Travis and Sam are friends. Travis has been sick for weeks, and spends all day lying in bed. Sam is out of town.
In Travis’ mind, he is staying inside because he’s sick; but he forgets that he only got sick after staying inside. After one week inside, he started to notice that he was breathing shallowly and had a headache. The headache made him close all the blinds, and he began lying in the dark all day. After two weeks, he noticed that his hair was starting to fall out. After three weeks, he was as pale as gray clay. After four weeks, his skin started to develop a rubbery, fibrous consistency, like circus peanuts or half-dried caulking.
Travis is beginning week four. He’s scared, but in a distant, slow-burn kind of way: not enough to do anything about it.
Sam comes back to town and hears about Travis. He is tired from travelling, and he puts off visiting for a few days, but eventually he goes to see him. He can’t see him very well because the blinds are closed, but he can see that his friend is quite sick. He inwardly chastises himself for not coming sooner.
They talk for a while, but Sam finds that Travis only wants to talk about his sickness. So Sam suggests that maybe Travis should leave the house and get some sun.
|Sam||Listen, do you want to go sit outside? It’s a beautiful day. You look awful. It seems like maybe you need sun.|
|Travis||I look “awful”? I wish you wouldn’t be so judgmental. See, that’s why I stopped going out so much: everybody’s got some idea of how I’m supposed to be. Nobody just lets me be myself. I wish people could just appreciate me the way I am.|
|Sam||Sorry, I just mean you look sick! Sick is not how you’re supposed to be. Don’t you think you need sun?|
|Travis||But what do you mean, “supposed to”? Who made up that rule? How is that fair? What, healthiness is going to be withheld from me unless I go get some sun? Isn’t it my basic human right to be healthy? Are you telling me I have to lie here losing hair just because I won’t go outside? Look, I don’t believe in people imposing conditions on my rights.|
|Sam||Well, I don’t know if it’s your basic right to be healthy, but sun makes you healthy, and you have a right to go out in the sun. And you need sun.|
|Travis||What do you mean, “need”? I’m alive, aren’t I? If I needed the sun, I’d be dead without the sun. I’m not dead, so I must not need the sun. I understand that some people have weak constitutions — no offense, but I know you’ve always been like that, and that’s totally fine with me, I don’t judge — but I’m not like that. I’m not dead, am I?|
|Sam||You’re not dead, but you look like you’re dying. You need sun.|
|Travis||I guess I would like some sun, honestly — not because I’m SUPPOSED to, but because I’d LIKE to. But look, I can take care of myself. Here, come see this lamp I made, all by myself. I’ve been working on it for two weeks. I’ve been kind of obsessed with it, to be honest. I spent a lot of time researching it on the internet. I made the body from these dirty dishes. I made the bulb from this beer bottle. I made the filament from the hair I’ve lost. Look, when I plug it in, it makes a spark.|
|Sam||Dude, that’s gross, and it smells like burning hair. You just need sun.|
|Travis||Look, I’m not just going to throw all that work away! Are you telling me all my efforts were for nothing? That it was all just a waste of time? That would figure, wouldn’t it? Honestly, sometimes it seems like God is against me: I try so hard, I work day in and day out to make this lamp — and it hurts my eyes to be working in the dark like this, believe me; it’s a strain — but it’s still not enough! What would be enough for him? What does he want?|
|Sam||He wants you to be healthy. Just get up and come outside with me! You need sun.|
|Travis||Just get up, huh? What is that, magic? He wants me to perform some arbitrary action, like walking across the room and out the door, just because he says so, and suddenly I’ll healthy? I suppose I have to sit in some special chair, too, and face in some special direction, and say some special words? Why should I have to perform some archaic ritual just to be healthy? I don’t believe in that stuff.|
|Sam||Don’t be silly, it doesn’t matter what chair you sit in. You just need sun.|
|Travis||Well, that’s the thing. I really would like some sun, but I can’t have it. Do you get it? Do you get the joke that God is playing on me? I want to be healthy, right? —|
|Travis||— of course I do. But in order to be healthy I need to go out in the sun; but in order to go out in the sun I need energy; and in order to have energy, I need to be healthy! Do you get the joke? There’s just no way out for me. It’s all a big trap.|
|Sam||Then I’ll carry you out. You need sun.|
|Travis||CARRY me? Um, I’m sorry, I think you misunderstood. I’m not some kind of invalid. I’m just a little sick. I’m still my own man, and I don’t need carrying. And look, I don’t want to cause you trouble.|
|Sam||You’re causing me trouble right now. Do you know how you sound? You need sun.|
|Travis||Well THAT’S kind of condescending. It’s SO simple, right? Just get up and get some sun, and I can be healthy, like you? Gosh, I’m sorry to be such a BURDEN on you. I didn’t realize that MY sickness made YOU unhappy. If you had ever been a month without the sun, you’d talk differently, you know. You don’t know what it’s like to be me. It’s always been easier for you, anyway, with your skin. I burn easily.|
|Sam||You’re probably right, I have it easy! But look, you need sun.|
|Travis||[Pauses] Listen, Sam, I didn’t want to tell you this…but I’m a little scared. It’s been so long. I’ve changed, lying here. I don’t even think I’d like the sun anymore. I peeked out through the blinds once, and the sunlight filled me with a kind of terror…You don’t know what it’s like in my head. Every time I imagine being warm, I get this horrible burning sensation, and I feel SO tired just thinking about it. Or what if I got out there and found out that it was for nothing? What if I tried it and it didn’t work? Then I wouldn’t have any hope at all. And besides —|
|Sam||Listen, can you shut up? Do you trust me or not?|
|Travis||Yes, but —|
|Sam||Do I have your permission to help you?|
|Travis||Sure, but I don’t see how —|
Sam picks up Travis from the bed. He is surprised how light Travis is. His body is clammy and he smells bad. also, he keeps writhing around and groaning so that Sam almost drops him. On their way out the door, Sam accidentally bumps Travis’ head on the doorframe, which makes Travis swear and makes Sam feel a little bad, but not too bad.
It’s a beautiful spring day and there’s an old canvas-and-metal lawn chair in the corner of the lawn. Sam walks over with Travis in his arms, stumbling a little bit: Travis is lighter than usual, but he’s still a full-grown man. He drops Travis into the chair. Travis grumbles and snarls for a while, then falls silent and stares straight ahead. Sam gets a second lawn chair, puts it next to Travis, and sits in it. He is silent too. Eventually Sam falls asleep.
A couple of hours later, Travis says, “Hey, Sam?”
Sam wakes up. “Huh? Yeah, what?”
Travis blushes. The red looks good in his cheeks. He says, “I’m hungry. Do you think you could make me a sandwich?”