Recapture

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It’s the helplessness. It’s the less of control.

That’s what disease does. It strips your supremacy. Your body assaults you. Stealth. Without threats. One day you’re a prisoner of a war captured by a new reality: impotence.

One day you can’t. Each day the can’ts accumulate. And soon you’re surrounded by the couldn’ts. I couldn’t for more than a year. I couldn’t ride a bicycle or walk a block or lose the weight or heal the ulcer or breathe without labor or say consecutive sentences or risk the heartbreak or control my coulds.

And my will withered.

This weekend I compelled myself. I willed myself erect. I willed myself engaged. I willed myself to accomplish. I stood up, I spoke up, and I achieved. It was difficult standing on that stage. But I did it. I recovered my remains. And I resurrected my hope.

I resuscitated my dignity. I reclaimed the reign of my dominion of myself.

After a performance, I stood beside one of my closest friends. One of the circle who matter most. And my illness attacked me while I was the most vulnerable. I suffered the third most humiliating moment of my 55 years. I spoke my horror aloud and my friend soothed with a simple, “fuck it.” And at the moment – he rescued my pride. An exhale later I reclaimed my control.

I can’t control the attacks against my heart. Congestive heart failure is an insatiable beast. But I can control my reply.

This weekend I replied.

 

Photo courtesy of www.quora.com

Autumnal Leavings

autumn_leaves_PNG3601Tonight: dress rehearsal for UNZIPPED. And yet, it’s not. I don’t have dress rehearsals anymore. I’m too sick. Now everything is a performance. I’m pushing all my powers to perform my necessary tasks.

Yesterday I had lunch with a buddy. As I walked down the hall to the restaurant I grew afraid. I’d never felt so ill. I slid onto the stool and I steadied myself. I considered what I should do. I knew I should go to the hospital. But – I have a play this week. Too many people are counting on me. Too much money is at stake. Coupled with medical bills? Too much debt to incur. I excused myself and walked to the restroom. I balanced each palm on the porcelain and I looked at myself in the mirror. I prayed aloud, “Please don’t let me die.”

An aside about side effects: now I have short term memory loss and sweats so thick it’s like goo. An actor who’s having trouble with his memory on the eves of his performances. And the script isn’t even  horror. An understudy? I’ve overstudied. I’ll perform. I’ve learned how to endure. I’ve endured the last year of heart aches.

At the sink I splashed the coldest water to cool my clammed skin, and I steadied my feet. I walked back to the restaurant and I resat on the stool.

I’m living with a pulse that hovers in the 40s. I can’t lose weight and my body is weighted with the physical weary until I must pace to advance. Chair to chair. Step to step. Task to task.

I’m pushing myself until October 18. Please God – a successful procedure.

Please God a successful play.

I remind myself of O’Henry. I hope this isn’t my last of my leaves. I’ve always wanted to leave my Mark. I just never thought of it all so literally.

Beaten Path

It’s 2:56 am and I can’t sleep. It’s so disquieting listening to one’s own heartbeat in a dark and quiet room. Coupled with the jittery physical sensation caused by my new meds, and I’ve got my personal horror show with a rhythmic soundtrack provided by the erratic metronome of my heart.

Heart failure is a powerless position. I’m a problem solver. So I’m trying to figure out what to do. I guess the power is in compliance.

It’s so odd to realize a day arrives when your body works against you and becomes both the enemy and its torture.

Why post this shit? Because I can’t walk into the street and scream and the jitters are forcing the ejaculation.

And I know I’m running out of time.

Too soon my heart will beat me to death; too soon the sounds of my broken heart will become rote.  How much longer before my heartbreak provides a soundtrack to a beaten path?

I’ve Contained Myself

playpen_by_britishducksI stood in the hall of the hospital and tried to explain myself to a man who knows me well. “I’m not afraid to die. I’m not.” I protested. “It’s just that everything has been redefined. They’ve put me on a timeline. Now I have boundaries. I’m like a child who’s been put in a playpen. Every time I turn I face a fence.”

That’s how I feel: redefined.

And confined.

But I’m not afraid to die.

I’ve never written about death. I’ve never really thought about it before. But now I think of it every day.

