Lets Stay Together #flashfiction
Spoon-feeding, baths, and writing to communicate weren’t something I envisioned when we married. She didn’t envision mothering me either, let alone reading sloppy penmanship for my thoughts and feelings. My dexterity and articulation prowess lacks impressive function lately, I’m 87. Learning basics all over again fills space, more for her than me. Frankly, she’s a good teacher even though she knows I’ll never fully grasp what she’s teaching me.
We promised each other we’d never kiss goodnight with one of us driving out of an old-folks home while the other stayed behind, lonely.
We couldn’t afford a “good” old folks home. Is there such a thing as a “good” one? I’ve been in more than a few and can’t say that one of ‘em was better than bad; different measures of bad, maybe. I’ll give you that, but bad all the same.
Today she cooked Wheatena, egg whites, and turkey bacon for breakfast; lunch was tuna and celery, sweet potato tots, cottage cheese, and canned pears; we haven’t had dinner yet. She feeds me like an athlete in training. I’ll never die at this rate.
I’m hoping she makes spaghetti and chicken meatballs for dinner, with a can of Kraft Parmesan on the side. I can’t lift or bend my arms past my collar bone, but I can shake hell out of Kraft cheese onto spaghetti with only a little of it landing on me. I can write too, sloppily, and sometimes angrily. Pencil stabs on my desk prove it. The wood is cheap. If I wanted to, I could put a hole all the way through the son of a bitch. I stab it when I want to be alone. I can’t tell her that though. Seeing her expression as she read the words would hurt more than my whole body hurts every second of every day. She thinks pain makes me to stab it. She’s right about that, when you think about it.
Almost every day she says there’s “nothing in this world” she’d rather do, than care for me. I believe her, but wish I didn’t. Who would want to do what she is doing for me.
We were 24 when we married. We share the same birthday, August 8. Ok, not true. Hers is August 8, mine is August 9. If I’d stuck my stubborn skull out 92 seconds earlier my birthday would have been the 8th. And that’s not the only thing I regret not truly sharing with her.
I promised her I’d care for her ‘til death. Stupid. Nobody knows that’s a lie more than she does. [I’m laughing right now but not because that’s funny.]
Truth is: I don’t want her keeping me alive, but I don’t want to kill her by writing that on this stabbed-to-death, cheap wooden table either. I just wish she knew that once I become a bloody dust speck, which I might as well be now, she’ll be free to live; and, frankly so will I.
Deep down, I hope she dies first. I can’t bear thinking about her suffering because I’m not here…her purpose. Worse is thinking about no one being here to care for her. I’m not denying that for more than two years there has been joy around here, even today: her joy.
Our son comes to visit every other month for an hour, rarely more than that. Today is the last day of the second month. It was the first time he waited until the final hour to visit us. I don’t blame him though. Like me, he’s frustrated. He wishes I’d pass so his mother can rest — he doesn’t tell me that, I just know it. He’ll be here in an hour or so, before dinner.
Last night, I dreamed my son slipped odor-less, liquid poison in my tea and spoon-fed it to me. We were in my bedroom except there weren’t any walls, only blue-green-purple time and space with yellow and white ribbons streaming down into a quiet, shallow river that was the floor.
The teacup he used was the size of a German beer mug, huge. It took hundreds of teaspoons to transfer the poisonous tea from the mug to my mouth. I tasted lavender, spearmint and cardamom, heaven. I never closed my mouth. He just kept spooning and spooning the liquid into my stomach. I wanted more, more, more. Sometimes it would drip down the sides of my mouth; I’d turn my head and hunch my shoulders trying to save it from falling, savoring every drop my tongue could reach.
When the mug emptied we stared eye to eye, my son and I, like hungry dogs standing off over a dead deer. He said over and over “shhh, shhh” as he glided his hand over my face, pseudo closing my eyes. I laughed out loud once, loudly, and woke up. But soon I fell back into the dream relishing poisonous sips on my lips from the giant cup. Then suddenly, I resisted him and spit it back on him. Thrashing and kicking I woke to her lying across my chest whispering “shh, shh.”
My son arrived at 4:03 p.m. He was standing at the foot of my bed when I woke from a nap. He softly squeezed my ankle, told me I was lookin’ good and gave sport and social updates on his family, then he left my room. I could hear murmurs of conversation in the kitchen.
She smiled the whole time he was here today. He helped her around the house carrying groceries here and there, cleaning up lunch dishes, prepping for dinner, sweeping, laundry, and tidying.
She made spaghetti and chicken meatballs for dinner! I covered it with Kraft Parmesan like a blanket of off-white snow. After being fed, I could hear her shifting dishes around the kitchen, washing pots and pans, cleaning up and boiling water whistling.
I fell asleep and dreamed that I was 30 years old, healthy and had good penmanship. I wrote her a letter thanking her for all she had done for me and saying I wished our rolls could have been reversed and that I loved her more than I could write in words. As I slept my arms thrashed in the air and my legs fidgeted as I moaned, groaned and prayed for the dream to come true. I tried to scream thank you, thank you, more, more. My lips determinedly moved but nothing came out. “Shh, shh, shhhh” I heard her saying as I woke.
She was on top of me in the fetal position, her cheek felt cool pressed on my chest.
She needed sleep. My heart lumbered, struggled. The weight of her body released pressure on my joints, spine, and muscles.
She was resting…finally.
Looking at my desk I saw a cup of tea and a spoon.
I kissed her goodbye.