Monday, May 3, 2010

I know, I know, I'm lame

Hey all,

So I haven't posted in a while, I know. Luckily, I am not at the point where lots of you are reading regularly yet :0) Hopefully...

A few quick updates:
1. We've scheduled a launch party for Max and Menna! It will be in Baltimore in November. Hit me up if you want an invite.
2. My nephew is in the country. For those of you who don't know, though he is less than a year old this kid is my world, so between travelling (which I have a TON of lately-- check out my tweets and you will see what I mean), school, work, and playing with the kid, I am just a shadow in the night at my house. If you are among the many who have unreplied to emails sitting in my inbox, please don't take offense!

And since I am too swamped to muse, and have started to realize that there are more than just my college drinking buddies are reading this (meaning I've got to clean it up), I am going to preview something new I am working on. Comments are always appreciated. Here is the first half of the first chapter of my next novel. Should I keep writing? (And please share honest feedback!! I can take it!)

*********************

My momma used to tell me that when you’re in love, real love, you don’t question it, you just know. You know its right and that it’s true and that its time.

As I was a kid, I was sure that my momma was the smartest person I knew. She always had some quirky, seemingly wise thing to say over a plate of cookies or some lasagna or tomato soup. The funny thing was Momma was a terrible cook. But she was always ready with some comforting words whenever I needed them.

It was after the first taste of heart break that she told me about love. A boy from school had torn a letter I had left in his desk. Crafting the words, working up the nerve to tell him how I felt, had taken me days. I had waited in the seat in front of him expectantly, waiting to hear the creak of his desk hinges open. When I finally did, I thought the anticipation would kill me, but it was followed so closely by the sound of ripping paper and the snickering of the other boys around him.

I had returned home to find burnt brownies awaiting me, which I chewed as the tears created streaks down my cheeks. “I told him I loved him, Momma, why doesn’t he love me?” I had asked between desperate gasps for air.
“Gil,” she had said, smiling in a sad way.

Momma had backed up and stared at me so disapprovingly. “Gilly, what do you know about love?”

“I think I love him,” I protested, now angry and hurt.

“Gilly, when it comes to love, there is no think,” she said, “there is only know. When you love someone and its real and its right, you don’t have to think. You just know.”

Momma had to be right. She and my Daddy still held hands on the way into church, and still whispered and giggled in a way that I never saw my friend’s parents behave. They knew, they must have known, that it was real, and it was right.

It was those words that echoed through my head that time I sat behind Ricky on the Shaker. It was the oldest roller coaster in the state, and surviving its rickety dips and turns was an emblem of courage. In the hot, still, August air his cologne wafted back to me as we climbed the hill, the methodical tick-tick-tick of the track almost comforting and soothing.

Ricky was it, he was the boy at school, and this was our last weekend of freedom before we began our senior year. While he wasn’t the captain of the football team, or the smartest boy, or even the most handsome, my draw to him was intense and visceral. If he smiled at me, or even glanced my way, I suddenly felt real in a school that so often made me feel like a ghost.

I had been subtly following him that evening, and it was no accident that I was there, sitting behind him, and breathing in his cologne and his presence. The coaster crested the invented hill and for just a moment I lost him. He disappeared over the top a split-second before me and I was sure he was gone.
Then, I crested behind him and the back of his head was once again visible. My stomach dropped as we raced to the bottom and then up again, and I was sure that feeling was love.

In all the years of our marriage, there have been so many times when I have been sure that this time I really had lost him.. Maybe it’s closer to true to say I lost him when he got on that ride and put his arm around Anne McArthur. Maybe it’s closer to true to say I lost him when she died a month after we were married and he cried over her body with more intensity than he had over the body of our still-born son weeks before.

Maybe it’s closer to true to say I never had him. Maybe that feeling was never love at all, but just the plummeting of a coaster speeding me to an unseen end.

I’m holding his hand now, the steady beeping of his heart monitor offering the same false-comfort as the tick-ticking coaster climbing the hill.

I don’t feel it, not his hand, not a knife in my side with every monotonous beep, not the hot tears on my own cheeks as I cry because I am not scared or sad and am terrified that being neither means I am dead inside.
“I am sure he’ll wake up soon, honey,” an over-zealous nurse assures me as she fluffs pillows, tightens sheets and busies herself around my husband’s still form. She thinks her words make her less clinical. I think she is a fool.
I smile at her wanly and she pats my shoulder as she leaves.

The steady stream of visitors had long since evaporated. They always appeared at odd hours with odd gifts—chocolates for a comatose man and flowers for his mourning wife. I ate the chocolates guiltily and greedily, and threw the flowers out. Their colors and sweet smells seemed too bright a beacon of my silent celebration.

He’ll wake up soon. No one could resist the urge to reassure me. I could barely resist telling them I hoped he didn’t.
My boss had continued to sign my paychecks over the past weeks, pity forcing his hand. I suppose this hospital room is as good a place as any for the first real vacation I have ever taken.

Ricky has taken many, many vacations during our nineteen year marriage. Fishing trips, hunting trips, any excuse for drinking beer from cans and killing things with his friends. After nineteen years, he had nearly succeeded in killing me with less mercy than he afforded a deer or pheasant. He let me go slowly, suffering a little more each day.
Those trips always gave me opportunity to dream about leaving. I kept a suitcase packed in the upstairs closet. Sometimes I would bring it out and sit it on the bed. Occasionally, I would make it downstairs. Once, I even took it to the car. That was as far as I ever got, though, before a quiet voice in my head reminded me that I had no money and no where to go.

His hands are rough and callous. He had the hands of a carpenter, for sure. These hand were proof that Ricky could build anything he put his mind to. They had been like this since I had known him.

It is almost eight o’clock, almost time for me to return to our small home, to eat ice cream out of the box without consideration of my spreading waist, to throw the spoon in the sink, put my feet on the couch and watch mindless television shows without worrying about anyone else’s opinion. With each minute that passes I grow more and more excited at the prospect of going home to nothingness, to sinking into it.

At 7:59 I squeeze his hand to signal that I am leaving. I squeeze hard, harder each day, biting at my lip from the effort. I want to squeeze until I hear bones crunch so I will know if he is faking, or if it’s real. If he lets me mangle his hand, he is really gone. I just can’t squeeze hard enough…

I stand for a minute, his hand still in mine and wait patiently for the final thirty seconds of my eleven hour vigil to pass.

Fifteen, fourteen….

…he squeezes my hand back…

My body snaps to tension and I stop breathing. He opens the eye that isn’t bandaged, and then closes it again. I count as I step back. If I make it to zero it was a fluke, just my imagination.

Nine. Eight. Seven.

“Where am I?”

I had almost forgotten his voice. He is looking at me blankly, without anger, or confusion, or concern. He stares at me without recognition or compassion. He just stares.

I open my mouth to speak, to answer, but have no idea what to say. It isn’t supposed to be like this. I was supposed to have lost him.

Bile races up from my stomach and I run for the bathroom.

1 comment:

  1. I would love an invite to the book launch.

    ReplyDelete