I wanted to leave before the surgery but I couldn’t leave before the surgery. I had to wait. There was a tumor in my boyfriend’s neck.
I met his mother in the waiting room. She was afraid like he was afraid, of being cut open and being taken from. She told me of a husband leaving in the middle of the night who took only his camera and did not leave a note. I placed my hands on her skin as if to tell her: You are here. My hands know what they are talking about. I might have been kind but not necessarily convincing. When she smiled she smiled at the floor.
“Size of a plum!” said the surgeon, and he held out his gently cupped palm. Three hours of slicing and scooping, and now we all stared at the emptiness carved out by his hand.
A hollowed face propped by insufficient pillows on a steel-framed bed. His slit throat, white bandages. It was hard for me to swallow. It was hard to keep track of what my face was doing. I pressed my hands against his skin. I am here, here you are, they said. Bent over a toilet throwing up from the morphine, my boyfriend was six foot five and looked smaller. I’d been awake for three days. Where was his mother? His nurse asked if I was okay and handed me crackers. I sucked the crumbs out of the plastic. I crawled up against him into his hospital bed.
The next morning I brought him home.
A thin tube ran out of a hole in his throat that leaked fluid into a plastic bulb. The bulb gathered the fluid and when it was full I removed the bulb and emptied it into the toilet. Is it okay if I tell you that it was warm? That it fit perfect in my palm and that I carted it away and tipped the warm fluid into the bowl of the toilet and watched the red, clotting swirls spiral as the toilet flushed?
I can’t say I didn’t thrive there, in that efficiency, carting and discarding liquids.
I watched as a doctor tore the tube from his throat. The violence in the doctor’s wrist, the length of the tube was astounding. How could I stay? I told my boyfriend I needed to leave. He tried to tell me that he fit in my palm. No, I told him. He struggled to tell me of being cut open and being taken from. How I made promises to him when I got in his bed. He touched my hands. He wanted me again in his throat.
I ran away and drove to a basement and put myself in a jar. I stayed there pressing my palms to the glass, unsure of what my hands had done, trying to tell them: This is a jar.