Monday, July 30, 2012

74. Before and After

Steve got up early to go meet Brian. 

“Don’t text while you’re driving!” I admonished reflexively as he grabbed his keys off the front table. 
He gave me a look.  “Are you kidding me?” 

My words floated in the air, next to his.  I hadn’t meant to say it. 
“Pam, is that your idea of a bad joke?” 

I went into the kitchen to get the Tupperware container with the brownies.  “Here, Steve, take these with you.  The doctor says he can eat whatever he wants, right?” 
“So you’re not going?” 

I hadn’t been particularly fond of Brian before the accident; now I had to fake it.  “Can I go tomorrow?” 
What I wanted to say:  Do you have to go see your brother every day for four hours?  How about once a week?  Can your mom go instead? 

“Go.  Stay.  I don’t care.  But I’m going.  I’m going every day.”  He said the words as if he’d ripped the pages of a script out of my head.  “Pam, this is the new normal.” 
I knew it was guilt that made Steve say these things.  He had been the one Brian was texting when he hit the center divider and flipped the car.  But how could Steve have known Brian was driving at the time?  He could have been at work, or in class.  It was not Steve’s fault. 

“Have the doctors said anything new?” 
He ran his fingers through his thinning hair.  “Jesus, Pam, you know what I know.  Give me the brownies.”  He picked them up and popped the lid open.  He ate one.  Breakfast of champions. 

“When will you be back this time?”  I knew I was sounding like the stereotypical nagging wife.  But these past four months were wearing me down.  Brian’s life was changed forever, but now so were ours.    
“It could have been me, Pammy.”  He wiped a glistening tear off his cheek.  “It could have been you.” 

Not me, I thought.  I don’t text and drive. 

trifecta writing challenge:  333 words, the prompt is "normal"

Saturday, July 21, 2012

73. The Flight Attendant Proposes

"Marry me, fly free," she said with a devilish grin; 
opened the door, pushed him out, 
waved to him in the wind.  

The parachute worked. 

(He was glad he'd remembered it this time.)  

trifecta writing challenge:  33 words about a leap

Friday, July 13, 2012

72. The Guest

The moment he deplaned, he started pestering me about Disneyland. 
“How far?  We go now?”  The 12-hour flight hadn’t impaired his goal.      

“Marco, we’ll go tomorrow.  I thought you might want to settle in and rest.  Disneyland is a two-hour drive.  Like Firenze a Milano?” 
“That far?”  He gripped his passport tight, like it might float away.      

“How was your flight?” 
Abbastanza bene.”  He shrugged.   

I initially interpreted the ensuing silence as jet-lag, but he was merely pouting.      
Thirty-five minutes later, we pulled into my mother’s driveway.  He clapped his hands together and inquired,

“Where are the movie stars?” 

I guffawed.  Movie stars!  Sure, Tom Cruise is my next-door neighbor.    
“Julia, are you friends with them?” His hopeful expression indicated he was serious.    

I stopped laughing abruptly.  I hadn’t meant to ridicule his childlike wonder at plastic sunshine and manufactured dreams.    
“Marco, I don’t know any movie stars,” I offered gently.  I considered adding But maybe we’ll see some tomorrow.  I suddenly wished I had a “Map to the Stars’ Homes” in my glove compartment to give to him.

“How do you know him again?” my mother had asked me after I had informed her of his trip dates.  “You never mentioned him before.”    
“Mom, I told you:  I met him in Napoli.  He’s a friend of Silvia’s.”

Europeans took things so literally:  Yes, come stay with us, any time!  An invitation like this in Italy was akin to an offer to move in with someone.  For Americans, it meant Nice to meet you, I am only being polite, please never call me.    
Disneyland didn’t make Marco happy.  He was convinced the ticket girl overcharged him because he was a foreigner.  He accused people of cutting in front of him in line.  His anger came in unexpected pricks, like mosquito bites. 

As the sky turned inky and we walked to the parking lot, I fantasized about putting him back on a plane.  He surprised me: 

“And now you drive me to New York?”   

trifecta writing challenge:  333 words about a house-guest

Saturday, July 7, 2012

71. Prognosis

I spotted her lanky frame from the end of the sterile hall.  She gave a limp wave in my direction.       

“How is she?”
“Well, she’s asleep.  She’s on a lot of painkillers.” 

“I got here as fast as I could,” I offered lamely.   
“I know you did.  I’m not blaming you.  Oh, there’s her doctor.  Dr. Jarvis?  Excuse me?  This is my sister, Emily.” 

“Nice to meet you.  Sorry it’s under these circumstances.  Why don’t we take a walk?” 
Lindsey picked her tote bag up off the floor.  I noticed it was full of baby toys. 

“Linds, where’s Tyler?  I forgot to ask!” 
“He’s with Steve.  I left him with my next-door neighbor until Steve could get home from work.  He just texted me that he picked him up.” 

“Oh, good.”  I suddenly felt like I was in the way:  interrupting everything and not helping. 
The doctor cleared his throat.  “So, Emma, here’s the thing with your mom—”

Emily,” I corrected, trying to keep my voice light.   
“Yes, okay.  Emily.  The cancer has spread.  It’s much worse than six months ago, it’s in several locations in her lungs.  It’s making it so she can’t breathe.” 

I listened intently to his words, searching for the content, but my mind painted pictures of the locations—miniature beach villas dotting the horizon.  The cancer went inside the villas, turned on the TV, poured glasses of wine, and sat down on the alveoli.  They had no intention of leaving. 
I noticed Lindsey was crying.  She had cried on the phone.  Maybe having children does that to you—makes you more in touch with your emotions. 
“Your mother’s time is limited.  Let me be perfectly clear:  you should not leave the hospital.” 
Lindsey let out an eerie wail, then dropped her bag.  “How much time?  Tell me!”
“A day, two ... three at the very most.” 
The world will end in three days.”  It was my mother who said these words, standing behind us, clutching at the wall. 
trifecta writing challenge:  333 words, the prompt is "The world will end in three days."

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

70. anatomy of a crush

her touch felt new,
her words seemed true,

the intensity with which they loved
made him feel like he’d been drugged 

but in the end, he went berserk
their relationship:  just emotional fireworks

trifecta writing challenge:  33 words about fireworks