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Insulin, Pineapple Juice, and Other Ways Jared Kleinman Keeps Himself Alive

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“C'mon, Jared,” Alana said brightly, helping him lug a coffee table up the stairs, “I bet it'll be great having a roommate!”

Jared scoffed. “Yeah, right. I'd rather live with Connor than some random stranger.”

“Well, think about it this way: you could be meeting your best friend!” Alana nearly fell backwards; he stopped moving so she could regain her footing. “You chose this guy to live with.”

“Yeah, ‘cause the other option was some dude in his fifties,” Jared said, cringing. “No thanks.”

“So, who's your new roommate, again?”

“Evan something, I'm pretty sure.” Jared could feel his legs shaking—they were almost at his floor, though. He could make it. “He's my age, studying something at some college in the area, and, uh, that's it.” Coherence was becoming difficult. “Shit, okay—shit—we're almost there...”

“Sugar?” Alana asked, stopping again. 

“Yes, Honey?” Jared shot back, shit-eating grin on his face, though he knew she could see his body physically shaking. She gave him a pointed look and he sighed. “I promise promise promise that I'll check it once we're in the room, but—just—please, Lana?”

She reluctantly picked up her end of the table again and heaved it up another step. “Fine, but you better not faint on me, Jared Kleinman!”

He nodded rapidly, eager to lay on the rug and down an entire two-litre of Dr. Pepper. Fortunately, they only had half a flight of stairs left until they were at his floor. After a bit of finagling—which proved astronomically harder than normal, with Jared's entire body shaking—they had placed the coffee table down in front of the sofa and Jared had collapsed backwards onto it. Alana tutted, rounding the counter to the kitchen. 

“Pineapple or—?”

“Pineapple!” Jared shouted back, weakly raising his head off of the cushions before letting it drop down again. 

He felt like gravity was increasing. This was one of the bad lows: the ones where he could barely support himself, where he felt like eating the entire fridge, where he vibrated as though his entire body was laid on top of a washing machine... It was the closest you could feel to death without actually dying (he assumed). 

“Jared.” He raised a weary arm; Alana placed a juice box in his outstretched hand. “You need to sit up to drink it. Don't make me be your mother.”

He didn't sit up. He tilted his head so that he could look at Alana, who'd positioned herself on the floor across from him, and stuck the straw in his mouth, finishing the entire box within seconds. He didn't choke, so take that, Alana. He continued to suck and chew on the straw long after he'd exhausted its usefulness. 

“Have you checked yet?” Alana asked, trying a bit too hard to sound patient. 

“No,” he muttered. “Let me die in peace.”

“This is exactly why you need to look into getting a CGM,” she said. “That way, you wouldn't need to even think about checking.”

He stuck his tongue out at her, his discarded straw dropping to the floor in the process. He let out a whiny cry, feeling the need of having something in his mouth. He pulled his medic alert necklace out from under his shirt and let the chain hang in his lips idly. 

“I'm not going to do your blood sugar for you,” Alana said, getting to her feet, “but I will throw your juice box in the recycling.”

“Thanks, Lana,” he mumbled. She didn't say anything, but she did pick up his juice box and straw before heading back to the kitchen. He lay there for a few more moments before forcing himself into a seated position and pulling out his blood glucometer. 

Diabetes sucked ass. 

“I'm 2.9!” he called, after he'd finished his check, flopping back onto his side. 

“I told you to eat something before we started lugging furniture around!” Alana chastised. “Do you need something more than the juice? I've got some Dex—”

No!” He hated Dex4. He hated the taste, he hated the texture, he hated how many he needed to eat before his blood sugars came up—he stopped taking Dex4 for lows the moment he discovered a juice box or about 15 to 20 skittles would have the same effect. “The juice'll kick in soon.”

Alana tutted again, sitting back on the floor. “I don't know how you survive.”

“Spite.”

They both giggled. Jared kept giggling well after Alana had stopped; he was so funny! He was a fucking comedian. John Mulaney better watch out. (It's very very funny and his prolonged laughter is absolutely not at all influenced by his low blood sugar. Shut up.) 

