“I’m afraid of dying.”
She moves over to me and rubs my bald head, bald from the intensive, 21-day experimental treatment I’ve undergone to try and choke my deathless cancer.
“I don’t know when I got to be so afraid again, but here I am.”
“Things have changed, right? I mean, things have changed. Our life is going to change.” She holds me at the edge of my side of the bed, the light from the bed side table glows orange, aggressive but only for its own corner, the rest of the room is sunk in shadow. As she holds me I can feel her belly now nine months along. Sometimes if I stare long enough at it I can watch the little one’s butt move from one side to the other seeking room and comfort. “Everything is going to change.” She tells me very softly and very gently. Recently I’ve imparted this fear of dying so much that I think she’s sick of it, sick of answering for it, that it makes me so tired.
I don’t look at her as she holds me and tells me this. I have my eyes closed. We rock gently there in the open, almost vulgar, glare of the light. It’s like the world could see us.
“I swear. I wish I didn’t always feel this way.”
“I know. I know.”
All of a sudden I remember when I’d try to tell my old students, when I used to teach, how hard it is to impart real “Love” because of how awesome is the failure of language to do what it’s supposed to do. “‘For example,’ I’d tell them. ‘Take Bobby here. He might want to tell his girlfriend how much he loves her.’ [class laughs – Bobby turns red]. ‘So, Bobby here, he tells her one day, ‘I love you;’ and what do you know, his girl says, ‘I love you’ back. She tells him, ‘I love you, too, Bobby.’ But here’s the hitch: Bobby might hear something in her voice, some little thing in the way she said it, and he might wonder, ‘Hey, does her Love mean my Love. Is her ‘I love you’ my ‘I love you’? [my voice trails off] [and to no one in particular, I say] Bobby’s question is a good one.”
I feel Bobby’s plight with language now because I wonder deep down if my wife does “know” I wasn’t always so scared of something I’ve no control over; but something’s cracked in me.
Earlier, the radioman said that there were great summer storms coming our way. He said, “Y’all in it’s path.” The storm is coming on strong now. There’s sideways rain and big chunks of hail. The lights are dimming. The thunder is loud. The lightening is bright. It’s getting violent, like the earth is readying for something we can’t understand. It’s all so incomprehensible.
As the lights flicker, she asks, “You know I know, right?”