The main problem was that Sheila didn’t remember the rules, it had been so long since she’d played, and that was with her ex-husband whom she was now trying to forget entirely. The rules didn’t much matter, though, since Jack did not seem invested in either the card game or life in general. He appeared more interested in the TV screen mounted on the hospital wall behind her which was showing some action movie. Actors dressed in ridiculous spandex, fully committed to fighting computer-generated aliens.
Jack used to hate these kinds of movies; it was one of the million things they had in common, and which they groused about over Whiskey Ruths on the back porch of the summer house the last time she had seen him. Had that already been 8 years ago? That was during their first summer break from college. They had felt like adults.
They had gone in different directions; he all the way to Seattle, she to Chicago, and eventually lost track of one another. Still, it was Sheila he had called from two time zones away to be the face he saw when he woke up from the procedure.
That was what he kept calling it, a “procedure” rather than surgery.
Polyps. The word itself got caught in her throat, made her want to gag. The bandages on his neck made her feel soft and weak as paper. The fact that this was Jack’s throat seemed especially cruel, since the main joy of Jack’s life had always been singing. She remembered first hearing his voice during Sunday service, his salty baritone singing “Holy, Holy, Holy” so well that you expected applause at the end, except that it was church. Later, in his room, she would listen to him sing along to anything: Motown, boy bands, Nirvana. Even his Nina Simone put a spell on her.
During one of their stays at the summer house—they must have been around 12 years old—he had announced to her that he wanted to be a musician when he grew up.
She’d asked, “What instrument?”
He’d answered, “My voice. I want to be the lead singer in a band.”
And Sheila had had a cruel thought. You could never be a lead singer with that acne on your face. Of course she hadn’t voiced it aloud. And she’d pinched herself on the arm immediately, something she did whenever she had bad thoughts like that.
What she had really been afraid of was him leaving. She pictured him joining a band and running off, and never seeing him again. Why had she been so terrified of that?
Why was she still so terrified of that?
more HONEYMOON BRIDGE coming soon from David James Parr