I Saved That for You, Baby
by Daniel J. Murray
part 1 of 2
Margret Moody sat on the steps of the New Horizon Hospital, on yet another dreary day in mid-February. A light snow began to fall and a single flake graced her cheek, which quickly became smeared by a tear. The steps had become hers over the past two years, for she believed that no one had ever sat on those steps as long as she. She spent days, nights and every space between on those steps. They were hers intrinsically, through earning.
Her coffee stains adorned those steps; her tears spotted the vacant rings. She had spent two years on those steps, two long years of suffering. Nothing had changed but her complexion; fifty-year old wrinkles on a twenty-three year old face. Sanity left months ago. Life had moved on around her and she had become a ghost among the living.
Family members who’d once cared had since found the situation intolerable. She had thoughts of assisted suicide, but staunch morals and an undying love prevented her from doing such an act. She did love him, all too much. He was everything.
Lately she’d become detached; he hadn’t spoken in months, but she could feel him speaking telepathically in her soul: her fibers listened. His health was rapidly declining. Doctors came with warnings that any day could be the day and that she should prepare for the inevitable. She never listened to them; just him. She heard him, felt his thoughts; he was not ready to go.
On April 2nd, an insurance company representative came to the room, accompanied by Dr. Simms, the man who had treated Jeffery since he was a baby. They could no longer find reason to finance Jeff’s infirmary. This declaration threw Margret into a fit of obscenities and gestures only understandable to those unfortunate enough to be found in the same situation. This was an outrage; he was alive, not speaking or moving, but no less alive.
Margret grabbed Dr. Simms by the coat and screamed, “You told me he could pull through! You told me this! I have sat here for two years, waiting, waiting for him to pull through, like you said he could! Now what? Huh, Simms? Did I just wait two damn years for nothing? That’s it? You’re going along with them? Well, no more money here, let’s just pull the plug! You lying son of a bitch!”
She crumpled his collar in her fist and pushed him, falling to her knees, sobbing. She was tired. She knew he wasn’t going to wake; she just wasn’t ready to admit it. It was a sobering lesson in defeat: of the soul, of the mind, of the heart. Death had come to reap.
“I’m very sorry Margret. I’ll try to get you more time, maybe a few hours; a day at the most,” Dr. Simms said as he shuffled out of the room.
Margret didn’t have much time left; perhaps only moments to reflect, reminisce and love. She pulled a chair beside the bed. The room smelled of antiseptic and damp rot. Behind her the air conditioner droned monotonously, forming a pattern; a pulse. She listened keenly to the hum. It wasn’t just an accidental progression of buzz and hum; it spoke, she was sure of it.
Catch it. Whirrrrrrrrrrrrrr. Catch it now. The breath. Whirr. His breath. The sound undulated in pitch
This was no doubt insane, even for someone under incredible duress; but if it was real, what did it want her to catch? She thought about it while staring at her dear Jeffery, stroking his weak, pale hand. She flashed back momentarily to a time when he had come home from work, excited about a raise he’d received, scooping her from where she stood in the kitchen and carrying upstairs, where they made love all afternoon... then all night.
His hands were strong then, calloused and used. Now they were feeble, sick and contorted, like the rest of his body and perhaps his mind. She felt disgusted by her thoughts, betrayed even. He wasn’t dead yet.
She lowered her head to his chest, feeling it rise and fall in synchronization with the machine providing him oxygen. It was artificial, she knew this. It didn’t matter to her though, it was all the same: the pulse of the machine danced with his corporal pulse in an orchestrated ballet; his life eternal. She closed her eyes as the sun began to set. That evening, Uranus was in the Eighth House. Death was close.
Now. Whirr... Now is not too late... for breath.
Margret sat up, in sudden realization of what she was being told to do. Yes, it was clear now. She needed his breath; his life lies in his breath. Margret remembered reading once that in some religions, the tidal breath is considered to be the evacuation of the soul, the absolute departing. There are beliefs and there are truths, and in between them lies faith. This was an absolute act of faith. Margret believed this to be true, she had to, and she would use it to bring Jeff back.
* * *
Margret heard the truck pull up the dirt driveway. It was late August and the honeysuckle essence clung to the house. He is late, she thought, snapping the last of her green beans. An egg timer buzzed on the counter; the roast needed basting. She bent at the oven, using her apron as oven mitts, and pulled the roast out to baste it.
He came in, laid his lunchbox on the table and went to the bathroom without saying a word. This was odd, for Jeff never failed to say “Hello, honey”, and place a loving kiss on Margret’s cheek when he came home.
Margret, concerned, crept toward the bathroom. Jeff was sobbing. Margret tapped lightly on the door and said: “Jeff, honey? What’s wrong?”
A sniffle, then: “Nothing, Mar. I’m alright.”
“Obviously you’re not alright, Jeff; open the door.” Jeff unlocked the door and Margret opened it. Jeff was slouched on the toilet with his head in his hands; his blonde hair thread through his fingers. She hesitantly moved to him and placed both hands on his back. She had never seen him cry before. “Jeff, what is it?”
Jeff snorted and cleared his throat, digging his nails into his scalp, “You remember that physical I went to? Those blood tests that Doc Simms made me get?”
“Yeah, routine he said. Part of the physical. Why?”
“Well, he called the plant today and said I should come see him after work. The results came back.”
“So? What did he say?”
“Cancer, Mar... Cancer!” he thrashed in a fit, knocking her hands away and catching the shower curtain in his fist — tearing it down. Quickly, she dodged his fists, grabbed his head, and pressed it deep into her breast. His screams became muffled; his tears absorbed by her apron.
He wrapped his arms tightly around her waist. “I’m gonna die, Mar.” She didn’t hear him clearly; she didn’t have to. Together they cried there in that bathroom. It was the first of many cries they would share together.
* * *
Margret leaned in the bathroom doorway remembering that moment, that single moment that would forever change her life. She wasn’t crying; she barely could anymore — the well was running dry. She turned out of the doorway and into the hall, rubbing her shoulder along the wall; knocking off the wall pictures that had been hung many years ago. She listened to the frames crash to the floor and laughed a drunken, mad laugh. Twice she stopped and took a step back, grinding her bare feet into the broken glass which caused even louder, and more grotesque and hysterical cackles.
Once in the kitchen, she paused, glancing around at the mess that had become her kitchen. Spoiled food stuck to plates from meals long forgotten. Flies buzzed and gathered around the rot that now housed their maggot young. A sick stench hung heavy in the air. It was gross indeed, but she didn’t care; none of this mattered now.
She found the Mason jars in the basement, made her way back to her car and headed to the hospital. There wasn’t much time left, she knew this.
Back at the hospital, a nurse approached as she reached his door and informed her that the doctor was just in there. “Doctor Simms says this may be it, Mrs. Mead. There’s nothing more that we can do but try to make him comfortable. Okay?”
“Hahaah, hehe. Okay... Okay. Hahaha.” Margret chuckled sardonically, clutching the jar; caressing the lid with her fingers. “Okay. It’s okay.”
The nurse retreated, cringing at the sad spectacle that Margret had become.
The room was colder than usual, and dimmer, as if a shroud had been pulled over the lights. Jeff was lying still, as he had for the past few months, on his back. The machines gave their responses of beeps intimating that Jeff was still there, but not for much longer. The doctors would be in soon to disengage those machines, and Jeff would be gone.
Copyright © 2009 by Daniel J. Murray