From: Elysium & Other Stories by Pamela Stewart
Anvil Press, Spring 2008
The doctor comes. Everyone leaves the room and he can’t tell how much time has passed, but it doesn’t seem to matter anymore. The doctor leaves.
It is night because it is dark and Rose is in the bed. She wanted to sleep on the cot next to the bed but he wants her there even if it causes pain.
“Let me rest my head on you,” he says. “Oh, that’s your breastless side.”
“Breathless?” she feigns. “Yes. You still leave me breathless.”
“No. I mean...”
“I know. It was supposed to be the other way around,” she says. “I was supposed to go first.”
He touches his hand to the scar and around her remaining breast. “Thank God it wasn’t.”
“I am space and time encased in skin. I am. Don’t tell me I’m not,” he says when he wakes up in the middle of the night.
“I know you are.”
“Take off our clothes.”
She fumbles under the covers. It takes a long time.
Everything falls away. The one-night-stand he had when he was forty-five with a younger woman. He was out of town at a conference. Rose had not been feeling sexual for a while. Drinks, a stranger, a hotel room and he slipped. One time. He felt as if he had lost a part of himself with that woman and could never get it back. A strange strangling dark thing held him for days but he did not tell Rose. He did not come home with flowers. He was cold to her for a while as if he blamed her, and then one night she fell asleep in front of the television and he woke up alone in bed and realized how much he loved her. He went out to the living room and sat on the floor and looked at her face illuminated by the glow of a television preacher and then lifted her and carried her into bed.
The policeman at the door telling them their son had been killed in a car accident. The decision to divide his body as gifts to others who were dying.
The time he lost his job and didn’t tell her for two weeks. Dressing for work everyday and spending the day looking for a job then sitting at the library.
The month after their youngest daughter left home, and Rose checked into a motel because she didn’t know how to be anything except a mother, and he was neglecting her as a wife. A cheap motel, because she didn’t want to spend the money. She left him a note and told him she was okay so he wouldn’t think something bad had happened to her.
He still believes she had an affair but chose to forgive her. She was alone for three days and in that time watched television, knit him a sweater, and filled two notebooks with her fears about growing old and not knowing what to do with her life. When she came home, he took her to the Royal York. They had room service and champagne, though they couldn’t really afford it.
She holds him and listens to his breathing.
Then he falls away from her. His father and mother lay naked on the bed. He sits between them, eight months old.
The boy reaches for his father’s penis with his tiny hand. They laugh and his father picks the boy up and puts him in his crib. He watches them make love. He is inside his mother’s womb and his father holds her tight.
He is in God’s eye.
God looks down and he drops out like a tear. The tear lands on Rose’s face as she kisses him goodbye.