I Can Hear You

My husband is expert at apologizing. He does it so well, he can make me feel guilty.  Like when he tells me he can’t make dinner with my parents on Wednesdays because he’s pulling for that end of the year bonus at work. 

So, I can take you on that vacation, he says. 

Except it wasn’t me who asked to go away.  It was probably his assistant.  The one he’s screwing.

He hasn’t apologized for that yet.  Not until now.

The constant beeping of the machines alerts him that I’m still alive, that he still has time to make things right, as he clutches my hand like I’m already gone.  

He slept here last night.  The sound of his breathing ragged, as if he was the one recovering from an accident.  He still sleeps as hard as a boy and wakes like a teenager who hates school.  It was familiar, listening to him, like white noise except without the same calming effect.

He doesn’t know I can hear him.  I can hear everyone.  When I woke, in a manner of speaking, I heard the doctors say I’ve been under for three months.  It didn’t occur to me to panic.  I didn’t even try to scream, though I can imagine how that would have felt.  I’ve had dreams like that before.  The kind where you try to speak but your throat is thick with a traffic jam of words. You try to move, but you feel like you’re stuck in quicksand.

How many people get this opportunity?  How many times does life afford you the chance to listen without being expected to respond?  There’s no pressure to react a certain way, no expectations, no part to play. Extraordinary.  The doctors are certain that eventually I’ll wake.  But right now, I’m rather enjoying being a spectator of my own life.

My husband’s sobs bring me back. My thoughts are fickle bubbles in the air.  I think I have one but then it pops, leaving nothing but a soapy film as proof that it was there at all.

I can’t remember the last time he cried.  He didn’t even shed a tear at our wedding.  There was that one time he was supposed to close that deal, but it fell through.  I thought he might have cried then, except it turned out that his swollen, bloodshot eyes were just a result of his being drunk and not from regret. 

Right now, he’s in the middle of confessing his affair, telling me he won’t ever do it again.  What he doesn’t realize is that I already know.  I know about all the affairs.  You would think he would see fit to tell me the whole truth on what could be my deathbed, but it seems I’m still giving him too much credit.  

The breeze from the open window grazes my skin and with it comes the scent of lilacs.  Mother brought them yesterday.  As if I don’t already have one foot in the grave, she chooses to suffocate me in my own hospital bed.  I can picture them, a single branch with lavender blooms hanging over a glass vase, drooping under its own weight.  I loathe flowers.  They’re pretty, cheery even, until they’re not.  Until they die and you wander from room to room wondering at the source of that putrid smell.  I called an exterminator once, thinking a mouse died somewhere in the crawl space. It turned out to be the roses my husband brought home the week before as an apology for being late.

He didn’t put me here.  I did.  I was leaving him.  Judging by the fact that nobody has mentioned it, first responders didn’t find my suitcase in the trunk.  No one has asked why I was on Interstate 8 when I should have been at lunch at the club like I am every Tuesday.  Trucks love Interstate 8.  They can travel for long stretches without seeing a single soul and make better time. I know this because it’s exactly what I thought.  I must have been in the driver’s blind spot when he changed lanes.  I’m lucky to be alive, they say.  Lucky.

There’s nobody else, mind you.  I wasn’t running to a lover.  I have no interest in hearing anymore apologies. None at all.  

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