For Sale

She stood on carpet that had once felt plush and soft. Fibers which were supposed to be a safe haven for tiny fingers and toes just learning to move for themselves had instead become matted down with the weight of grief and pain and silence which became so thick and heavy that her own feet were now crushed and smothered. There were still four square indentations from where the crib used to stand. The same crib she slept in. She hadn’t realized her mom kept it in the attic all those years to give to her to pass along. They had sanded it down and painted it white together. It took a week to resurrect the creaky old thing because it was so musty and cracked from sitting in the attic for decades of freezing winters and sweltering summers. After two days Noah wanted to throw it out and just buy a new one they could assemble themselves, he even went to BuyBuyBaby and picked up the “Westwood Designs Harper Cottage Crib with Detailed End Panels in White” to surprise her, but she cried when she saw the box sitting in the hallway and locked herself in the nursery for the rest of the evening and kept sanding the old one. Both cribs had sat there in the room together, one still in its box and one looking like a health and safety hazard and neither of them were ever used. Instead they had spent four days at the hospital. Her baby had come a month early and never even opened her eyes. Noah didn’t sleep at all for those four days. They didn’t say much in the hospital and that sort of just continued as they drove home and shut the door to the nursery. The next time she checked both cribs were gone. They didn’t say much for months. And the longer they went without saying anything the harder it got for either to break the silence.

She looked up at the tiny butterflies which still caressed the nursery walls with their pale purple wings, floating all the way up to the ceiling. Maybe they were trying to escape too. The real estate agent told her that they should paint all the rooms a neutral shade of beige if they wanted to appeal to the largest market, but she couldn’t bring herself to cover up those butterflies. It felt wrong to paint over them. To her they deserved new life. She knew that someone would probably buy the house and immediately rip up the carpet and paint all the walls and maybe even knock a few of them down, but that was fine. They could do it, but she wouldn’t. As she turned from that little yellow room with the purple butterflies she passed the fireplace, still housing three pristine logs, untouched by flame–the only things still left in the now bare and empty house. The walls of the living room had been stripped of beloved paintings found in old flea markets and wedding photos. The old matching green plaid chairs were gone, now sitting in a dump somewhere. The air felt dense, like she might have to swim rather than walk. She wasn’t used to being there with all of the windows shut up and it became hard for her to breathe in this place. Standing there in the front room it felt like she was in the middle of someone else’s life, like it wasn’t actually her that ever lived here but some stranger and for some reason she was the one closing it up and locking the door for them. She leaned against the wall and pressed her hand to her chest to remind herself that her body was real and she was still inside of it. She wasn’t so sure about that lately. As she stepped out of the doorway and onto the porch it wasn’t even sadness that she felt. Her chest ached and her eyelids felt heavy, but it wasn’t sadness. As she shut the door her body felt the full weight of her exhaustion which came not just from days without sleep but months without rest. She collapsed on the lawn and felt the hot sun seeping through her t-shirt and burning into her skin. Only her face was shaded by the fresh ‘For Sale’ sign, and she laid there letting the cool overgrown grass embrace her. Fists she didn’t even know she was clenching slowly loosened and her breaths came out big and heavy like her lungs were desperate, tasting oxygen for the first time.

Glioblastoma Multiforme: Stage 4

Sadie: Dad’s still rattling off cheesy hospital puns and joking around with the nurses. He has a knack for making people laugh so they’re forced to breathe again. He’s got a big laugh, more like a roar. His whole body shakes. The whole room shakes, really. Maybe mom thought he was laughing and that’s why she didn’t move and why I had to call 911 while we both watched him on the floor and forgot whether you’re supposed to hold the person down or just let it happen. He could have been. You know, laughing. It was like he had just collapsed right on the floor at his own hilarity, like he did himself in with his own joke. Some dads have heart attacks because they eat too many chili cheese fries and they tell their wife they’ll cut out sugar with her but secretly stop by 7/11 for a big gulp every morning on the way to work. But they don’t have seizures. Their arteries get clogged because they’re too well fed. They aren’t supposed to fall down all crumpled up with their eyes rolling back in their head. Now for the first time he looks small to me lying in that hospital bed. I’m trying to laugh too, trying to breathe, but both of us seem like we’re overcompensating for something.

