Here's last week's post for Blogger Idol! This one was hard to write. The assignment? "Write about a time you did something you didn't want to do."
Got to be honest- I don't do things if I don't want to do them. Rarely to never. There weren't a lot of options to pick between. But one thing stuck out in my mind- one very clear memory. And I wrote about that.
"Go home," he said.Fuck no, I thought. I'm not going home. I love you. There isn't a place on earth I would rather be.
"Shh, don't worry about it. I'm not tired. I want to stay."
I was so exhausted I could hardly stand. I'd stared at the clock all day, waiting. I'd been suppressing a panic attack since six o'clock that morning. I'd breathed slowly, mindfully, like my father taught me when I was small. "In through the nose and out through the mouth, feel the rhythm of your heart in your chest..."
"Go home, Lea."
"I'm not tired. I'll just sit here. In case something happens."
He didn't open his eyes. "Nothing's going to happen. There are lots of doctors and nurses. You should go home and sleep."
I bit my lip. Of course nothing would happen. Everything had already happened. He proposed to me on Wednesday, the Fourth of July. On Thursday he had a seizure at his softball game. In the wee hours of Friday morning we'd seen the pictures from his MRIs- white, glowing masses in the shades of grey of his brain. On Saturday we'd introduced our families to each other. On Monday his aunts and uncles and grandfather had driven from Minnesota to be with him on Tuesday, this day, for his operation.
I'd waited through two hours of prep, nine hours of surgery, another two for him to get to recovery, and another three for him to move into a room in the Neurological ICU.
"I'm not going anywhere, Mike."
He didn't know the results yet, but I did. I sat with the surgeon and Mike's parents, learning words like "astrocytoma" and "malignant multiform glioblastoma." I'd listened when the doctor said, "Sometimes you see people five years out, but not often. I wouldn't count on it." I'd nodded when he said my fiance had eighteen months to live, and breathed into the stuttering beats of my shattered heart.
I held his hand, stroking his knuckles with my thumb. Touching him felt good, real. Like the rest of the hospital had been a dream. Like my would-be in-laws gathering in prayer and weeping together had been an illusion. Here he was, the love of my life. If I could keep him in my sight, protect him from words like "inoperable," and "stage four," he would survive.
"I'm tired, Lea."
"That's okay. You go ahead and rest. I'll be here if the doctor needs anything."
I'd already decided he was going to make it. I breathed in through my nose (He's going to be just fine), and out through my mouth (He's young, he's healthy). In through the nose (He can beat it), out through the mouth (We're going to live happily ever after).
"I won't be able to sleep if you're here, Lea. I'll be worried about you."
The sharp edges of my heart cracked inside my ribs. "You don't need to worry about me. Just rest, let the painkillers work."
"Go home. Please."
I stared at his closed eyes, at the blood caked behind his ear. I tore my gaze away to find anything else to focus on. The machines lining the wall behind him, the nurses walking past the curtained view of the hallway. The blackened computer monitor on the counter. The dark window overlooking the lake, reflecting my own disheveled form. I could almost see the outline of my heart- broken, jagged.
I wanted to beg him to let me stay. Don't send me back to our empty bed, to a closet filled with your clothes and your copy of the Hitchhiker's Guide on my shelf. Don't make me imagine living forever with your shadow. Don't make it real. Please, let me stay...
I squeezed his fingers. "Promise to sleep? I'll be here before you wake up."
He nodded. Tears trickled from my eyes as I tore my hand from his. His eyelids never fluttered.
"I love you, Mike."
"I love you, Lea. Go home."
I glanced back as I stepped through the door. He didn't look up. I wiped my tears on my sleeve and returned to our parents, our sisters, his aunts and uncles and grandfather. I put on a smile.
"He's going to sleep now," I said.
"He's going to be just fine."
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