All our life systems are geared toward us setting a course at 18 or so and plodding on to the end. Life here VIOLENTLY resists any deviation from the path. What’s this hole in your resume? You’re not qualified for that job because you’ve never done that. What’s your FICO score? Do you have grandkids yet? Why not? Paid off your mortgage, become a stable member of your community.
Married for decades, aw, that’s adorable.
Saved enough for retirement? You don’t have enough in social security to draw at 65. Medical insurance ties you to the state you live in, so does your home. Why do you want to leave a place where everybody knows your name? Because they don’t love YOU; they are just scared of the change you’ll make if you move away. They will lose their purpose, a mooring they’ve become anchored to.
“This is hugge,” she said.
“Ja,” he replied.
They both knew it wasn’t.
He gazed at the sliced turkey in the clear plastic bag, taking note of the sales tag still intact across the resealable opening. His stomach growled, sending an ache slowly into his throat as he felt the slight tug of denim against his hips.
“Did you eat all the turkey?” he heard her say in his head. “I wanted a sandwich too, y’know. I haven’t eaten for three days.”
He let go the fridge door and watched it slowly suck the door frame tight.
“Spoiled. It’s all gone bad. Why didn’t you eat the turkey?” she asked. “I bought it just for you.”
“Are you glad to be home?” she asked as he threw his suitcase in the back seat
“Yes,” he replied as he hugged her too tightly and held it too long, knowing this was the beginning of a long goodbye.
“What do you want for dinner?”
“A one-pound hamburger — two half-pound patties medium rare with cheddar cheese on a toasted Kaiser roll.”
“No, you don’t. You want a pasta salad.”
“Your biopsy came back positive…
As my doctor started rambling off the next course of treatment, radiation, chemo, blah, blah, local, systemic, blah, blah I started to think about all those affairs I could have had that I was accused of, each one that flew into my head was more youthful than the last.
I could have had them all easily and passionately, but didn’t. They sought me out for whatever reason I did not understand. In hindsight, I should have bedded each as I’d been punished as if I had. When a man is accused of an affair, there is no defense. All men are dogs.
I regret not acting on passion. I crave moments; it’s the living with anticipation before and regret after that’s hard.
I wonder if each man hears that same voice reminding him of all the women he could have bedded — but didn’t because he made a promise — when he is told he may die?
I was never really young, though flashes of my youth enter my brain unannounced from time to time. Stopped at a stoplight across from St Kate’s on an early Sunday morning coming home from Kim’s; at the University wearing old faded jeans that hung casually from my lean hips topped by my loose cotton sweater, squatting with my books across from the vending machines waiting for class to start.
As quickly as day turns to night, I got old. I had kids, a mortgage, a day job, bills that never seemed to end. I was always tired and the feeling never stopped. It settled into my bones and weighed down my eyes.
I am no longer attractive to anyone and I have no passion for anything.
I wonder if an old lion in the wild is aware of his impending death or does he just feel too tired to fight for dominance? Does he just drift off to sleep for the last time or does he feel any pangs of sadness and regret? Does he feel the futility of becoming useless?
Does he feel the pangs of hunger and fight to quell them or does he ignore them with quiet resignation as a symptom of his age? Does he feel sadness at knowing he was once king of the jungle and is now useless and cast aside, a burden for the pride to keep alive?
He who does not work, does not eat my dad used to quote from the Bible often. I think it is a paraphrase and not sure which book it is from or even if it is in the Bible. Arguing it growing up would have been pointless as he applied it literally and often.
I went without supper many times in my early years for failing to do chores.
Since I was last able to contribute in any meaningful way, I have eaten over eight hundred meals I did not earn.
What am I doing this for, I think as the nurse searches my arm unsuccessfully for a vein to start an IV. She eventually gives up and asks if she can start one in my left hand.
“Good veins there,” she says.
How many more treatments am I allowed before I am too expensive to maintain, I ask myself as I feel a tear form in my right eye. I look away from the IV.
“Yes, I’m ok,” I lied. “Just stick me and get it over with.”