Tony hadn’t been prepared for this, the complete and total lack of being him. When they’d told him he was going to die and that it wouldn’t be an easy death, a part of him had actually thought, Hoped. PRAYED, that they were kidding. Some little part of him thought that someone would jump out from behind that curtain and yell, “GOT YA!”
But they hadn’t.
The doctor bowed his head, as if he were hearing that he was the one dying and not the stunned thirty year old man sitting across that large oak desk in absolute silence.
Suddenly every cheesy “live like you’re dying” movie he’d ever seen flashed through his mind. He’d even heard the story of a guy who sold everything because of his diagnosis, bought a Lamborghini and traveled all over the United States until it died. He was still alive. His prognosis had been bleak three years ago as well and it looked like even he would outlive Tony.
“I wish I had better news for you,” The doctor said standing. “But I can assure you we are going to approach this from every side and try like hell to save your life.”
Tony swallowed the lump in his throat, not wanting to show the Doctor the despair that was beginning to settle in.
What would he tell Lisa? They’d barely been married a year and now he was going to tell her that his body was revolting and he would be leaving her alone in a few short months.
“We want to begin the treatments as quickly as possible, Tony,” His doctor was saying as he led him out of the office. “So you need to get back to us as quickly as possible. No need to let this fester any longer than it already has.”
Before he knew it he was standing out in the harsh midday sun, his coat in his hands. It’s amazing what one thinks when he’s been shoved into the face of death.
Is that what happened?
No. No. Death came looking for him. He wasn’t parading around in the hopes that they would have a confrontation.
Why was he thinking of death as if it were a person?
“Hey, Tony, how are you?” Willis Grant asked, stopping. “It’s been ages since we’ve seen you down at the pub.”
The pub. Why did they have to call it a pub? He imagined because the owner was Irish and it reminded him of home. Who knows.
“Hey, Will,” he stammered. “I’m still in newlywed mode. No time for pubs, man.”
Willis laughed. “Those were good times. Hold onto them.”
Tony pressed a hand to his chest to squelch the pain hammering into his heart. He nodded. “Yeah..” throwing his coat on he added, “It was great to see you, Will, but I gotta go. Maybe I’ll see you around.”
“Sure, man. See ya.”
Tony walked, though he felt more like he was stumbling, down the sidewalk and to his S10 pickup truck. Lisa had purchased it for him on their six month anniversary.
He hadn’t married her for her money, though no one believed it. Everyone seemed to take major issue with the fact that she was ten years his senior.
“When you’re fifty she’ll be sixty!” they would say, their eyes wide and disturbed.
He had always asserted that age was nothing but a number. Now he found himself more than a little jealous that she was seeing her forties and he never would.
Once his truck was on the outskirts of town he pulled over to the shoulder and rested his forehead on the steering wheel. How was he going to tell her that their time is over before it has even begun? And how was he going to tell his family that their time with him was drawing to a close. Not that they saw much of him now days.
He tried to remember the last time he’d gone to visit his mother and father. Maybe once since the wedding. However, that was their fault. If they could just show a little tolerance where Lisa was concerned they could see him all the time, but he couldn’t abide anyone speaking ill about his wife. Even his own mother.
Ill. He was ill.
How could he have used such a word?
He clutched his chest again.
Would he have a heart attack before the illness was allowed to run its course? From the description of the doctor that might be best.
Breathing slowly he felt the pain lighten.
Panic attacks. That’s what they have to be. Death would be foolish to take him before delighting in the sight of him fading away.
Death is not a person, he reminded himself. Death is not a person.
Lisa’s car was in the driveway when he pulled into his usual spot. He wondered whose spot it would be in a year. Would she have found someone else to love in such a short time?
“She is a beautiful woman,” he said to himself as he fell out of the truck. “Someone will snap her up in a minute.”
“Who’s a beautiful woman?” she asked, rounding the corner to gather him up into her embrace.
She smelled good.
He held tight to her and wouldn’t let her pull away. “I love you,” he said.
“I love you too, babe, but you’re squeezing the life outta me.”
He closed his eyes, willing the pain in his chest to go away. He released her and she grabbed his hand, pulling him across the expanse of the lawn and through the front door of their 1950′s ranch house.
“How did the doctor go?” she asked, as she rounded the counter of the bar that separated their living room from their dining room.
“He went,” he said, settling back in his favorite recliner. He wanted it to be normal for a little while longer, was that so bad?
He knew the moment the words escaped his mouth they would never be the same. Their lives together would be on a countdown and they would never know how long was left until the buzzer sounded. The thought of everything they are being torn asunder by one little word, one huge word, was too much for him to take.
They needed this moment of normalcy, even if she had no idea this would be their last.
“Tony,” she said, bringing his drink over to where him. “How did it go?”
He opened his eyes, taking in her beauty. This instance was it. This was the last.
His heart broke.
He took the glass, taking a long slow sip as she perched on the ottoman beside his feet.
“You’re scaring me,” she said. “Is it bad?”
He lowered his glass. “It’s bad,” he said finally.
Tears began to build over the clear blue that was her eyes. “What did he say?” she asked, her voice a tremor.
“In some patients this is a long term illness that is treatable. In fact, seventy percent of those who detect it early can survive it.”
“Tony,” she sobbed.
“I’m sorry, honey,” he said.
Placing his glass on the glass topped table beside the chair, he pulled her to him, holding her there while they both sobbed.
“I’m so sorry.”