Hallway

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PHOTO: Marat Gilyadzinov, Unsplash

Dear Bryon,

I’m writing you here because I can’t write you in real life. You have too much going on. The days between our correspondence grow alarming, like a warning sign before a full stop, so I’m pretending you are here and you care about me (when we both know the truth).

You care about yourself, your family, your friends, and sometimes, maybe in passing, in relation to everybody else (and her), me.

That’s okay. I understand.

Today, I dragged myself out of bed to my husband’s gig up north. Million-dollar scenery, rich man’s repast (dragon fruit, that’s a first), relaxing vocal jazz, a few short, quiet solos to break up the conversation… I listened, took notes, drank coffee, crocheted.

Mostly, I tried to keep my mind focused on what was going on in front of me. I wished I could with all my might be like those imaginative people who could transport themselves into a wonderful fantasy about flying, spirits in the material world. I wish I could feel the spirits of those I knew and loved pass through me.

I saw my husband pull out a bottle of Stevia. I asked whether it felt weird for him to drink coffee and iced tea without sugar. “I’ve gotten used to the taste.” I filled in the blanks in my head, “since the cancer.” I saw his life in a graying arc, a before and after of the boy he used to be — carefree, wolfing down junk food after another late-night gig — and the man he’s forced to become — the oldest in his department, studying to receive an upgrade in his position, battling time, drinking kale smoothies now.

Our son is sick. He thinks it’s another stomach bug. He seems to get them twice a year, this last one around May. Like clockwork.

One of his friends joked, “It’d be funny if you got hurt again” on social media, after he posted a photo of himself with the JV squad and, “Next year will be different.”

Breathtaking cruelty.

They don’t know the many times my son went to the ER, the precious moments between “I can’t breathe” and “I love you, mom,” how even making the team was an act of heroism. Every day is a miracle.

Of course they don’t care. Why should they? They’re “normal,” normal goes on, normal jokes about MCL injuries like it’s nothing.

Even when he feels nauseous, I’m waiting to make the call.

I remember this hallway, rushing him down the stairs to the nearest walk-in clinic in the middle of a deadline, following the firemen carrying the only man I ever loved on a gurney, our only child asleep 13 feet away, only a door dividing us.

Everything stops, Bryon. And I am sick to my stomach, afraid to sleep, counting the hours until the next alarm goes off.

3:25 a.m. so far.

I hope you’re well.

-C

 

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