Jenaya: “It’s my birthday today and he forgot. He never forgets these things. I’m not just being an oversensitive, attention starved wife. I’m worried about him. And then when he had the seizure..I didn’t know what to do. It was my daughter that called 911. I just froze. I don’t know.”

He had laid there shaking and she just stood looking at him. She had felt curious, like she couldn’t figure out what was going on and needed to watch a little longer to get it.

Now she was standing outside his room explaining what happened again and couldn’t stop thinking about how impossible it all was, how there had to be a mistake or some kind of explanation. She tucked a piece of hair behind her ear. She knew she was blinking too much. She stopped blinking. Her eyes started burning. The hair fell into her face again. The doctor probably thought she was psychotic. Dear God why had she stood there for so long? When they got to the hospital they wheeled him in and pointed at a reception desk. Someone had given her papers to fill out on a plastic clipboard but she couldn’t get her eyes to focus on the words. She wrote the wrong birthday and had to scribble it out. Now she was playing with the pen in her pocket. It was the one the receptionist gave her. She didn’t mean to keep it but it felt good to hold onto something. She blinked again.

“He’s a science teacher. And the baseball coach. Very smart. He exercises. He doesn’t forget things.”

Nurse: He looks happy now but I can tell he knows. He has that deep crease right between his eyebrows that betrays him. That’s not the kind of crease you get from laughing and it sure doesn’t just appear in a week. I’ve seen it too many times. Soon his wife will have one too. Hopefully his daughter doesn’t inherit that crease. He’s charming, one of those guys that’s more worried about whether you, the nurse, is having a good day than the fact that he’s lying in a hospital bed waiting on blood samples and scans and tests to come back negative. But I can tell he knows because when he laughs he always glances down at his lap for a few seconds right after and never quite looks them in the eyes. Maybe he knew before he really knew. Depending on what’s wrong with him this’ll probably be one of those that leaves the hospital for a few days, maybe weeks, and then next thing you know they’re in ICU and the wife has lost fifteen pounds and there’s no more making jokes with nurses, just a lot of creases between the eyebrows.

MRI Tech: Shit, this one’s bad. I’ve seen a lot of bad brains but this one’s really messed up. They better start saying their goodbyes now. Shit. I bet this one won’t even leave the hospital. Glad I just do the scans. Wouldn’t want to break this kind of news to the poor guy. What a way to start the new year. Makes you think twice about all those stupid resolutions people make. All a scam to get us to sign up for gym memberships and diet plans. What the hell does it matter if you decide to eat kale and go on walks if this shit happens anyway. So you spend more hours at the gym and less with your family for their sake because you’re “getting healthy” so you’ll “have more years with them” and then one day you collapse and all those salads didn’t do shit because there’s no superfood that keeps you from getting brain cancer. Tumors don’t give a damn if you jog or if you just got a promotion or if you have a baby on the way. Poor guy.

Dr. Sprigg, Neurologist: Glioblastoma multiforme. Stage 4. Symptoms: Memory loss. Loss of motor function. Probably headaches that he thought were nothing a few extra Tylenol couldn’t fix. Previous health record clean. Squeaky actually. No previous issues except he hasn’t come in for a check up in years. Typical stubborn husband. Thinks he’s invincible until he’s not. Took a seizure to get him in here.

Playing Dolls

go play with your doll smothered in pink.

do your best to look pretty.

sit quietly because that’s what girls do,

but we are all equal they say.

 

do your best to look sexy.

well now it’s your fault you got hurt,

but we are all equal they say.

stop fussing this is normal this is your life

 

well now it’s your fault he hurt you.

shrink away we don’t want to see you.

stop fussing this is normal this is your life.

stop trying so hard to be human.

 

shrink away we don’t want to see you.

sit quietly you don’t deserve a voice.

stop trying so hard to be human.

go play the doll smothered in pink.