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Wishing It Was Ours
"Hold on, let me put you on speaker."
I push the little button with that iconic horn with sound lines curving out of it and smile. I don't know if the phone picks up my contented sigh, but I hope it does.
I have this wonderful mental image connected with speaker. I feel as though I press the button and suddenly this light zooms up, encompassing everything with pure whiteness. Then images begin to paint themselves on the cheery canvas that the light has constructed. Pictures form with vague sweepings of color and I almost believe that they are projected to him too, that he can see what I see.
I wish all of that was true. I know he would love the sunset that has spread itself so luxuriously before me. He would love the way the birds sound, and the way that my porch swing rocks itself in the breeze coming up from the valley, and the way the crocuses and daffodils smell. It is a beautiful spring night. I wish he was here to see it.
"Mary? You still there?" His voice chimes through the air. "Is it a direct object or a predicate noun?"
"What?" I still don't know how to answer his first question, because I don't know where 'there' is. Is it his 'there', his antiseptic hospital room, with its curtains and humming television set? Or is it mine, where I am now and where I wish with all my heart that he was? I close my eyes and I can see him lying twisted in the sheets, fretting over schoolwork and the days that he missed. Why am I doing this? Why is he calling me when he should be resting after surgery?
I shake my head to clear it then decide that I am 'there' still, because 'there' is somewhere in between us, criss-crossed by lacy microwaves and satellites. Then I remember. Homework. Right. Daily Grammar Practice. That's why he called. Of all things, homework. Why can't he call me about something touching, like music or indecisions?
I remember again, and answer my own question: He doesn't need me for things like that.
"Um, what was the sentence again?"
I let him scramble in his notes for a moment, enough time to gather myself. The pain of realization is a constant slap. He doesn't need me for anything meaningful. I'm just the smart girl who cares enough to give the sick boy some answers, the replaceable one who happens to be exceptionally bright, the pawn that can be used to get through homework without too much struggle. I have a place in his world, but it's not the place I want.
I sigh again, despairingly. I know he can hear it, but he doesn't comment.
"The cheetah attacks and kills the antelope."
"And we're talking about 'antelope', right?"
"So it's a direct object right? Since 'attacks' and 'kills' are action verbs?"
"Oh, yeah, I get it now! Awesome!"
As his voice fades to static I can make out the weak scratching of a pencil. It's now or never.
"Sorry, Mary I have to go. Thanks so much for your help."
My deflation is almost visible, I'm sure. If he could have seen it, it would have made him feel guilty. "Yeah, no problem."
"Call you later." A lie.
And nothing. I snap the phone shut, in doing so popping the little bubble of sight that I once envisioned. Now I realize it doesn't matter. He never saw me anyway. Not even speakerphone can make him see.
It is unfair of me to be bitter, but I am anyway. All at once the night seems sour and dank. I run inside and let the screen door slam for once, letting the house envelope me before the tears can come.