That is not a question, it is a statement, a reproach
, a plea to take everything back and start over.
But we cannot. She cannot come back to life, cannot become alive again. And even if she could it would happen the same way again, exactly as it did the first time.
History exists only in memory. And my memory tape is the same, running over and over and over again, racing along that well-worn groove inside the top half of my skull.
Sometimes I take a deep breath, just to quiet me down, and I peek in there, into that vaulted space. The color is either dirty pink or sickly cream or an ashy puce, depending on the intensity of my mood. There is no glow, no highlighting, no shadow, just the smooth walls and that curst track, that spiraling groove worn deep into the bone. There is a low railing defining it from the chasm below, or maybe the groove is worn so deeply that the outer edge has formed the railing itself.
No matter. It is there and, somewhere along its length, perhaps near the far end of the oval, is the tiny furry thing, momentarily paused, quietly panting. It looks so soft and defenseless but its little fleshy feet have worn that polished groove.
I am drawn to it, that furry memory. I want to be bold, to pick it up by the scruff of its neck and drop it over the edge of the railing, let it plop into the slushy stuff that sloshes at the bottom of the hollowness that is the inside of my head. I want it to disappear forever.
Damn ! It has been resting while I peered into its kingdom. I approached too closely and it is off and running again, racing around and around, grinding the groove deeper and deeper into my cranium.
Please, please, what did you have to do that for? Did you have to die, just when we were working it out?
There is another way to quiet myself. All I have to do is to remember that terrible year, the last six months, the final three. The hospital stays became longer and longer, the spaces between them shorter and shorter. Every time she came home from one of those sessions, weak from the chemicals that had been dripped into her veins, we were subdued, gentle with each other.
But we were both so worn down, so frightened, so tired of being stoic. A chance remark from either of us, a glance, a shrug would set us off. The bitterness would flare briefly, subdue, and then smolder. We would tiptoe around the house, mouthing banalities, waiting warily for the next incident.
Considering our situation immediately before she was diagnosed, it could be said that we were doing well. We had been on the point of divorce. She didn’t want to be with me; I couldn’t tolerate her any longer. And then that terrible day.
She returned to the waiting room grim-faced. “Let’s get a drink”, she said. “Something before we start the drive back home.”
We found a sidewalk café near the parking garage. Seated at the tiny plastic table, we ordered: an espresso for her, a light beer for me. She dug through her handbag, made casual remarks until our order was delivered and paid for. Then she told me.
She used an euphuism of sorts. “I have a tumor.”
I was stupid. I didn’t relate it to what it was that would happen to her, to us, how our lives would change. Not then. I took a sip of my beer and said --- Oh, I don’t remember what I said. Something stupid, I suppose. It was only on the silent drive home that the reality of it sunk into my awareness.
We never talked about separation or divorce again. When a couple is together as long as we had been, adversity forces unity.
The scars were there, though. Those preceding months of slicing each other into tiny pieces, each taking little nips of the other like a shoal of piranha, stripping flesh from the bone, all that which had been was still there, underlying the surface of our relationship.
I think of those months now whenever it gets really bad. I tell myself that if she was back again it would be like the first day always was when she returned from a session at the hospital. We would be gentle with each other. For a while. And then it would all start again.
That helps. I can forget about what is inside my head. I can go about whatever it is I am about, ignoring that furry scrabble on the track, that horrid little thing going around and around and around.
I’m so sorry, baby. So very, very sorry. We almost made it, didn’t we?