“We have to hurry, Helen. You can finish your bagel in the car, I’ll grab you a banana,” I say trying to hurry her out the door.
“My appointment is not for another thirty minutes, what’s the rush,” Helen responds as she shuffles slowly out the back door hesitating at the steps leading off the porch. I come up and lend her my hand and she goes down slowly leading with her right leg which is unaffected yet by cancer.
“I told you why! Let’s just go. Do you have everything you need?” I ask, noticing she has her small suitcase-sized purse with her. She holds it up slightly indicating it is all in her bag.
I open the front door for Helen at Union Hospital “will you be okay by yourself” I ask her.
“Yea, I know the routine. When will you be back?”
“Just call me and I will hurry back.”
“I have trouble seeing the screen, just hurry back.” I watch her shuffle toward the door, a trooper, her shoulders slightly bowed. She has always been the most independent person in the world, single until she was thirty-one. She wanted children, sometimes I feel that she wanted me for my sperm and stability. We never talk about cancer or the future. We don’t talk about the past unless it is about my indiscretion with Sue thirteen years ago.
I pull my mind from the past as Helen moves slowly out of sight. I park the car in the adjoining three-level parking lot and scurry off to the coffee shop ten minutes late. There is no sign of Melissa at the coffee shop. I get my usual cup of dark roast French coffee and sit in the same chair like last time. There are a half dozen people scattered in the twenty or so chairs that make up the coffee shop. I open my laptop and open up ‘The Wonderful Helen” Blog. It’s easier to keep all the relatives up to speed with a blog. Before I started the blog, I spent a lot of time answering the same questions from the calls and emails over and over again. My disappointment in not seeing Melissa is soon forgotten, as I lose myself in writing, trying to add a little humor to a depressing storyline.
Drifting into my consciousness, her voice sounds like a soft whisper coming from inside my right ear. I feel her breath on my neck and jump slightly. I turn toward her, her face close to mine. My heart does a little skip, but outwardly I pretend to be calm.
“Hi, how are you?” She is standing beside my chair, leaning over her face uncomfortably, yet wonderfully, near mine. Her figure is backlit from the large window behind her, the morning sun pouring through. Her figure reminds me of a carton, her large breasts, small waist, and hips slightly undersized to go with the top. She is in skin-tight jeans, standing with her legs slightly apart, a ray of light coming from between her legs, her blond hair creating a yellow glow around her head. I’m in full lust with a single loud thud of my heart.
“I’m okay, and you,” I respond and hold my left hand up to block the light so I can see her face. “Sit down,” I say and motion her to “her chair“.
“I’m late, but okay,” she says and sits down. “I saw your wife is in today for an echocardiogram? How is she?”
“Yea, it’s to see if the chemo messed up her heart yet”, I explain. “Just precautionary, I think.”
“Probably,” she says softly. There is softness and depth to her words that makes me wonder if an angel would have such a voice. Would an angel have such large breasts, my brain counters?
“I guess you know how the story goes, you’ve seen it often enough,” I say somewhat matter-of-factly.
“I don’t know what to say to that,” she says her face filled with compassion.
I feel her discomfort and change the subject, “Do you follow all your customers this well?” I ask hoping to hear I am special in her eyes.
“No. I huh … you seem nice, I just .. “ as she stammers as if hesitating to tell me what she is thinking.
I rescue her, “I got here early hoping to see you,” I confess. There is an awkward moment of silence and then she returns the favor and rescues me.
“What are you writing, you seemed intense,” she says as she uncrosses her legs and moves forward on the edge of her seat, her knee up against my leg. I feel my heart rise in my throat and hear my pulse in my ears. Is she touching me on purpose? I just met her. This is ridiculous being this excited.
“It’s a blog on my wife’s cancer. Kind of a daily update of her story, of our story,” I manage to push the words out of my lips.
“Do a lot of people read it,” she asks, sounding really interested.
“No, mostly relatives of my wife. I tell them to read it first before they call me. I was spending all my time on the phone telling half a dozen people the same stuff over and over.” I realize I am half babbling and staring into her hazel brown eyes. We both avert our eyes at the same time, it is so obvious we both laugh. What is going on here?
“May I read your blog,” she asks.
“Do you want to write down the blog address?” Wow, what an angel. Her voice is so soft and gentle it reminds me of a gentle summer shower. I’m losing it.
“Can you email it to me,” she asks.
“Okay, what’s your email address?” I ask, prepared to enter it into my Gmail account as we talk.
In a sudden change of mind, she blurts, “No, give me your address. Write it down here.” She hands me a used envelope, I turn it over on the back and write down firstname.lastname@example.org. I drop the envelope on the table next to our coffees. She says out of the blue, “I have two girls at home, they are everything to me.” My mind locks on the two words “at home”. Before I can comment, they call out her order, “I have to go,” she says pointing out two large bags sitting on the counter. “I hope to see you again,” she says softly, my insides turning to mush. The tips of her finger brush ever so lightly across my knee as she rises. Electricity flows from the spot of her finger into my groin and then up into my heart. Was that an accident? Are you insane or just in lust?
“Me too”, I say simply and make no offer to rise. I am rattled, uneasy. I notice the joy she has brought me already fading as I check the time and the reality of my world floods over me. I see a call from my boss in my voice mail. Ugh. I try to ignore the feeling of dread filling me as I construct a story in my head responding to what he wants. There is not a good story.
I watch her leave the store the two bags in hand. I hope she will turn and look at me as she leaves the shop but she doesn’t. I watch her ass as it moves down the sidewalk away from the shop. I look down and notice the envelope with my email address sitting on the table in front of me. I start to pick it up and then just leave it. There is no fool like an old fool. Wow was that sweet.
Instead, I call Helen’s phone and let it ring a half dozen times and then listen to a message telling me her voice box is full. I get up and hurry to the hospital to pick her up, or more likely sit in the waiting room as tv’s drone in the background of my mind.