“Oh, Zoe texted! She's asking if you need a desk chair,” Alana said, translating whatever garble of emojis and acronyms that Zoe had sent her. “She's getting a new one soon, so you could take her old one.”

“Nah, I've got one already. Tell her she can fuck off—I've got this moving thing handled.”

“I said no thanks but you appreciate her offer.” Alana always knew how to make his causticness digestible. “When's Roommate going to get here?”

Jared tried to shrug, but it was hard when he was laying on his shoulder. “Today, at some point. That's why I needed to get the extra chairs and shit up here. Thanks for helping with that, by the way, Lan.”

“Of course! It was my pleasure, Jared,” she said, smiling at him. “I'm always happy to help a friend.”

“Wanna stick around until he gets here?”

“I have my Endo appointment at 1,” she said, apologetically, “so I should get going in, like, 15 minutes? Sorry, Jare.”

“Nah, Endo's more important,” he said, waving an arm lazily. He was starting to feel significantly less weak as the juice began kicking in. “I hope you have a good A1C!”

“I better! I want to get my driver's license.” She sighed, picking up her mini backpack and swinging it over her shoulder. “Thank the Lord your place is near the SkyTrain station.”

“I'll see you later, Lan. Tell Dr. Angoli-Baker I said hi!”

She chuckled. “I will. Bye, Jared.”

The door closed with a soft click. Jared let out a sigh; he missed driving. Once upon a time—young, dumb, and freshly diagnosed—he'd tried to take his life back into his own hands. Long story short, it resulted in his A1C being completely out of whack and his driver's license being revoked. He wasn't even allowed to apply again until it was back in range. What an idiot

As he finally felt his strength returning to his body, he pulled himself up. He did another test: 4.7. He desperately wanted a shower, but knew he should eat before then, otherwise he might go low a second time. Why showers messed with his sugar so much, he didn't know. But, as his diabuddy, Connor Murphy, always said, “The acronym speaks truth—blood sugars are just a load of BS.” 

“Wise words, Murphy,” he said to himself. He headed to the kitchen to get a piece of toast with peanut butter. Time to rock'n'roll. 

 

He had just exited the shower when he got a text from Alana. 

Alana-nanana 🍉🌞

Connor, Zoe, and I are getting dinner at that DQ by my Endo's office tonight. Wanna join? 🍦

4:55 PM

He grinned. 

Alana-nanana 🍉🌞

fuck yeah! 🎉

wht time?

6? ☺️

awesomesauce!

c y'all thn 😎

read • 4:59 PM

Thank fuck. He might die if he had to endure a meal full of awkward small talk with his new roommate tonight. Speaking of, when was this dude arriving? As much as Jared didn't want to stick around, he didn't want the guy to show up to an empty apartment. He had a number to use—one which he'd already used to triple-confirm the apartment number and address—but he didn't really want to just text out of the blue. 

Luckily, he'd be saved from resorting to that, as in the moment, there was a tentative knock on the door. He didn't bother checking the peephole; he swung the door open, and found himself face to face with a middle-aged woman. 

He squinted and hesitantly asked, “Are you... Evan...?”

“Evan, come on, sweetie!” she said, glancing to her left. A blond boy, who looked to be Jared's age, peered into view, visibly nervous. The woman smiled brightly at Jared. “I'm Evan's mom, Heidi.”

“Nice to meet you, Heidi,” Jared said, shaking her hand politely. “I'm Jared.”

Heidi nudged her son and he stepped closer, also holding out a hand. “I'm Evan. Sorry.”

“Don't be sorry,” Jared said, holding back a snarky comment in front of this guy's mom. “Welcome to my—uh, our—apartment!”

He ushered them inside. Heidi was immediately ooh-ing at his furniture and minimal decor, saying how nice it all was and how lucky they both were to have such a nice apartment; Evan stood awkwardly by the door, clutching his backpack tightly. Jared wasn't sure what to do at this point. 

“Sit down, stay a while,” Jared teased, using the phrase his parents always would when someone still had their coat or shoes on. Evan inched closer. Heidi said something about going to get more boxes from the car and left the boys alone. Jared had no clue how to handle this situation. “Um, so... Thanks for agreeing to live with me. I couldn't afford this place on my own.”

