Half a BiscuitbyUnsung Muse©
"As long as I've got a biscuit, she's got half."
Vic's wife plumps the pillows to prop up his newborn-baby-red head. Her muffled chuckle tells me it's a well-worn sentiment, her warm smile says it's not one she'll tire of any time soon.
I am ashamed of the quick hit of envy that runs through me, as I survey the ease and love between them. These are good deserving people. Years of shared struggle have pumiced them to this soft oneness. The past seven months -- the greatest joint hardship they're ever likely to face -- a testament to their union of strength, resilience, and devotion.
This heart -- the new one, now pumping revitalized blood through Vic's fifty-nine-year-old veins -- belongs as much to her as it does to him. From this day forward, each time she rests her flawless farm-fed cheek on his scar-marred chest, she'll issue a weighty mental thank you to the nameless stranger who made this -- and every future moment between them -- possible.
Someone -- a woman, a man, a Mother or a Father, a Daughter or a Son -- had to leave this world to grant this precious gift: Vic and Dory's continued life together. She does not take this lightly. She does not take this for granted. He will breathe in peaceful rhythm beneath her smiling tear-streaked face and she will send up silent prayers for the unknown loved ones who morn, while she -- amidst pangs of guilt -- rejoices at the familiar sound of her husband's gentle snores.
Yes, these are good decent deserving people and my rush of jealousy towards them revolts me. What kind of person does this make me? Should I not rather be moved and inspired by the pure perfect love I see before me?
I watch, as Dory places a tender closed-lipped kiss on Vic's jubilant grin.
How long, I wonder, until the surgeons give the go-ahead for these two beautiful souls to reunite again in body? How long has it been since they last made love? I scold myself now again for considering such paltry queries in the chaste glow of this profound miracle: one I've been blessed to witness at the bedside of a genial total stranger and his gracious accommodating wife.
A pallid young woman toting a cartload of complicated looking apparatus stops just outside Vic's open doorway. She is wearing a surgical mask, as I am, though -- from the countless tubes running from-and-to various parts of her body, to-and-from the humming contraptions on her trolley -- I know that her mask is intended to keep out all the perilous things mine is meant to keep in.
The sound of her sliver thin voice -- muted further by the mask but, I presume, more by condition and emotion -- tugs at a frayed handful of the icy strings in my heart. She is congratulating Vic on his. It is all too obvious she is still waiting for hers.
I am shamed, once more, by the presence of this frail creature. I hear no thread of jealousy or trace of resentment in her sweet whispered well wishing. This quiet tender moment connects three spirited worthy travelers and I, a filthy stowaway, am not fit to breathe the same air -- mask or no mask.
In the dark center of my disquieted mind, I slice open my own chest. I tear out my heart and I hand it to her.
This vision soothes me. I allow myself to smile at the poor waning girl. Then I remember my smile is pointless behind the pale yellow papery thing and feel foolish.
How long, I wonder, until the surgeons give the go-ahead to cut out this misused heart of mine and place it where it might thrive again inside a more deserving host? Would the ice hardening inside what's left of it, transfer to this girl... turn her from this sweet meek thing into a spiteful frost-bitten witch?
The young patient is taking her leave. Her trembling little body musters up the strength, from God knows where, to continue her slow burden-laden trek down the corridor. My eyes fill with tears, as they follow the pained progress she makes. I watch with acute admiration as she takes the time to stop at every doorway, inquiring after the occupant within -- by name -- with palpable selfless hope that each is faring better than she.
The power and life-changing impact of this place is difficult to describe. It goes far beyond everyone here being on a first name basis -- each and every patient, all their loved ones, appear to know and share every intimate detail of one another's condition, status, the duration of their 'wait'... often right down to the day-count.
I covet the strength I see them derive from this bond. I want something of it to rub off on me. I feel like an alien visiting a better planet -- its species more evolved, more advanced. I am ashamed of my people and the hard cold rock I come from. I feel small, diseased, displaced, and alone: a noxious gnat in a big strange world of wholesome spirits.
* * *
Vic pats the mattress -- indicating available space, just next to his hip, on the very narrow hospital bed -- and smiles an invitation to his wife.
Dory blushes, issues a soft clucking sound, but sits.
She strokes his arm.
I watch her feed him small bits of fruit from a plastic cup. I watch him offer her the only cube of pale green melon. "My Dory loves her some Honey-Dew," Vic says to me with a broad grin and a wink.
The room fills with the warm glow of their love, as I -- a lesser soul -- grow as pale green as that one-by-one-inch cube of melon with unadulterated envy.
Yes, I do, I covet that love, the way -- one, as base as myself, dares to suspect -- those in residence here might secretly and silently covet the viable heart of this State's next ill-fated car accident victim.
What kind of person does this make me?
* * *
For a fleeting moment, I entertain the empty notion of flirting with the tall somewhat-handsome surgeon in the hallway. It's not lost on me that his only real attraction is in the idea this man held Vic's heart -- both actually, the old and the new -- in his hands less than 24-hours ago.
Another visitor and two doe-eyed nurses already have it covered. I experience a queasy lurch of unexpected discomfort. The sight of this casual giggly little pick-up-party in the corridor -- here, in this place -- seems suddenly as vulgar as offering to suck the Priest's cock in a Confessional.
I return my attention to Dory.
Maybe it's as tinged with disrespect as the young surgeon's would-be harem, but I can't seem to help it. I want to know what this feels like. I want to get inside her head.
I allow myself to picture Dory's plump rose-tinted lips pressing a row of tender kisses along the ragged length of Vic's snaky scar, her fingertips following close behind, sealing in her devotion. I try to imagine the rise of overpowering emotion welling in her breast, as she lets herself acknowledge how close she came to never living this moment... how real the possibility was that she would never touch his flesh again.
I ache around the careful hug she so softly employs to swaddle his recently renovated chest and the lump in my throat, like half a biscuit -- I've forgotten how to swallow or to seek out the half a coffee to wash it down.
A better person would be moved, warmed to the core, by this tender loving vision; yet, my flawed meandering mind manages to stain even this. Again, it seems, I cannot help it.
I find myself considering what range and brands of pain these two beautiful forever-bound souls might have caused one another over the years and years, before. What untold hurts have they imposed along the way? What less-lovely scars have they marred each other with?
In the end, it did not matter. They knew when to lay these wounds and blames aside. The miracle they waited for came, because they dreamed the same dream and prayed for it as one.
My ugly envy consumes me, as I see all the stains and smears that might have marked their love... lifted in a single phenomenal life-changing heartbeat. What must it feel like to have it all just drop away and vanish -- be reduced, made irrelevant, incidental, inconsequential -- become so... small?
I covet their strength.
I covet their luck.
I covet their love.
What kind of person does this make me?
* * *
As I sit here in the Shands Institute in Gainesville Florida, marveling at the precious gift these two beautiful souls have been given -- the chance to love one another bigger and better, a second forever -- the love of my life stands in a jewelry store in Troy Michigan, admiring a different gift: his first Valentines' acquisition in over a decade. It is not for me. He is giving his heart to another.
* * *
Tomorrow I will leave this strange and splendid world. It has forever left its mark on me. I will return home to sleep next to a man who no longer holds me in his dreams, but I won't know that for some time yet...
I won't know until it is too late.
His hands, once skilled and strong, will have forgotten their power to reach inside and massage my heart back to beating. It's a miracle I should never have prayed for, one only he could perform; though, at the time, truth be told, such heroic measures would not have been necessary.
I'd have settled for half a biscuit.
* * * *