“It’s going to be okay” and other lies we tell for love.
I sit drinking thin brown water that appears more like flat coca-cola than coffee.
My fingers are shaky.
The family heirloom ring that I wear most days on my right fourth finger twists and turns as I type. The words do not want to come out.
Normally they burst forth with such a wave of passionate explosion that I can’t contain them, even when I sincerely give effort to doing so.
My right hand hovers above the laptop keyboard, moving quite a lot even though I’m willing it to hold it still.
Nerves are a funny thing.
My blood pressure lowers, my heart becomes unsteady and my body becomes unfamiliar to me. Who is this woman who wants to both vomit and cry, vomit and cry, vomit and cry?
I’ve been up since three a.m.
I awoke next to my daughter in pink princess sheets—her breath softly filling up my inhales; her delicate sleep sighs making me quake with love. I tip toe out of her room and go into my own, where I see light in a thin slice peeking out from under the door.
He’s sitting up in bed; he, too, cannot sleep.
I sit on the turquoise quilt and try talking to him, but the words that come out aren’t the ones that I mean to say.
I’m scared. I can’t live without you. What if you have difficulty with the anesthesia? Why can I not be big enough to carry you out to the car afterwards? Can I hold you? Can I touch you? Are you equally horrified of being apart within those sterilized confines of fluorescent lights and an IV drip?
And I want to say this:
It’ll be okay. Don’t be scared. I’ll take care of you. Can I hold you? Can I touch you? Don’t be afraid, baby.
I don’t say any of the above, though. Instead, what I say is more like this:
I’ve been up since three a.m. Did you sleep at all last night?
What he replies to me is simple and straightforward: that he wants to be alone.
I shut the door quietly but it still creaks into place anyway. I move methodically through making myself coffee; opening up the laptop.
I realize fairly early on that I don’t want to write about feeling this way because how do you describe anxiety as anything besides its unpleasant play of tangled emotions, sitting in the base of your stomach, making you want to vomit before you’ve had anything to eat or drink.
I think of the parched mouth and dry skin of pre-surgery mornings. I feel the low-blood-sugar dizziness and the empty-while-too-full mind, and I’m not the one who’s been forced to abstain from anything.
I sip the bad, waiting-room coffee and I’m not sure to be more ashamed that I’m drinking it in the first place or that I’m sipping it from a Styrofoam cup because I forgot my reusable coffee mug at home.
The lump in the roof of my mouth—a product, also, of this web of nerves—travels to the back of my throat and from there I feel tears pricking the backs of my eyes.
I purposefully don’t spend time in fluorescent lighting and my vision seems affected by its glare on the screen of my computer.
I wonder what they’re doing to him now. I wonder if somewhere, some part of him is conscious of his surroundings even though he’s been knocked out.
I can’t imagine how people feel when their lovers are undergoing more serious or life-threatening procedures. Will I have the stomach—literally—to go through this if, God forbid, I have to someday?
The need to purge my tears grows stronger rather than weaker, as I want it to. My fingers—still shaky—are providing a link from the recesses of my memories to the present sensations of my surreal surroundings.
It hits me suddenly that this one person is my home; that this one, fragile human life has been my home base for twenty years, although I’m only in my thirties.
And how do you tell someone, in their tender earthbound skin, that they are your gravity; your weight; your lifeblood? How do you make enough homemade chicken soup to soothe an always breaking and repairing human soul? How can words not fail—despite all of their glory and aspiration—to convey something as unlimited, as unquenchable and as indefinable as love when their own shapes have beginning strokes and ends?
And I wanted to tell him that it would be fine; it would all be okay—he’ll wake up soon and I’ll be there, waiting to love and comfort him—but I can’t. Because, yes, the likelihood is wonderfully high to be just this, but I can’t know what happens two seconds from now for certain.
We tell people that it will be okay and that all things work out for a reason, but is this really true? Or are we just filling the uncomfortable space of the uncertainty of life with our flat and hollow mortal words?
I will not pour emptiness into the space just to watch it fill up.
They wheel him towards the operating room, dropping me off at the lobby on their way. I touch his arm shyly—school-girlishly—and whisper it’s going to be okay.
Because, as it turns out, I’m not filling space with shallow words—I’m filling up his heart with love from my own.
Love elephant and want to go steady?
Editor: Catherine Monkman