The doctor told him, and he had to tell his wife. He wasn’t surprised by what the doctor said; he had kind of a vague hope it would be something different. He thanked the sober looking doctor, and put on his shirt and pants, after the doctor’s back disappeared out the door. He walked with the bill to the receptionist’s window and it seemed like he could hardly hear what she was saying. He was thinking about how to tell his wife. He handed his credit card through the window, and took it back when she handed it to him.
Have a nice day, Mr. Wilson.
The glass window slid shut, and he smiled at the irony. He walked out of the office into a different world. Colors, sounds, smells are not the same when you’re dying. He started toward where his car was and changed his mind. He stood in the middle of the parking lot befuddled as to what to do. A car from the street pulled in, and the driver gave him an annoyed look when he had to slow down to give him time to get out of the way. Mr. Wilson would have apologized, but he didn’t.
Your time will come, he thought, your time will come.
He walked out onto the street and down to the town common. There were children playing; he sat on a bench, and watched, thinking about his wife. He watched the children, and felt sadness at what they must learn. They don’t know; they give themselves to their play with abandonment; there was no compromise; no hesitation; no misgiving. Their joy would be sullied by sorrow in life – it was inescapable. Maybe that was the design, that the longer you live, the greater your sorrow so death was a release or a salvation of some kind. He didn’t know. He wasn’t scared, but he did feel remorse. The time he lied to his brother about the inheritance money made him sick when he thought about it. Or the time he stole money from the high school cookie drive. He thought he was being clever, but he was kidding himself. He and Mrs. Wilson raised an accomplished and caring son and daughter, and he felt good about that. He wasn’t so bad after all. What am I going to say to Helen? he thought. The sun felt warm on his face. A ball rolled to his feet, and he bent over to pick it up. He looked up into the beaming, giggling face of a little girl. She grabbed the ball from him and was gone. She didn’t notice him – the life, the energy in her didn’t notice him. Is she mocking me? he thought, no, no, it’s life is all. He thought about the last time he saw his father, and his voice was nothing but a whisper, Take care of your mother, he said. After he was gone, his mother sat in a chair in the living room all day long, and she wouldn’t have eaten unless he went to feed her. She was dead three months later. The memory gave him a chill. He shifted on the bench trying for more heat from the sun. He heard the laughter and screams of the children. After a few moments, he stood and walked toward his car. He drove home and parked in the driveway. He sat in the car for a time before getting out. He walked into the house, and Helen was at the kitchen counter chopping carrots. He went to her and they kissed. He looked at the mail; checked his computer, and went into the bathroom. He settled himself on a stool at the counter, and talked to his wife while she chopped carrots. They had done this ritual thousand of times.
Oh, how was the doctor? she abruptly asked. She stopped chopping carrots.
He has to wait for test results, he said.
Helen looked at her husband for a long moment. She began chopping carrots slowly.