Sunday night I sat in a chair and watched a comedy concert. I think Kathleen Madigan’s comedy is genius. All at once I had a thought: my heart is a time bomb. And I felt panicked. I wait for my heart to fail. I don’t know when; they don’t know when. So I wait.

So I’ve thought about death. A lot.

For the first time, I’ve understood suicide. I’m not suicidal. I’m a Roman Catholic. I believe in heaven, hell, and purgatory. I do. Suicide is not an option to me. But I understand it now. It’s about the waiting. It’s about the desperation. It’s a can in the midst of can’t. It’s difficult to be confined in can’t.

I’ve spent a life battling biology with spirituality. I’ve defined myself as a spiritual being. And now I’m redefined as a biological being. Biology has taken precedence over spirituality. Caring for my body is paramount because my body is happening. The spiritual is pending.

And I know that death is just a biological evolution.

I’m redefined in my relationships. I’m the man in need not the man with resources. And I’m confined by the redefinition.

Biologically my body is failing. I can’t control my body’s reactions. I chose actions. And those chosens begat consequences. I can’t control the biological reactions.

I have to redefine my actions and my essence.

I’m not afraid to die.

I’m afraid I can’t live contained.

(Photo courtesy of BritishDucks)

Can’t.

Today I learned can’t.

“You’ve changed since you’ve gotten sick.” My sister is my closest friend. We’re too old to edit or soften. We’re matter of fact.

I knew what she meant.

I had just made a comment about the car in front of me. I wanted to leave a lot and a car in front of me took a long time to turn into a lane. He signaled right; he turned left. As he moved forward I noticed his signal continuously blinked right. In our past, I would have raved. I didn’t. I simply said, “It’s an old car. He probably can’t afford to get it fixed.”

I have changed. It’s not that I’m more empathetic.

I’ve accepted a few fundamental facts. I’ve accepted my death. I’ve accepted futility. I’ve accepted inevitability.

coffin-case-c-channel-att-compellers-1I stood in Lunds today near the meat counter. I felt so tired. I felt too tired to walk so I balanced my ass against a cooler coffin in the middle of the lane. I told myself I had to push myself. I’m intolerant of weakness. I’m hardest on myself. When I was a boy I’d run around the periphery of our house. We competed to see who could circle the house the most times. I refused to lose. No matter my exhaustion or the competition, I won. Every time. Every year. I refused to quit. So today when I felt too tired to walk, I chastised myself for my weakness and I stood straight and I tried to push my pace. But I couldn’t. And at the moment I learned can’t.

One of my best friends is an internist. But he’s not my doctor. When I was diagnosed with congestive heart failure, we discussed my health. “Am I going to be able to bike?” I asked. “No.” He was matter of fact. We care too much for each other to edit or soften. “The Metoprolol will stop you.” I told myself he didn’t know me. I told myself I wouldn’t quit.

Won’t quit isn’t can’t. Won’t quit has choices. Can’t does not.

I can’t.

Each day I document my decline. I should quit. My words neither soothe myself nor my reader. I don’t see their point. But I can’t allow myself to quit. Writing is my verb. It’s what I do.

I don’t want to conjugate a new verb. I don’t want to exhaust. I don’t want to tire. I don’t want to gasp. I don’t want to shiver. I don’t want to stop.

I don’t care if I entertain. I care if I endure. I care if I continue. I care if I can continue to provide care.

I don’t care for can’t. But sometimes we can’t.

Today I learned can’t.

Drained

pexels-photo-167704He sat at the center island and watched as she moved through the kitchen. She stood on her toes and reached for a box of cereal. Her stretch made her t-shirt rise above her hips and he lingered on her nude frame below her waist. “I’ve forgotten what a great ass you have.” He reached down and adjusted himself through his boxer briefs.

She turned and looked through him and walked to a cupboard behind his back. “Now you’re interested.”

He sat back and scratched the center of his chest through his t-shirt. “What does that mean?”

She walked to the refrigerator and took out the milk. “That’s the most boring sex I’ve ever had.”

“Okay.”

“Seriously. Could you have been more bored?” She reached for two bowls and put them on the table.

He sat erect and leaned into his elbows until they touched the counter top. “I wasn’t bored.”

She crossed her arms over her chest. “I was.”

He took his hands and put palms down on the counter and used his arms to lift him until he stood straight. “Shit.” He stood still. “I’m not used to these pills. I get so damn dizzy.”

