep coming back.”
“We’ll take whatever will help,” Diego says.
“Not that anyone asked me,” Leon croaks, “but I agree.”
Rain joins them, returning from checking on Simon. He slides carefully onto the bed next to Leon and gently wipes his forehead with a towel. Lately he’s been sweating buckets, despite being constantly cold. Rain picks up the water glass with its straw from the night stand. “Drink.” He puts a hand under Leon’s head and helps him raise it enough for a few swallows.
“I’ll go see Simon,” Dr. Phillips says, handing a few prescriptions to Diego, and Sorrento follows him out of the room.
Diego perches on the chair that’s now ever-present on the side of the bed where Leon sleeps. “Do you want to roll over?”
His back is sore from lying on it for so long. He knows his side will just get sore before long as well, but nods anyway. At least it’s temporary relief.
Between them Diego and Rain move him slowly onto his side, facing his son. Rain rubs his back softly, mindful of his aching joints.
“Better than you. He’s out on the couch with Enrique.”
“That fucker.” He tries to laugh, and it turns into a cough instead. It’s like a giant hand squeezing his chest.
“I knew you shouldn’t have done the show,” Diego says.
Leon feels his jaw set, a faint echo of the attitude he used to give everyone. “Fuck that.” He coughs again, groans, and feels Rain’s hands brace his ribcage. “I’d rather have that than a few extra days to lay here doing jack shit.”
For a while nobody says anything. Finally Diego stands up, his eyes shining. “I should go get these filled.”
“I’ve got him,” Rain says, moving his hand to Leon’s waist.
Diego nods and leans over his father. “I’ll be back soon.” He hesitates, then adds, “Dad.”