Friday, November 7, 2008
“What’s taking so long?” she said. “This is ridiculous.”
“Welcome to the American health care system,” he said, looking everywhere but at the lung films on the illuminated screen. “If they can fuck you over, they will.”
She glanced at the photograph of the surgeon’s kids on his desk. “Insurers, maybe. Not the doctors.”
“If it makes you feel better to think that.”
She tried to take his hand, but he lifted his wrist to check the time. Then he remembered that he wasn’t wearing a watch. Nothing metal in the MRI.
She reached for his knee instead. “Hey.”
His eyes scanned her hand. She could sense him tensing like a wary dog, before he finally sagged in submission.
“Hey,” he said.
“Besides the stage II tumor in my lung, you mean?”
“You’ve been pushing me away for days now," she said. "Ever since we got the first X-rays."
“No, I haven’t.”
Her voice scraped a raw sore.
He seized her hand, pressing the cold, pinched fingers to his face.
“I’m sorry,” he said, his breath warming her palm. "So sorry."
“But why? Why won’t you let me help you?” she said, touching his cheek.
“I don’t know,” he said, resting his neck on the back of the chair. “Too ashamed, I guess.”
“You didn’t ask for this!”
He glanced sideways at her. “That’s not entirely true.”
“No. You couldn’t help it,” she said.
He gently cleared his throat.
“But that’s not the point, really. I can handle that burden.”
She watched the small vein in his temple bulge past its skin.
He stood and walked to the X-ray screen. Stared at the cobwebs in his chest, and the small, angry spider in the left lung’s lobe.
He shook his head.
“I just hate what I'm doing to you.”
She rose and went to him. Peeled him away from the black and white reflection. Placed her hand on his chest.
Warmth flooded her body.
“Can you feel it in there?” he said. "Sometimes, I think I can."
She smiled at him.
"No," she said. "No, I can't."
For all she felt was their heartbeat.