She walked over to a drawer beside the sink. She took two spoons from inside the drawer and turned and put them on the table.

When he felt oriented, he walked out of the room. He closed the bathroom door behind him and stood in front of the sink. He put a hand on each side of the porcelain and looked into the mirror and saw his dulled eyes. They didn’t match his mood. He leaned toward the mirror and dropped his head and looked at the drain. He leaked a sigh and whispered, “fuck” to the middle of the sink. He walked to the toilet, lowered his boxers with his thumb, and looked at the stenciled paint. He pulled his boxers back to their place, flushed, washed his hands, and walked back into her kitchen. “Look.”

She had poured the cereal and the milk and looked up while she chewed.

“This was the first time I had sex since this heart thing started.” He sat down and lifted a spoon. “Is this skim milk?”

“Yes.” She spoke through bites.

He swallowed. “Well, I was worried.”

“Why? Just eat the cereal. You don’t have to drink the milk.”

“No,” he said with a full mouth. He swallowed. “No. I was worried about having a heart attack while we were having sex.”

She sat back and looked at him. “You’ve really changed.”

“Well, this is a new thing to me. I’ve got to get used to it.”

“That’s not what I’m talking about. Even your conversation is tentative. Have sex? Since when did you talk like that?” She spooned another bite. “I don’t like it.”

He sat back on the chair. “Okay look. So I was too cautious. Fine. I get that. I’m sorry. But don’t take it personally. It had nothing to do with you.”

“But that’s the part I don’t like. You walk in here. You’ve gained weight. Okay. And you’ve nervous. That’s obvious. I can understand that. But the part I liked before was that you were the only man I’d ever known who totally lost himself during sex but still concentrated on me. That was the best part. You were like out of control but you knew I was there. Tonight was like neither of us were there.”

He silently sucked in his stomach and tried to roll the roll under itself. “I knew you were there.”

“No you didn’t. You were so careful you barely touched me. I bet you’re not that careful by yourself.”

“Okay you’ve got to understand that I don’t know my limits yet. I don’t know what I can do and what I can’t.” He pushed his bowl away from him. “And mentioning my weight is just goddamned mean.”

“I’m not the kind to be so cautious.”

“I have to be. Couldn’t you have just been nice to me? Would it have hurt you to be kind?”

“Apparently everything is about you getting hurt. I told you you didn’t know I was here.”

“That’s not true.” He felt too tired to fight.

She stood up and took her bowl to her sink. “So that’s it then?”

He stood up. “What?” He rinsed his bowl in the sink and set it on top of hers near the drain.

“You’re going to be cautious?”

“I have to be.”

“Until when? Is there any chance your heart will get better?”

“I don’t know. But I have to be careful. Look where carelessness got me.”

“Well, now you’re just like everyone else.”

“What are you saying? I’m too tired for this.”

“Everyone’s too cautious. Now you’re just another one. I’m going to bed. Just let yourself out.”

He sat down and watched the door swing into place.

Weighted Down

scale-149033_640He reached under his pajamas and scratched an itch just above his right cheek. He kicked off his slippers. He looked at them with disdain. They made him feel old; neuropathy made them necessary. He hooked his thumbs inside the waistband and pushed the flannel pajama pants as he lowered them to the floor. He kicked the reluctant leg off his left foot. He didn’t wear boxers while he slept. He only began wearing clothes to bed when the kids moved in. He reached behind his neck and pulled the white t-shirt off his back and over his head. He dropped it near his feet. Every morning he had the same thought. He thought it was ridiculous to remove a t-shirt by crossing his arms in front of his chest and pulling it off by the waistband. But that’s how they did it in films. Their ridiculousness irritated him. He looked down at his left foot and noticed the big toe that soldiered by itself. Diabetes had stolen its neighboring toes. The toe was wrapped in gauze. He maneuvered the toe and tapped the button that activated the scale. He lifted his right foot and placed it over the silhouette that shaped a foot. “It’s like a chalk mark” he thought. He braced himself with his palm against the bathroom wall and lifted his left foot and placed it on the scale. “Three pounds?” he said aloud. “How the fuck did I gain three pounds in one day?” He braced himself and stepped off the scale. “I went to bed hungry,” he thought. He picked up his clothes and tossed them into the hamper. He bent at his waist and removed the gauze from his toe. He examined it. The ulcer on his toe had smeared a crimson stain. It had leaked on the surgical tape that held the gauze in place. He noticed the cloying odor that wafted from the pad. He tossed the two into the trash. He climbed into the shower, twisted the tap, tested the temperature, and stepped closer to the stream. He palmed the antibiotic soap and began his tasks.

