- When Your Surgeon Brought Snapshots to the Waiting Room, and: Though We Made Love in the Afternoons, and: from In the Days between Detection and Diagnosis, and: When My Job Is to Wait
When Your Surgeon Brought Snapshots to the Waiting Room
People say eyes are the windowsand all that, but turns out it’s actually a pithy incisioninto the navel, through which doctors spelunkthe world’s smallest camera for the world’sweirdest home movie. After years of waiting, this was our first full week together. Your bodywas still a new thing to me. And here was your right ovary,ash gray and threatening rain, brindled by firebrick veins. Fat, a clusterof discarded yolks. And your uterus, an unblossomed pinkpeony, crawling with cells invasive and benignas a swarm of white ants. This was not the gardenyou’d abandoned in Kentucky for a patchof dry Arkansas earth—certainly notthe garden you wanted us to grow. Somewhere, offscreen,the fist of your heart performed its steady squeeze and release, justas my hands had in my lap since you were wheeled away, as they hadby my side while pacing between chairs bolted to the floor, had all alongthe scuffed anonymous halls, up and down the entrance rampwith its slide-and-hush electric glass doors.
When they finally let me back, I wanted to reportthat inside you I’d seen a vision of a vast cathedral, or one of thoseunderground cities, complete with chapels, wineries,and rec rooms. But, really, what I saw was a small apartment in a bad neighborhood,the one lent to us by a friend for that month of your recovery.Its air tanged by new paint. Its kitchen housing no more and no lessthan two bowls, two plates, two forks, two spoons. Ourbedside tables, overturned bins; our first shared bed [End Page 65] an inflatable with a slow leak, where—despite your pain, despiteyour nausea—we managed to find each other. Where,before sleep, we’d watch sitcoms on a cell phonepropped against my thighs: tiny figures living out tiny liveson a screen smaller than a pack of cards, in homesfar better provisioned than ours; though watching them,in their many rooms (stale air whisperingfrom the mattress, our backs growing closerto the floor), I couldn’t see a single thing I wantedmore than this. [End Page 66]
Though We Made Love in the Afternoons
we fought each night in the smallness of our rented room, escapinginto New Mexican mornings shocked and squalled by two magpiesprotecting a hidden nest. Desert penguins, we called them—larger than jays but smaller than ravens—those words not quite right, certainly not enough,but to describe a thing not yet knowncomparison is sometimes the closest we can get:
A year earlier,hobbling through our firstever weeks apart—you, in Tennessee; I, in Montana—lovesickas teenagers—the only place with receptionwas a field drowsed at dusk by bees. I stood for hoursamid their slow circling, still as I could, so your voice could find me. There, in someone else’s mountain homestead,another nest. Tucked in a crook, it held four newly hatchedrobins, their beaks white as the inside of orange rinds; bodieslike muscles stripped of skin, twists of gray-red flexing. Their heads—awkward pincushions, mohawked—lolledthe twig walls, eyes sealed, mouths gaping. Below,a girl with hair streaked pink (she emphasized the “and a half”when she told me her age) swung in a hammocklooped from their tree to a shattered-glass greenhouse. Because shealready existed, she was more than the child weimagined, but less, too, in that she was blemished by beingnot ours.
Just as the years we weren’t yet together were bothbetter and worse than those ahead when one of uswill die while the other must stay and remember. Betterin that we did not yet know that magnitude of loss; worsein that we did not yet know what we would one day have...