“Oh, um, you're welcome.” It was barely a millisecond of silence before the blond pummeled on. “Sorry that I'm so awkward, by the way, I know this must be the absolute worst, having a stranger as a roommate and then he's just super quiet and nervous and stuff, but I've never lived by myself before—not that I'm by myself, since you're here too—it's just I don't know you and I've never been good at making friends and my mom always says that I need to get out there and so when I got into college she told me I should try to get a place close to campus—a big step, she said—and your place seemed like the best bet, but I know this must be awful for you and I feel like I'm intruding and oh god, I'm rambling, I'm so sorry—”

“Jesus Christ, dude,” Jared said, blinking in amazement. He'd never heard anyone talk quite as fast. Perhaps Alana, when she got really passionate and had a low blood sugar. “I only got, like, twenty percent of what you said, but don't worry about it. This is my first time living away from home too. Well, I moved in a couple weeks ago, but, y'know.” Then, hit by an epiphany, he said, “Oh! I should show you to your room, shit. C'mon, Ev.”

Evan went beet red at the nickname, but followed Jared down the hall, to the second door on the left. It wasn't a particularly exciting room, with a queen-sized bed in the centre and a small desk by the right wall, however it gave a lot of room for personalization. Evan hesitantly set his backpack on the bed. 

“My room's across the hall, the bathroom is the first door on the left—no ensuites unfortunately, but hey, we're lucky we can even afford this place, so—and you saw the living room and kitchen area. There's a nice balcony, too.” Jared stuck his hands on his pockets. Fuck, they were going to be awkward forever, weren't they? “Anyways. Yeah.”

Evan nodded. “Yeah.”

Heidi popped in at that moment, with a large box labelled EVAN. “Ooh, Evan! You've got a bedroom!”

“I sure hope so,” Evan remarked, so quiet that Jared almost didn't hear. 

Jared felt his heart leap; the boy had sass! He seemed so shy and scared, and Jared wasn't sure how to work with shy and scared—sass, though, sass he could do! Maybe it wouldn't be so awkward forever. 

“We've only got a couple more boxes, Ev,” Heidi said, patting her son on the shoulder, “then you're moved in!” She turned to Jared. “We were gonna get dinner to celebrate after, d'you wanna come, Jared?”

“No, thank you, though,” he replied. “I'm actually meeting up with some friend tonight—” His eyes widened. “Oh shit.” He glanced at Heidi, embarrassed. “I mean, uh, shoot, um—” He definitely needed to get going if he wanted to get to Dairy Queen by 6. “I need to go, like, now if I'm gonna get there on time, um—”

“Oh, go! Don't let us keep you,” Heidi insisted, pushing his gently towards the door. 

He smiled gratefully at them. “Thanks! Um, Evan's key is on the counter island, text me if you need anything, I'll be back in, uh, in a few hours? Yeah. Thanks! Bye!”

It felt weird leaving strangers in his apartment—their apartment—still, he didn't have time to worry. He shouldered his messenger bag and headed out the door. 

 

It was times like these that Jared wondered how Zoe felt. 

He, Alana, and Connor were all talking carbohydrates and insulin, medical devices spread across the table as they waited for their food to be ready. As they calculated insulin to carb ratios and readied their own needles and pumps, Zoe scrolled through her phone boredly. She was the only able-bodied person in their friend group. God, Jared missed having a functioning pancreas. 

“Dr. A-B changed my ratio,” Alana murmured, squinting at her insulin pump. “Hopefully, this'll prevent highs as often.”

“Oh! Speaking of,” Jared exclaimed, “what was your A1C?”

A smile tugged on the corner of her mouth. “7.3.”

“Fuck yeah! Get it, girl!” Jared high-fived her enthusiastically. “Driver's license, here you come!”

“Lucky,” Connor muttered under his breath. Zoe elbowed him and he amended, reluctantly, “Good job, Alana.”

Alana beamed at him. “Thank you, Connor! I bet you'll be able to get your license soon too—you were only a bit over last time.”

Whatever.” He ducked his head and Jared could've sworn he saw the boy's cheeks tinted red. 

“Great job, Lan,” Zoe said, smiling and taking the attention away from her brother. “I knew you could do it.”

