I woke this morning with a fitful headache and hungry. I stayed up too late, and the husband has gone to Spain. His mother has had a heart attack, and all the messiness of his poor family rises to the surface, his difficult sisters, his father's untimely death in 1972, the horrible cult masking as Christianity that he was raised in lurking in the corners always.
He called me at one in the morning crying because the doctors are so awful, because he doesn't want his mother to die or to be in pain, because his mother is frightened, because he heard a man dying in the next room, the heart monitor sending out a horrible drone marking the fact.
"I don't ever want to grow old," he told me. "I want to die before."
There was no comforting him, at the other end of the phone, at the other end of the continent. Not that it would help for him to be here; he doesn't take well to being comforted. At least not in the ways I selfishly want to comfort him: taking him in my arms, kissing his tears, stroking his head with the utmost tenderness and gently. Instead, what he wants is for me to sit quietly as he chain smokes, moving throughout the rooms of the apartment putting away stray magazines, polishing the mirror in the bathroom or fishing his passport out of the chest of drawers in the bedroom, his sense of purpose vestigial but persistent somehow.
It hurts to feel as if one is unable to give any sort of solace.
"I wish I was with you," he said to me last night, sobbing. "I can't sleep at all, I keep waiting for the telephone to ring and tell me she's died."
Don't smoke too many cigarettes, I told him. Have a drink. I love you more than anything in the world, I said, and I wish I was there with you, too.
So this morning I was listening to Purcell's Dido and Aeneas. And although Tatiana Troyanos has a lovely voice, I'm always disappointed that the witches' chorus sings its part straight and not as a pack of cackling hens as in the recording I had when I was young.
"Harm's our delight and mischief all our skill," the witches sing, but beautifully. And beautifully, it doesn't convey the same evil intent.
The husband won't be home until Tuesday at the earliest, if things don't change for the better or the worse.
The Swedish phrase for the day is jag saknar dig. It means I miss you.
- by Francis S.