"Whatchu mean, ‘I’m afraid to commit or something’?" Dennis griped as they were walking out of the hospital elevator. The color scheme of the hallway was harsh hues of blue and green. The calm lighting and the smell of Pine Sol couldn’t hide the scent of death. Dennis thought, I guess the LEED certification couldn’t cover that up.
He returned to the conversation.
"That’s the same shit she said. Verbatim," Dennis added incredulously, "You been talkin’ to her?" 
"You jealous?" Tremaine answered slyly.
"I don’t mean like that… I’m sayin’ if you talking to her and ... I don’t know, that’s fucked up."
"Two things," Tremaine threw up two fingers as he sat on the hospital bed. "One: we don’t talk 
outside of the time, we all chill. Two: you told me she said that last week. Question for you, did you fuck her?"
Damn, Dennis thought to himself, there he is. He buckled under the question.
"Um, uh uh…"
He’s caught off guard.
"Uh-uh-uh…" Tremaine mocked. He sucks in a deep breath. "You been on this shit for weeks now."
Tremaine reached for his pants at the foot of the bed and rummaged through the pockets for his phone.
"I saw your phone, bro. You call her, your job, and me. No other women."
Tremaine found his phone and placed it down by his side. Dennis checked his pocket, unsure if 
Tremaine returned his phone. He found it and released a sigh of relief.
"And you ain’t guarded because you ain’t got no secrets on your phone," Tremaine peeled back the 
layers of Dennis' complaints. "That secret is in your true essence. The person you are beneath the 
façade of the dude still in the game. The one who knows the secret but ignores it because he’s 
afraid he’s going to look weak or soft or like a simp. Less of a …"
"Man, look…" Dennis interrupted, but Tremaine gave Dennis a look that said, enough.
Dennis fell back and sat on a chair against the wall near the trash can and the room's privacy curtain.
Tremaine continued calmly, taking in a deep breath. It was becoming painful to speak, and his voice grew weaker.
“You are good. I know you. I know you, Dennis.Rice-and-beans-on-the-bleachers-for-lunch Dennis. You’re mad 'cause she tells you to stop smoking. You’re my brother. So, hear me when I tell you: I wish I could commit to someone who told me to stop smoking. My only commitment these days is to living, and I ain’t doing that right. You know how I lost Lisette? Doing what you’re doing now. Stop talking yourself out of love. She cares about more than what’s on the surface and sees your value. Think of all the things that she do that make you happy and that’s how you judge her value. Nothing else matters."
Tremaine watched Dennis take a deep breath and let out a heavy sigh. He resumed with caution, knowing that he had Dennis' undivided attention.
"Listen, bro, I see it… you’re scared of that happiness, so you won’t accept it. Seriously consider: does she make you happy?" Tremaine paused, clearing his throat.
Dennis was nervously tapping his foot, wringing his hands.
"Don’t use friendship to hold her hostage. You need... you need..." Tremaine coughed between his 
words. As he tried to speak for the third time, he gasped into a violent coughing fit.
Dennis sat frozen, watching in fear as his friend shook and coughed violently. He stood, coming to 
his senses and grabbed Tremaine before he toppled off the bed.
"Nurse," he shouted, "Nurse!"
The flirty nurse they saw in the hallway rushed in and helped Tremaine back onto the bed.
"Okay, Tremaine. I can smell the smoke on you, so you knew this would happen. What is the one 
rule?" The nurse demanded.
Tremaine looked at Dennis and wheezed, "Stop smoking."
The nurse responded, "Yes, stop smoking. Like I’ve been telling you for years."
Tremaine was finally lying on the bed, staring up at the ceiling. His breathing was labored but now calm.
"Alright, I’ll be back. I’m going to go get the Advair." The nurse pats Tremaine on the chest 
Dennis waited for the nurse to clear the room.
"So, you were saying I need a nurse?" He says with a smirk.
Tremaine laughs, wagging his finger at Dennis as if to say, “No more, please.” He hiccupped, trying to catch his breath.
"Four years, man. Mel left me after four years, and it came out of nowhere. The conversations we had about the future… about marriage, kids, the kind of house we were going to get… dude. I’m not looking to have that happen again. Desiree is good people, and I know what she wants, but I don’t think I’m the right person to give it to her." Dennis revealed.
In a horsed voice, Tremaine asked, "But what do you want? Better yet, what do you need?"
"What you mean?"
"To move on. What do you need? Because if Desiree ain’t the problem, it’s you."
"Hm," Dennis thought for a moment.
"Remember when you got in the accident?" Tremaine's voice was barely above a whisper. "Yea, I 
crashed the Lex. I ain’t wanna get out of bed, definitely didn't want to drive." "Then, what did you tell me…"
"Desiree pulled up, gave me her keys…"
"When you were down, she put you in her driver's seat. She trusted you." Dennis reflected on the situation as Tremaine tried to reposition himself on the bed.
Tremaine added, "I told Lisette we wouldn’t work that same week. I took an eight-year friendship 
and ended it in eight minutes. It wasn’t until I started dealin’ with all this shit did I realize: I 
I was actually in a relationship, a good one, too. She’d be holding me down right now."
"You need to let Desiree go… she’s…" Tremaine took another deep breath, preparing to chastise  Dennis further. "Save your breath, bro; I get it now. She’s a right fit."

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