He arched his foot as he walked toward his bed. He kept his toe elevated. The towel around his waist dropped to the floor. He ignored its desertion. He noticed the dried beads of blood that blemished his bed sheet. “Fuck!” he said aloud to an empty room. He pulled the sheets from the bed, crammed the sheets into a bunch, and tossed them into the corner. His foot cramped from maintaining the elevation so he pivoted and sat on the naked mattress. He raised both arms and covered his face with his palms. He gave his face a causal rub and reached behind him to grab the roll of gauze and a roll of tape. He returned and lifted his left leg and crossed it over his right knee. He bent at his waist and examined his toe. He noticed his leg was a bit swollen. He stretched his legs and looked for a parallel. The left leg was swollen. “Fuck!” he said aloud to the empty room. “Goddamn it!” He bent and examined his foot. It wasn’t red. It wasn’t hot. It wasn’t swollen. He knew his foot wasn’t infected. Fourteen years since the surgery, he knew the signs of trauma.

He reached for his phone and located the contact. “Hey Diane. How are you?” He listened while she answered his question. Their routine interactions made their voices and conversations casual and comfortable. “Okay, I’m okay. But. I’m not doing the online report today because this morning I noticed my leg is swollen and I’ve gained three pounds overnight. And you said I should call. Could my symptoms be any more classic? Damn.” He listened while she talked. “Yeah, I have an appointment with the titration nurse tomorrow.” He listened while she talked. “Yeah, I’ll ask her. So should I go buy a diuretic or will she prescribe one?” He listened while she talked. “Tomorrow. I see him in the morning. I’m telling you, I love my podiatrist.” He causally strummed the space of skin over his heart and noticed the hair had begun to resprout. He felt the spikes of the stubble. “Thanks. I’m so glad you guys have this service. I don’t know this stuff yet. You’re a great resource.” They exchanged pleasantries and he ended the call. He leaned back on his bed and stared at the ceiling. “Fuck” he said to the empty room.

Unfinished

business-1477601_640

He took his hands and rubbed the arms of the chair. “This is the ugliest chair I’ve ever sat on.”

“It serves the purpose.”

“What is it? Like corduroy?” He shifted and put both feet flat on the floor. He instantly rethought his move and crossed his legs at his ankles. He felt uncomfortable.

“So tell me what’s going on.”

“Could we make this less like therapy?” He crossed his arms, uncrossed them, and gripped the sides of the chair. “You’re not a therapist. You’re a priest. I’d rather handle this like confession.”

“Look I’m not doing attitude. How about we just talk?”

He drew his hands until his fingernails lined the tufts of the chair arms. He traced the welt cord that defined and decorated the crowns. “I’m sorry.” He lifted his body with his palms and sat straight on the seat. “Okay. I can’t get it in my head. I just can’t.”

“Just talk. We’ll sort it out.”

“Okay so my heart is fucked.” He winced. “Oh God. Bro, I’m sorry. I forgot where I was.”

“We’re going to have a ground rule. No editing. This is a safe space.”

“Complete, entire, no omissions?”

“It’s worked for two thousand years.”

“Okay.” He stood up. “I’m sick of sitting. I do it all day.” He pushed his hands into his trouser pockets. “Okay so my heart isn’t working properly. But I didn’t know that. I was having trouble breathing. Do you remember I smoked?”

“One right after the other. I remember that blue ashtray you had. The circumference must have been a foot.”

“Yeah I forgot that ashtray. It was my aunt’s. Talk about a smoker. Jesus, she smoked Pall Malls.”

“So you had trouble breathing.”

