The makeshift bandage on his hand had become soaked with blood. He had brushed his hand against the sheet, leaving a red feathered streak that would startle his wife when she returned. He had long dismissed the nurse that cared for him; her cliché encouragement and fumbling hands had exhausted his patience and only his wife cared for him now. Today, however, she had gone to the dentist, and he attempted to write her a letter in a journal that she would read after he died.
She had a toothache — a wisdom tooth that was never removed — and her accidental grimaces during their bedside meals opened a small window into her selfless pain. Though she initially refused to leave him, his insistence allowed her a moment of retreat he believed she secretly enjoyed. It would be a moment for her without him.
He imagined her smiling in spite of the pain and talking merrily with people she would undoubtedly know at the clinic. The people at the clinic would undoubtedly ask about him, and the lively conversation would take on a more serious tone before they moved on to more pleasant items.
Today was a trial run, he thought. This is what life would be like for her when he was dead. It was a realization he wanted to communicate to her in a journal he kept. He shuffled his hunched figure through the halls of their home in search of a pencil sharpener he never found. Instead, he attempted the task with a steak knife over the kitchen sink and viciously cut into the palm of his hand. The incident had left him confused, and he returned to bed to wait for his wife’s return.
She would be back in an hour he thought. She would most likely stop at the supermarket and again be greeted with smiles and the promise of prayers for his condition. He imagined her as she shopped, and looked overhead to see a meandering crack in their ceiling. The foundation was shifting he thought. She would eventually need a contractor to see how serious the problem was. Someone would need to spackle and paint the crack, too. He began to think of the water leak they had in the bathroom and how it began the week he was diagnosed. The constant drip had warped the cabinets below, and his wife had attempted to alleviate the problem with a coffee can. He thought of the fact that they had not replaced the water heater in 14 years and began to cry because these things would be addressed after he died. Strange men would be in his house and suggest unnecessary repairs and his wife would naively agree. Strange men would walk the halls and fix what he couldn’t. Strange men would fill his void and he would be dead. •