Sunday, September 14, 2014

The View From the Shore #StoryBySunday

She chews a piece of lavender gum and stares across the water, trying to remember what is on the other side. Her fingers rest in the valleys between her knuckles as she imagines that she has anybody else's hand to hold.
She had jumped into something she didn't understand, without thinking about the landing. Eyes closed, screaming at the thrill of rushing air and an unknown destination. They made love on a boat in Lake Michigan and she thought that was all she needed to know.   
She had thought they'd move to Wisconsin, eventually. He'd maybe go back to school and she'd buy a kayak that she'd learn to steer on summer days when she wasn't stuck in whatever shop she'd have to sell her soul to to cover rent and his tuition. At night, breathlessly falling into each other, she'd lay her head on his chest as he points to the ceiling and tells her where her favorite constellations are.
He was somewhere else now. Maybe he made it to Madison alone. Maybe he's still on that tiny island where they met. Maybe he's just gone in a way she doesn't know how to accept. She squeezes her fingers until they stripe pink and white. Looking at them she figures she ought to feel something.
They never should have left the blue waters of his bedspread. There was an entire world tangled up in those sheets and she couldn't remember now, why she had thought that she had wanted more. She dug down deep into herself looking for a reason. Digging until it hurt, scratching at herself until she left scars but still she could not see the truth from where she stood on the shore.
The lake looked like an ocean from here, blue that might as well go on forever because she was never going to see the other side.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Dandelion Seeds #StoryBySunday

The first thing I thought, when he told me about the cancer, was "what am I going to do with all of his stuff?" Immediately I could imagine the house clean, decorated without compromise. I imagined a bathroom where the toilette seat was always down. And then I looked at him and said "Oh my God." And that was all either of us said for a very long time.

The prognosis was good. The doctor used a lot of big words I didn't understand and one that I recognized from TV. There was talk of treatment options, side effects, and expected outcomes. I think I nodded and squeezed Mike's hand at all the right moments but I really wasn't listening to anything that was being said. I was thinking, instead, about how much nicer a sectional would look in the living room and wondering how much I would get for his Redskins memorabilia on e-bay.

Mike didn't lose his hair at first but he lost a bit of that gut I had been meaning to start getting on him about and there was a moment, looking at the new, slimmer, Mike, that I thought maybe the cancer would be good for us. We'd be that couple that beat cancer with wheat grass shakes and yoga and love. And then I realized the truth.

I sat next to Mike in his cancer chair, holding his hand, watching something important drip out of him as the poison dripped in. And I thought about what my first vacation alone would be like. Driving home, Mike laid out across the backseat, sleeping, instead of the road I saw new skies, new loves, I saw decisions I only had to make for myself.

One arm dragging across my shoulders, Mike's hip pressed into mine as we walked up the steps, slow and fluid like a dance we had been practicing for in our sleep. The doctor said the treatments were working and I looked for it in his face after I helped him into bed.

He slept and I crawled carefully towards him. I ran my fingers through his hair and when some came back with me I held my fingers close to my mouth, put my lips together and blew a kiss. Watching the strands and clumps float to the carpet like dandelion seeds, I made a wish.