My phlegm and apathy dot the ceiling as I cough wickedly from a spartan cot. There is no doubt I am reaching a terminal point in my existence, but for now, I wait in the lobby of transition. No fear is there in that, and why should there be? Living forever is for the naïve. My threadbare life is not the brilliant ensign it once was. I’m tired of waving it.
Capturing my attention was a plucky squirrel skipping on a potentially lethal wire outside. As it’s oblivious to grounding, it lives to see the other pole. I look up at my medical masterpiece. I’ve heard of this before, when people become critical of life before they die. Small animals become as interesting as a war declaration. Nostaglia is understandable, but it should be for the right memories.
My youngest daughter, Chastity, appears at the door. Standing half-way through the threshold, her hand slides up the jamb. It’s quality time with the old man.
“Hey,” I face her. “Come on in.”
Taking up a stool beside the bed, I look her over. Where do I start?
“Your mother was a good women. I… we did very well in not hurting each other.” The shifting of posture was time to phrase a statement more fulfilling. “We knew each other: our habits, our personalities, our histories. It worked for what it was. You and your sister are now married, and successful from what I can tell. As far as rules are concerned, I give myself a gold star for doing what others wanted.”
“You did a fair job, Dad.” She is a tough customer. I did well with that one.
“From a personal perspective, though, I’ll only regret one thing I didn’t do.” My sigh came out while rubbing the skin above my forehead. Thinking about it is painful enough, but this wasn’t going to be any picnic either. There was no use in delaying it any further though.
“When you were a small child, I had to work nights to pay some of the bills. Now, I’m not upset about that. We did what we had to do, and made it out fine but there was a time during the night which I would stop at a diner off of 44. I’d have a cup of coffee and unwind for a bit. That’s where I met Jessica.
Jess was the manager of a catering company out of Tulsa, and she’d often do the same thing after closing up shop. We’d sit for a good hour or so and talk. Sometimes we’d talk about our spouses, our jobs, our dreams, our politics, and so on. She didn’t have anywhere to go, even though she was married. Her husband was a driver for a beer distributor and was rarely home.
Now that I look back on it, I fell in love with her, a real love with feelings your mother and I never shared. She was a short stack, but every bit of her was filled with energy. There was this laugh. It was the oddest thing. When I delivered a good joke she’d put her hand on her forehead and laugh at the ceiling. For my cleverness, I was rewarded with the bumps underneath her shirt. It only embarrassed me the first few times. After that, I saw it as a bit of a turn on.
I started to think of ways to get her to laugh like that. Cheap thrills. I even bought a joke book to help me out. Most nights I’d count down the intervals between delivering the jokes so she wouldn’t notice. If she ever caught on, she didn’t give me any clues. Maybe she enjoyed it? We both were in a lover’s purgatory. She was married; I was married. Neither one of us was particularly enthusiastic about our better halves. I started to want her in the worst way, but kept my vows all right.
Since I’ve been put here in hospice, I’ve replayed those nights several times in my head. I will miss that: to be so close to a woman you can smell the exact spot where she put on her perfume. The nape of her neck. She had dark hair that would slope off to the right showing a slight bump. It drove me wild. I wanted to kiss that bump several times. I was a mad dog on a chain.
It gave me so much feeling. I was hooked on the the most intense lust I’ve ever felt in my life. Probing her eyes for any inkling of sin, I found us pawing each other on a humid, Summer night. The salt of her hips rolled on my tongue. She’d gasp lightly as I nuzzled between her thighs. Those thighs. To me they were warmed silk. My mind tormented me with that for years. I would have remained in her lap as long as she wanted.
That’s what I regret the most, Chastity. I regret not taking her, or at least trying. Every part of my intuition said to do so. We’d enjoy ourselves for a night, or two, or more. We’d be happy for once.”
My daughter squirms in her chair. To be honest, I never spoke of being sexual or sexuality to my children before. Deep lines arc around her thin mouth. Duty calls for presence, not participation, however a cynical mind can mislead the most sharp of hosts. My mind deceives me. This isn’t disgust I’m watching. It’s restraint.
“This has happened to you. Hasn’t it, Chas?” My narrow-lidded eyes spy nonverbal cues.
Shaking lightly, her brows furrow and chin tucks up in a severe overbite. A floor couldn’t be that interesting to stare at it so much. Maybe she’d faint like a goat, too? The best she comes up with is a terse “no.”
“You’re lying to me. I can tell by the twitching of your left eye. You’re anxious about something. Me talking about my fantasies has triggered a guilty party in you. Who is he? Who is… she, maybe? I’m not going to be here when you come around. What are you hiding?”
Closing her eyes, she moves her throat up and down in agony. “Him!” A sharp bark with an immediate decrescendo bounces off the walls. My release of anger sets my eyes in a droopy fashion. It feels good to be right. Being smug feels better. In an effort to comfort her, I pick up her wrist as best I could. For a moment, I didn’t know what to say. I wonder if straying was in the family blood? If it was, how many of my kin felt the same way? Nobody ever talked about it. Maybe we are all ashamed? With a bit of effort, I deliver my last words to her.
“Devour him!” My grip is lost; I roll over to stare out the window.
© 2014 by Corvidae in the Fields, all rights reserved