‘Come str8 home.’
The text flashed on my Smartphone at the end of the work day. The last time Karen used those words she sat me down thirteen months ago to share her news from the doctor: breast cancer.
For all the work responsibilities, the nice titles at church, I never felt so completely useless than when she underwent a modified radical mastectomy, chemo and more appointments than one human should ever endure.
I immediately called home, sweat forming on my forehead. A little over a year ago it would have been nothing for me to call and beg another hour or more of time at work. Since the diagnosis I committed to being home for anything. Her text put me on extra high alert.
“Hey Tony! You got my text?”
Her voice was upbeat.
“Karen what is it? Are you okay? Is there an appointment I missed?”
“Huh? Time? Yea I know it’s Friday, five o’clock, I’m leaving now…”
“Tony, it’s time.”
I scratched my head and tried to re think any appointments or events I was forgetting.
“Honey I’m sorry, I don’t…”
Her chuckle was now a giggle, a flirtatious one.
“Both kids are sleeping over with friends. We have the house to ourselves. I’m feeling the best that I have and the doctor said if I think it’s time, to tell you. So baby, it’s time.” Karen emphasized the last word, kicking my libido from dormant to wide awake with just one word.
“Are you sure? I can wait, you know I can. I don’t want to push you.”
“Come home Tony. I’ll see you upstairs.”
Karen never minced words. When the doctor explained how sick she might get, the reality of any type of cancer, Karen just shook her head and proclaimed that they didn’t know her Jesus. Through hair loss, vomit, and patronizing looks from acquaintances who didn’t know what to say, she plowed through with supernatural determination. Beyond my feeling helpless, I wondered if she even needed me. Once, just once, she emerged from the bathroom in tears, allowing me to hug her and cry too. With this Christian marriage booty call, I was elated.
I knew better than to arrive empty handed. I stopped off and bought two dozen roses. One dozen is for basic events like making up and anniversaries. Karen is worthy of an extra dozen roses. I wanted this small gift to say no matter how far things progressed, I loved her.
I crept up the stairs, the doctor’s words echoing in my ear that for our first intimate encounter to expect very little. Expect tears. Expect layers and layers of clothes that may never shed that first time. I slowly swung open the door and nearly dropped the roses. She gave me quite a surprise, shattering all the doctor’s warnings. She was in a see through nightie.
“I just wanted you to know how I look. It’s okay if I repulse you, I just have to know.”
Her words wavered a bit and I was instantly to her side.
“You could never repulse me. You’re more woman than you were the day we married and you were something special then. Your strength has to be the sexiest thing about you and that has always been the case.”
Tears escaped for both of us. She looked at the roses and smiled.
“I really want this to happen tonight but I’m not sure.”
“I’m not in a hurry and want to do only what makes you comfortable.”
“You’ve always been so compassionate Tony. I have a request.”
I laid the roses down and placed my hand on her cheek. She didn’t resist.
“Name it.” I moved away to take care of business in the bathroom. I heard her request as I brushed my teeth.
“Can we turn off the lights?”
I emerged from the bathroom as unveiled as can be, showing off not scars but extra weight and a receding hairline. I was more than happy to shut off the lights so she would not be nauseated with my appearance. I laid next to her and took her hand. She moved our hands to her scar territory.
She questioned, her hand slightly shaking. I squeezed her hand, not moving.
“I love you.”
I whispered in response. She let out that giggle I loved from day one and replied,
“I’m not surprised.”
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