Friday, November 7, 2008

X-Ray



“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.”

He shrugged.

“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.

“What’s wrong?”

“Besides the stage II tumor in my lung, you mean?”

He laughed.

“You’ve been pushing me away for days now," she said. "Ever since we got the first X-rays."

“No, I haven’t.”

“Will, please.”

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.”

She bristled.

“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.

“What, then?”

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.

17 comments:

jason evans said...

Such a touching moment. The weight of the threat wedging between them is palpable. Although I understand his feelings, I'm thankful for her refusal to be deflected.

Expertly written, Sarah.

Charles Gramlich said...

It brings on sadness

Sarah Hina said...

Jason, thank you. :) I think it's natural to feel a torrent of emotions in heightened circumstances, some of which aren't really justified. But those burdens can dissolve when shared with the right person.

Charles, maybe a little. I was also hoping that these two revealed the strength of a connection that would see them through that pain.

Aine said...

Great vignette, Sarah!! I feel the strength of their connection-- his deep compassion and her devotion. **sigh**

As much as I hate it, sometimes life is simply not fair.

Sarah said...

once again Sarah you did a wonderful job, brought back a few memories with this one.

quill

Sarah Hina said...

Aine, it's really not. But that's why love and connections are so important. When life pummels us, they hopefully make us stronger than we ever dreamed possible.

Thank you! :)

quill, I hope the memories aren't too painful. I appreciate the fact that my words stirred you, though. Thanks for letting me know.

K.Lawson Gilbert said...

This piece is bittersweet. His anxiety and fears are so well depicted. He wants to be the strong man that she knows and loves...but feels he can't be that now - so he is frustrated and angry.

She wants to love and help him through this, without making him feel like he is less a man, et.al.

I love this, Sarah.

Sarah Hina said...

K, you're right--he does want to be strong, and protect her. And she wants to do the same for him. Even if that's not always possible, the awakening to, and acceptance, of that love and bright intention ought never be overlooked, or doubted.

Thanks so much for your lovely words, K! This one has a special place in my heart. I'm glad it reached you, too. :)

moonrat said...

iiiim psychic. but you better send me the details the moment you can disclose them!!

Sarah Hina said...

Will do, Moonie. :)

And thank you!!

What a small, wonderful world it is...

Hotwire said...

i like how the warmth flooded her body when she touched his chest instead of vice versa.

ChrisEldin said...

Even with the beautiful, hopeful last line, I still feel sad.
The dialogue and details bring this couple entirely to life. This is really really good!!

Sarah Hina said...

Hotwire, that's true--I wanted to emphasize how much she received from him. How she felt only the good.

Chris, thank you. :) I do think I tapped into something more meaningful here. But yes, the circumstances are bleak. And yet they do carry on, together.

Scott Ennis said...

You have a very masterful way of expressing the emotions in dialog. The way people speak to each other says so much about them.

Vesper said...

I know these feelings... the rejection as a hiding place, the unremitting love...
You've captured them so well in this vignette, Sarah.
I'm glad for her calm love.

Sarah Hina said...

Scott, thank you so much for coming by! And for your very kind words. :)

I do feel like I've made more advances in revealing characters--and their shadows--through dialogue over the past year. It might be my favorite part of writing now.

Vesper, sometimes in the middle of a hurricane like this, you have to try to be that eye. And to struggle to claim others for your little island.

It's so easy to hide. But to be discovered! That's special. :)

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