“Oh yeah. So. I was having trouble breathing. My lungs jerked all the time. A couple of years ago a pulmonologist said I had COPD so I thought maybe I was having problems again. I had thrown out the inhaler so I made an appointment with him. But I couldn’t get an appointment for a couple of weeks and I was damned sick. So I went to an internist. A guy I didn’t know. Just an ass. Long story short I had an irregular heartbeat. I had a shitload of tests. Turns out I have congestive heart failure. One side beats too much and the other won’t empty. My heart is literally beating me to death.”

“So your heart is fucked.”

He turned around, “Hey. I get to be the one with the filthy mouth.”

“Hey I get to talk too.”

He laughed. “Okay.” He stopped laughing and turned toward the picture window. “Yeah. My heart is fucked.”

“What are they going to do?”

“I don’t know. I’m on a lot of drugs.”

“So what are you going to do?”

“I don’t know. I can’t figure it out.” He turned around. “You know when diabetes took two of my toes I could see it. It was easy to understand. I could see the disease but this … heart failure … I can’t see. I can just see the can’ts. I can’t bike anymore. I can’t walk any distances. Shit I have to sit down at Lunds just to catch my breath while I buy groceries. I’ve always said I was brokenhearted. Who knew it was actually true? I can’t see it. I just have to believe it. And I hate that part.” He returned to the window.

“Did you see your test results? That’s concrete.”

“Yeah. True.” He put his hands on the sill and leaned into the window. “This is a great view.”

“So which part can’t you get inside your head?”

He lifted his heels and stretched his calves. “I don’t get the point of all this. I feel so unfinished and now someone has shown me the finished line.”

“Why do you feel unfinished?”

“Oh Christ.” He lifted his arms until he gripped the top frame of the window. He lowered his arms and shook his fists that bordered his thighs. His guttural growl was a cross between an ugh and an eww. He turned from the window. “I’m 54 years old and what have I accomplished? I’m not married. I’m not a priest. I’m not successful. I don’t have any kids. Christ. I’m nothing.”

“I think you need to take a step back and see your accomplishments.”

“Like what?”

“Well, personally, you have wonderful relationships. Right?”

“Friendships only go so far.”

“Do they?”

He smirked. “Yes.” He crossed his arms.

“And professionally, you’re a wonderful writer. Don’t underestimate the gift of talent.”

“No one’s paid for talent, my friend.” He walked over to the chair and sat. “But all that’s beside my point. I feel unfinished in a different way.” He crossed his legs at his ankles. “Shit I have to think how I want to say this.” Silence filled the space between them. “Do you like being a priest?”

“Yes.”

“Do you believe Divine Revelation is a process? Like it still happens?”

“Yes I do.”

He sat up and put his hands on his knees. “Okay like, work with me here.” He stood up. “I feel like every day I learn stuff. I learn about people and relationships. And I don’t feel like that’s finished. But now I’m told it’s ending. And I can’t comprehend all the work for nothing.”

“Have they given you a prognosis?”

“Well, kind of. One of the PAs said ‘many people live 10 to 15 years!’ like that was hopeful. Christ almighty! How the fuck is that hopeful?”

“Did you get a second opinion?”

“Of course I did. A cardiologist told me he was more optimistic than that.” He walked over to a bookshelf and glanced through a row of books.

“So that’s hopeful.”

He turned around. “No. You’re missing the point. Okay it’s like this. Life is hard. Right? If you have a conscience at all or try even a little, life is difficult. And I’m finally feeling like I’m getting there. Like I’ve mastered the whole damn thing and now this. How can this be the end of it? I’m not finished yet.”

“But you’re not finished yet. You’re in the process today.”

“Yeah, okay. That’s not what I mean. I’ll tell you how I feel. I feel like my life is this big massive handjob. Only it’s too much friction. It’s like I’m chafed but it’s okay. Because I thought the ending was so going to be worth it. Only I’ve found out it’s all just friction. There isn’t going to be a moneyshot. It would be easier if I was impotent but no such luck. Everything is so goddamned hard and for nothing. Just friction. Too much fucking friction for nothing.”

“Well that’s graphic.”

“You said no editing.”

“I think you’re missing the bigger picture.”

“Well paint it sweetheart because I don’t see it at all.”

“Take a seat.”

“If I sit too long my legs go numb. Neuropathy bites ass.”

“You say you’ve accomplished nothing. I think your writing has more impact than that.”

“I’m saying I became nothing. Not a priest. Not a husband. Not a father. Nothing.”

