by R.S. Bohn
Somewhere, she’s eating soggy cookies scooped from the bottom of a tea mug. With a spoon. She’s got her knees folded under her, like she’s praying, or meditating. She does both. And her hair is cut short now, falling around her chin and making her look like a little girl.
I am not sitting here, knees aching, a crumpled old man. I do not have a mug of tea, or whisky, or anything that would take me out of my life for an instant of searing heat. My hair is not gone, shaved off by a barber I’d never met before for eight bucks.
But I am praying. This I will admit. I didn’t pray, wasn’t brought up to pray, and my hands feel as if they’ve been asked to fix a carburetor or whittle a bear. Things they have never done before. I can’t remember when I last danced, but I’m sure it was this awkward.
I pray that she will find out and come back to New York. My prayer sidles off from sincere plea to operatic day dream. The hospital doors whisk open, I am bravely walking down the hall with an i.v. attached, and she sees this and runs to me, purse flying off. She grabs me and hugs me, and the tears drip like morphine. But not from me. I am brave. I am only wearing a hospital gown.
My praying hands press into my crotch, and my prayer fully disintegrates: a private hospital room, the requisite “I’m sorry, so sorry,” as she kisses me back onto the bed.
Probably, if I had been brought up in a church, I wouldn’t let prayers morph into masturbatory fantasies. Probably. I am not sure how much of a role Jesus plays in the hormone-driven body of a healthy male, but it’s clear he hasn’t got the wheel. I do, and I’m driving straight off the cliff.
I started my run-up months ago. Started it in the theater lobby, spotting her dialing her cell again and again, getting no one. The movie had ended twenty minutes previous. I was waiting for a manager to get me a free pass for next time, since the movie had been terrible and they wouldn’t give me my money back. I got the pass and said hello to her and she got in my car and I thought about how easy it would be to kill teenage girls these days. Thank God I’d offered her a ride.
She said she was too deep for her friends. No one understood her. I had books by Deepak Chopra on the piano. I had a piano. I had a harp. She drew her fingers over the chords, and I pretended she was an angel. I didn’t tell her the piano and harp and the books belonged to Bebe, my wife. Bebe in Italy, seeing an artisan about a new harp, calling me on the phone that night – I didn’t tell her that her old harp had been touched by Maggie, who’d also touched my cock. I told her about how horrible the movie had been, but that I had a free pass for when she got back.
I think I should pray again. Or meditate. Once, Maggie told me to envision a lotus flower opening in slow motion. I try that now, but all I see is her spreading legs, her fingers opening herself for me to look. Bebe would never even think of doing such a thing. Bebe has estrogen cream and all of her underwear is black or tan.
Straight off the cliff. I won’t be taking my wife with me, even though she announced that she would stick with me through “this thing.” She meant the bladder cancer, not the girl. When there is no cancer or there is no me, she will move on. I try to picture what she is doing right now, but I can’t. I try to picture what she did twenty-nine years ago, but all I see is her red-haired friend, Jennifer, laughing at our dinner table. I think Bebe played piano that night while Jennifer sang, and I drank martinis and grew in love with Jennifer’s voice.
Maybe right now, Bebe is praying too. She’s atheist, but it doesn’t matter. Maybe she’s standing at the picture window and looking out over the Japanese garden and praying that I die as swiftly and painlessly as possible. A humane prayer. For all of us.
I try again to see Maggie with her hair cut short, but it’s gone now. I can’t even see her pretty little breasts. I just see me, bald and white, in a shared room. The other bed holds someone I can’t see; they are new and their curtains have been closed all day. No voices except for the nurses and doctors. I hope that it may be Maggie in that bed, that fate has brought us together again. And that now, I will truly understand her.
When I turn off the light and close my eyes, I hear harp music, somewhere close.
R.S. Bohn had the best sex of her life to GnR’s “My Michelle.” She still thinks Axl’s a douche, but they were a great fucking band.