I know it’s Thursday when the nurse brings the little paper cup with five pills instead of three. A sip of tepid water and I go back to staring out the window. I can’t abide small talk. Never could. Better to observe my surroundings than spin idle words. My wife understood that, why don’t these young kids get that? Always on about the weather and am I comfortable and did I sleep well. Of course I didn’t sleep well. I haven’t slept well since I was brought to this place. I keep quiet, I know when to keep my mouth shut. It’s Thursday and she always made meatloaf with gravy and fresh baked rolls on Thursdays.
I constantly see him gazing. I can see memories crawling up and down a mammoth hill in his mind. I can see his mind slowly deteriorating as the seconds go by on our grandfather clock. I often glare at the Roman numerals on it and think of the precious years our love glowed. It breaks every piece of my heart to see him in a hospital bed. I thought I have embraced every minute with him. The last few years we have gone through the motions and hate the tears that fall into my lap. I’ve thrown away countless hours giving him the bare necessities and nothing more because of the silence that pierces through the friction of our marriage.
As soon as I close my eyes, I open them again to the sounds of a young woman opening the curtain. It’s no longer dark outside and I remember Sarah rose early during the week but slept in an extra hour on Saturdays. The nurse smiles at me and asks how I slept. She knows I haven’t slept but a moment yet her mundane prattling eases the sting of being away from my wife at least for a few minutes. I wonder when I saw her last. I miss her hand in mine. How her eyes sparkled as she laughed and smiled. Saturday mornings were made just for her and me.
He gawks at that nurse like he used to at me. I gave all of myself to a man that knew how to take but struggled to give. Parts of me cry like a baby. He never raised a hand or cheated on me. More often it felt like he was going through the motions. Parts of me are frozen. I often watch him sleep and watch his favorite television show. He was enthralled with details, crime, investigations, interrogation, lines of questioning, and trying to figure out the culprit. Benjamin Matlock was his companion more than I was at times. Parts of me chuckle saying that. Sometimes I even stare at that young nurse.
I remember this one evening, this evening when my wife, Sarah, was so upset with me because she had asked me to fix the sink in the kitchen, we were always having problems in the old house with it and she asked as soon as I got home please fix the sink but I was tired from work and I just wanted dinner and to watch the television, my favorite show came on right after dinner and I was so fascinated with the characters and the mystery and I was tired and I ended up falling asleep in my chair and when my wife woke me up she was so cross with me because I didn’t do as she asked and I remember I always liked to guess the ending of the show before they solved the mystery.
As much as I love him, too many times it came across in our marriage he was consumed by things that weren’t real. It was almost as if he was engrossed by make believe to avoid the realities going on in our marriage. He neglected confrontation and was absorbed by the simplicities of life (sex, television and food). I was marveled by his ability of not needing anyone. The appearance of being fulfilled by “things” fascinated me. I know there is more going on underneath but was never one to display that.
She sits and waits for me to say something. Anything. I know it. I can’t say a thing. What will she think? I was five when I learned my lesson well. Danny was eight. Daddy beat him until he fell off his chair, beat him until he couldn’t get up off the floor. Daddy said he’d learn his lesson. Daddy lifted the iron from the hearth and burned the sin from Danny’s hand that evening. I begged him to stop. Surely Danny would be good now! Daddy turned with dark, dark eyes and asked if my tongue needed the sin burned from it too. I closed my mouth and stopped my crying. I didn’t need the glowing red iron to brand his rules into my mind. I learned my lesson that day. Keep quiet and never get caught stealing. I never could say a word. How would Sarah look at me, knowing she married a coward. I stole the candy that day.
Danny hugged me tight. The tears were endless. William passed away at 67 years old and have been married for 41 years. Just like any other marriage we had our ups and down.
He was slowly decaying for the last 15 years of them. Our love was like rain – it poured, drizzled and sometimes it was dry. I can’t say he or even myself showed love consistently. I loved our memories but as the years went on both of us were going through the motions. Here I am sobbing creating more rain – the love we should have made. Perhaps it wasn’t just him falling apart in the last 15 years, it was myself. I took him for granted. I walked away with my hands clenched trying to be strong. Everyone stared at me. I needed a breath of fresh air and all I could see is rain. William loved the sound of the rain.
tara caribou + Braeden Michaels | ©2020
When Braeden approached me recently to write another collaboration, I jumped at the chance. He’s one of my favorite people and writing with him is always a challenge. I hope you guys enjoy this one.
Also… his debut poetry book The Raven’s Poison released TODAY.