They must fry bacon and eggs every morning. Layers of black grease built up around the burners. Under the sink, pots with food dried in them, post-depression era thinking leaving piles of pans passed their due — can’t throw anything away, but always important to buy new, and more. A sale means stock up, who cares if you never eat canned pumpkin. You know how long it takes that stuff to expire? These did.
Every morning he is propped up, struggling to find breath, four or five pillows keeping him near upright. It’s easier to breathe that way, his wife tells me. He is giving as much attention to breathing as I would give to removing a splinter from my daughter’s finger. “He’s just having a bad day,” his wife says to me, and then to him, “You’re just having a bad day.” He never lays all the way down.
She goes out to finish laundry. She does the laundry with a stick in a plastic tub in the back yard because the machines are broken. I told her my cousin is a plumber, and would fix it, no problem. She said she didn’t want to be a bother, “You already do too much.”
She’s got a list of errands to run, asks me if I could stop a few places for her. She wants me to pick up a shower rod, some children’s aspirin and pistachio nuts. That’s what’s written, pistachio nuts.
I clean out pots and pans, throwing away most that I find. I scrub the stove, get through a few layers and give up. I hear him gasping in the room next to me. I look in and he’s still, staring ahead.
I’m scrubbing, she’s got her stick in the clothes, and he’s in there, watching his exhalation, hoping the inhalation will come next. We’ve got our distractions. Maybe that’s why he only gets weaker.
And I wonder if that’s why I’m here, again. I don’t even want to think about what’s in that closet, yet I go open it, and start breaking down boxes.
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