“And I’m saying your writing has a value you’re not seeing.”

“Show me.”

“I think your writing is your ministry.”

“It’s not sacramental.”

“There’s more than one kind of grace.”

“I like that.”

“You know what else you’re missing?”

“What?”

“The one who gives a handjob does all the work.”

“Oh padre. That’s brilliant and kind of perverse.” He laughed.

“You chose the colors bro. Now quit being so self-absorbed.”

“It kinda is about me.”

“Here’s your sentence I want you to think on. It’s never about you.”

He turned around and looked through the window and watched a car swivel on a snow-slicked street.

Ablation

chemotherapy-448578_640An IV bag dripped into the crook of my left arm. Or my right. I don’t remember. I remember the afraid. Ablation. I mulled the word through my thoughts. Ablation. Isn’t that a Church word? Latin isn’t catalogued in my mind like it was in my past. Away. Something about away. His name was Trevor. Kind and gentle. He talked to me as he prepped. I asked if I could raise my arm. He said I couldn’t. I told him I just wanted to make the Sign of the Cross. I’d be awake during the procedure. I wanted to pray my rosary. I made the Sign of my Faith on the roof of my mouth with my tongue. A technician above my head told me he’d say the prayer for me. “In nomine Patris, et Filii, et Spiritus Sancti. Amen,” he recited. I listened for the pitch of ridicule. Absent. The technician is too young for the Latin to be loaded in readiness. “Were you in the seminary?” I asked. “No. Just a lot of years in Catholic schools.” Trevor raised his voice, “I know the Hail Mary in Spanish.” I turned my head to my right and looked into his eyes. “8 years in a Catholic school in San Diego,” he offered. I listened to him pray and recognized the words from Spanish 3. “San Diego? Why are you here?” I asked because the day was cold; why would anyone be here without purpose. “The obvious reason.” We laughed. “A woman,” I said. We laughed. I watched Trevor as he negotiated the electric pink razor over my chest and abdomen. Prepped from thighs to collarbone. The tufts of hair waved and swayed beneath the V of his scrub top. Trevor doesn’t manscape. I don’t either. This was only the second time. And neither time had I held the razor. The monitor said the ablation wasn’t necessary. The PVCs (premature ventricular contractions) are controlled by the medicines. Trevor pulled out the tubes. I pulled on my clothes. I waited the required thirty minutes and my sister drove me home.

I stood in front of the bathroom sink and pulled the tape from my arm. The bandaid was stained with a dot from my dried blood. I looked into the mirror and saw my smoothly patched chest. Clumps of hair lined the surfaces outside my nipples. I didn’t recognize myself. My body looked featureless and soft and absent of color. Like alabaster from some Sherwin-Williams collection. Freshly stirred. Smooth. I felt embarrassed. Feminine. Perverse. The opposite of clean. Not clean shaven. I didn’t recognize myself. I had a habit. Since college. Or before. I habitually rubbed the space of skin that cocooned my heart when I thought. I strummed the space with a rhythm that echoed a flamenco beat. Rapid. Too rhythmic to be a tick. I leaned into the mirror. My belly met the porcelain. I looked into my eyes and rubbed my heart. My palm grazed. Cold. Clammy. Like touching the unresponsive skin of a woman. I pulled my hand away.

I thought of her. I remembered our game. A clawed bathtub sat on a cracked tiled floor haloed by a spackled baseboard. The ceiling dampened and stained by the absence of a fan. “Let me shave your legs!” she giggled. It was a new tease for her. We were young. Sex was as much about the new as it was the desired. Once she had painted my toes; shaved legs wasn’t a leap. In the dead of winter – only the two of us would know of our game. I allowed two inches up my thigh. “Stop.” I didn’t demand; she didn’t insist. “How about this little part here?” She plucked the patch in the center of my chest. I had been bullied as a boy. Hair on my chest was an accomplishment. A proof of my masculinity. I spent my youth in the era of the hirsute hero. Tom Selleck didn’t shave; I didn’t want to return to the prepubescent; I didn’t want to return to the pursuit of a woman. I returned the razor. There wasn’t much to shear. It was gone with a couple of whisks.

