The sun was shining today, on the worst day of my life.
My husband stirred and woke, my black cat purred and snuggled. The sound of the shower running was soothing. Despite the news that they’d “found a lump” in my husband’s esophagus, we’d managed to sleep.
Paul finished his shower and it was my turn. As usual I made a naked trek down the hall to look for clothes to wear and did my ironing as Paul made coffee.
The hot shower water was soothing and stimulating. I sighed as I looked at the shower scum on the door and then went into my usual trance and found the profiles of people, demons and angels in the patterns of the beading water on the door.
I started putting on my make up when it hit me that I was putting on a mask. As I had been since yesterday when I’d heard about “the lump”. I stopped and started pulling my clothes on. Paul came up the hallway. I called out to him.
“I want you to know I want to be there this morning and be there for you in general, but I don’t want to be selfish. I’ll do it on your terms.” My voice broke and I started crying. His mouth turned down at both edges, he threw his briefcase on the bed and we held each other, crying. I apologised for being selfish. He left for work.
I finished dressing, saw the travel mug of coffee he’d left on my desk and caressed it. I wanted to be strong. As strong as he was being.
I stepped out into the early winter sunshine. What a lovely day. A day to be lived to the fullest. I got into my car. And wept. And sobbed. And howled.
I called a friend who offered loving, soothing advice. I called my mother and together we conspired to fill the time until the appointment.
I called Paul and told him I wanted to be there if he’d have me. He would.
I drove to the doctor’s office very carefully, sat in my car and listened mindlessly to talk radio until Paul pulled up. I stood waiting behind the car while he did his car exiting ritual. Turn off the radio, check the console, take his phone from the holder and put it in his pocket, turn off the ignition, check his hair in the mirror, check for any papers he needed, exit the car.
We sat together in the waiting room. looking on as a crippled old woman recognised someone there and they embraced, then sat to talk. A baby cried and behind us an older couple talked softly. Soon our friendly doctor strode briskly up the hall. His face registered no surprise that I was there.
We sat side by side, holding hands. The doctor did not start off with his usual humour. Instead, he said kindly “We have a lot to talk about. What is your understanding of your condition, Paul?” Paul’s hand was cold. I KNEW.
I pulled out my mobile phone and opened an app to type into. Into the app’s notes function I wrote
“Cancer. Esophagus. Lymph nodes around the esophagus. Liver. Metastasized. Dr doesn’t know treatment. Specialist. Chemo. Radio. Operation? Nothing. 10:30a Friday.”
He gave Paul a script for reflux medicine. Paul wanted to drive himself home, so I went to get the prescription.
Stupid people everywhere. Got to Skype mom. Forget my fucking Skype log-in. I put in the prescription and walked to the waiting chair. I went through the password re-set. A soft voice beside my chair.
“Would Mr Johnson like our preferred brand?” I looked stupidly at the pharmacist. “I can’t hear you,” I said lamely. He asked again and I shrugged. “Fine.”
The script was collected. In the car, I sat, heart full of broken glass. I finally was able to Skype call my mother. She asked what the news was. I told her it was as bad as it could get. Then I shuddered. Was I tempting fate?
At home, Paul and I cried and hugged and paced and cried and hugged. He queried whether he should go to work Thursday. I asked him shrilly what more had to happen for him to carpe the fucking diem!
Then we went to the supermarket to buy groceries. I felt insane the whole time we were in there. Any second, surely I was going to punch someone. Or knock down a carefully stacked display. All with the force of my disbelief, grief and anger.
We came home. Turned on the news. Again, I felt as if I were going insane when the talked about a horrific ferry accident in China where they could hear people screaming for help under the hulls of the boat. I went into the garage and punched a styrofoam box in the face (it knows what it did). When I emerged, a children’s animal show was on. Much better. We moved around each other and our tiny kitchen, cleaning and chopping.
I asked him if he felt okay. He looked at me in wonder. I went on. “Did you feel sick months ago? When the doctor thinks this all started?”
Paul shook his head. “No, it’s just so fucking random.”
Here I sit, writing, heart full of a broken future on the worst day of my life. So far. And having to qualify like that, knowing that there are likely worse days to come and that my husband might die so young, makes the shards in my heart grind deeper.