There were a lot of phone calls made and received the week after her accident. Her insurance company: Yes, indeed the policy had lapsed the week before; there was nothing to be done about that. The junk yard: Her personal property would need to be removed from the mangled mess that was her car. The State Patrol: The officer had yet to file the accident report and when she did get around to filing it, it would be wrong. The hospital: No, she didn’t have health insurance either. Her job closer to home: She’d be out a few weeks, and then back in a limited capacity. Her job in the west end: No, she wouldn’t be back; without a car, there was no way she could get there. The other driver’s insurance company: No, we’re not going to pay. We are bigger than you and you have no insurance company of your own representing you, therefore, even though we know our driver hit a stopped vehicle from the rear and is liable, we can get away without paying you and we will. (Farm Bureau, in case any of you were wondering.) There was one phone call for me. The breast surgeon: The lump I’d had removed the week before was benign.
I remember the call. It was in the afternoon and the Husband was busy getting ready for work but I didn’t tell him right away. I went upstairs to the spare room, closed the door, and called the Boy. I told him first because it seemed to me, he had been the only one who’d cared in the first place. Is it a hallmark of being married too long or just that of a bad marriage, when you tell your spouse you have a lump in your breast and his answer is: “Why are you telling me? Call the doctor.” I’m sure he was concerned at some level, maybe I just chose to tell him at the wrong time? I can assure you, his reaction was not the one a wife hopes for.
I had been absentmindedly fingering that lump for over six months before I told the Boy about it. We were in my car at some long forgotten place and I remember easing the lacey edges of my surplice top away from my breast to show him. We didn’t have a physical relationship then, so it was an awkward moment that he filled with medical terms spoken hurriedly while his fingers clinically felt the piece of offending flesh. He gave me his diagnosis and elicited a promise from me that I would call the doctor before the day was out. Honestly, the heat of his skin lightly skimming the silken swell of my breast is all I thought about then. Not about a possible prognosis or the implications of a malignancy, just about that fleeting, innocent touch and the way it made me yearn for more.
I went first to my beautiful Indian doctor, who sent me for a mammogram and then referred me to a breast specialist. It was several appointments and several weeks before it was removed. By then, the Boy was living far away but would ask me the details of every visit, bemoaning the fact that he could not be there with me. The Husband only made it to the actual surgery, and then only because I threw the x-ray film, with the glaring image of a sinister milky white orb, in front of his computer screen one day and forced him to look at it. I knew somewhere inside he cared, he wasn’t a monster, but he was so bitter and angry at the world that he just couldn’t dredge up the appropriate response.
The day of the surgery, just seconds before the nurse called me to the back, a text came through: “Text me the second you get out. I’m going to be a wreck until I know something.” Meanwhile, my Husband was watching Ellen on the waiting room television and didn’t hear the nurse ask him if he wanted to come back with me and hold my hand. I caught her eye and shook my head “no.” Instead, I would hold the surgical nurse’s hand, and watch her serene, olive skinned face, reminiscent of my Cousin Barbara’s beautiful face, and think of the only hand I ever really wished to hold.
When the call came that would allay my worst fears, I didn’t care if I ever told my husband. He never asked; why should I care? To make matters worse, at the same time, I was being betrayed by my employees too, being falsely accused of misdeeds and maligned to my boss. They were a small group of small minded people, so full of their own self importance they never for a minute thought about what their petty behavior was doing. It had been brewing since the day I began working there and would continue for many months.
It was a terrible time for me and I unfortunately took it out on the one person who had been holding my hand all along. The one who was so troubled himself, he never realized how bad things had become for me; the one that I couldn’t bear to lose, and tragically, the one who would betray me next.