Alana's smile grew even wider (if that were possible), however, before she could say anything, the cashier called out their table number. She quickly administered her insulin dosage into her Medtronic insulin pump, then stood to go and collect their dinner. Connor dialed up his pen needle of NovoRapid and stabbed it into his stomach, slowly injecting his dosage. Zoe gagged; Jared averted his eyes. 

He didn't like needles—he was certain that God (the vicious two-faced prick) had given him diabetes as some cruel joke—which was a big reason he decided to start on an insulin pump. He wore an Omnipod insulin pump, which differed from Alana's in several ways, with the most prominent being that it was tubeless. It was fairly inconspicuous, depending on where he wore it on his body, and made his healthcare way easier. He liked to decorate it with cool duct tape, too. Currently, it was on his stomach, and had gummy bear patterned duct tape covering it. (Yes, he's aware of the irony, and chose the design very intentionally.) Just as he finished administering his own insulin, Alana returned with two trays of food. 

“Damn, Lana! You should be a waitress,” Zoe said, helping her lower the trays onto their table. 

Alana shrugged, sliding back into the booth next to Jared. “I don't know if that pays better than my current job...”

“You'd get tips,” Jared pointed out, beginning to dole out meals to the correct teenagers. She hummed in thought, thanking him when he passed her chicken strips. “But, I mean, if you like working at that dinky little bookstore, be my guest. You sure are good at it.”

“I do enjoy it a lot,” she conceded. Then, after a sip of her Diet Coke, she sat up abruptly and turned to face Jared. “How was your roommate?”

“Oh. Uh, he's...” Jared hadn't stuck around long enough to get too much of an impression. “He's really quiet and nervous,” Jared said, “but he seems nice. I mean, worst case scenario, he holes up in his room all day and we don't interact much.”

“Sounds like he's lame,” Connor said dryly. 

“I'm sure he's just shy,” Alana objected. “I bet you two will become great friends.”

“Is he cute?” Zoe asked, leaning forward. 

Jared felt his cheeks flush with indignation. “I—what sort of question is that?”

Zoe shrugged. “Don't cop out, Kleinman.”

“I'm not—I mean—well—” Jared hugged his arms close to his chest, huffing and trying not to splutter over his words. He didn't like thinking about the objective hotness of his roommate whom he'd met barely an hour ago. “Well, it depends on your type, I guess. He's tall, blond, and shy as fuck, if you're into that.”

Zoe nodded contemplatively, leaning back in her seat with a growing smirk on her face. “Mkay, mkay... Noted.”

“Don't fuck my roommate, Zoe,” he warned, pointing an accusatory finger her way. She raised her hands in innocence, but Jared didn't trust the look on her face. “Don't!”

“I won't,” she insisted, popping a fry into her mouth. “I just needed to know if he was cute for... scientific reasons.” 

“So! Connor!” Alana said, changing the topic from roommate fucking. “How's that new book you started reading?”

“It was great. I finished it,” he said, swirling three fries in ketchup. He didn't make eye contact with her. “I'll probably need to swing by the shop for a new suggestion soon.”

“Of course! Pop by anytime,” Alana said, cheerfully. 

Jared had just taken a big bite out of his burger when his phone vibrated. Worried it might be his aforementioned roommate in need of something, he dug his phone out of his bag in record time. Instead, he was met by a text from the girl across from him. 

Zorro 🎸😜💀

betting pool strts now

4 con & lana?

ye

wat else?

whts ur guess?

two months

alana asks him

u?

three months & he tells her

hell just accdently blurt it out 1 day

hmmm

interesting

hw much?

uh $10

srsly?

dude,,, my parents arnt fucking R I C H 

& niether am i

take it or leave it

fine

$10

may the best man win

6:32 PM

Jared shared a devious look with Zoe. May the best man win, indeed. 

 

When he arrived home later that evening, Evan and his mom were still out. It wasn't that late into the evening, but he was exhausted—upon checking his blood sugar, he found he was riding at 4.1. Knowing he was most likely heading down based on the symptoms he was feeling, he downed his second pineapple juice of the day and flopped onto the couch. 

He fell asleep thinking about carb calculations, blood sugars, and the teenage mutant ninja turtles.