I stepped out of the shower and grabbed a towel. As I dried my body I saw the stripes. Shaven from grin to groin. I looked centered but I don’t feel centered. I didn’t recognize myself. No ablation but no solution. My heart was broken. I felt vulnerable and weak and out of control.

I stood and stomped my feet to warm myself. I pushed pleasantries from my face and tried to be upbeat despite the excessive random heartbeats. An insult was hurled; the target was absent. Usually I raised a defense but I remained silent. I felt weak and vulnerable and unable to raise my confidence. A young man raised a rebuttal. I admired his risked. It wasn’t his crowd; he wasn’t our age. Yet we shared the same sex and sentiment. Soon I became the punchline. An insult aimed at my heart. I lacked the confidence to defend myself. My pride was soft and fleshy and pliable. He raised my refute. I silently stood back. I recognized myself in his deed. He reminded me we’re men.

I sat on a bench inside the store. I wanted to catch my breath; I hadn’t. I asked the man to pack the bags as lightly as possible. “I have a bad heart,” I apologized. I felt embarrassed and emasculated. “I’m not a man anymore.” I told myself. He packed less than twenty items in more than three sacks. “I’ll carry them for you,” he said. “Thank you. I’m so embarrassed,” I whispered. He walked alongside me as we walked to my car parked in the handicap space. I didn’t look handicapped. I’m embarrassed. But it’s too far to walk. As we walked to my car he told me his story. A car accident. A tailgate. He was animated and although he struggled to speak my language, his patter was brisk and energized. I listened and returned his passion. He felt outraged and relieved to hear my echo. He shook my hand and closed my trunk. We both smiled with the joy of our communion. I watched as he walked back into the store and recognized myself in his gait.

Where There’s A Will

There are just so many things I need to pull together now. Legal crap and stuff. And it’s not that I’ve lost hope. It’s not. But he’s going to snake a tube inside my body and fuck inside my heart and I just think it’s a good idea to have all the legal crap done. Health directives and Last Wills and Testaments and all the things that should be tidied up. And I’m 54. It’s not like it’s premature to have all that finished. I don’t have any assets to speak of. Not really. Anyone with a head can see my career isn’t what it should be. I’ve accomplished so little in my life and I’ve wasted so much of it. But I do need things prepared. It made sense to ask her. I wrote a novel about us. I wrote a play about us. It makes sense she should write my wishes for me. Legally bound. Lawyer. Attorney.

hand-229777_640So I sat at the bar and watched her walk in front of the Christmas tree towards me and the lights outlined her like a halo and I don’t think I should be embarrassed that a tear or two skied down my cheek. My cardiologist said my emotions are normal. “You’ve had a big month. Patients often experience emotions similar to PTSD.” And I said, “No. No. I’m fine. I’m very emotionally solid. You’re seeing me in a social situation. I have to be this verbal.” But she approached me and it was all these emotions coming toward me. And the loss. All the losing. All the goddamned gone and I couldn’t help myself. It flooded me and I felt like a fool but she’s the one person I can be a fool alongside who doesn’t think I’m foolish. I didn’t create a scene. I willed myself to remain a man. I straightened my face and stood up and she kissed me on my right cheek or maybe it was left. My hand was around her back and I didn’t even consider the “I pledge allegiance” thing to remember my right from my left. And I can’t remember now because she put her palm on the other side and her touch made me tremble and it took all my concentration not to cry. “No you can’t be there.” She can’t. She knows that. She knows why. I broke the rules just asking for the paperwork. But I wanted to see her. He gets to see her every day. She showed me children’s pictures on her phone. More isn’ts. Wasn’ts. Aren’ts. We didn’t hug goodbye. I keep the rules; she keeps the rules; we’ve always kept the rules.

Heartbroken. I’m not stupid. I get all this. I don’t give a fuck about writing anymore. I don’t even edit my words. It’s like rushing to a urinal and barely having the time to unzip. Expulsion. I started to tell the electrophysiologist how ironic it was that the rhythm of my heart is bad. Rhythm was a hallmark of my talent. Read anything I’ve written and see the majestic way I used rhythm. But I didn’t. I said nothing. He had 20 minutes to explain the necessity of a 3-6 hour procedure. Amend. A mend. Mend a brokenheart. I get it all. I’m not stupid. I’m heartbroken. My heart beats too fast. My heart is literally beating me to death.