An excerpt from my novel in progress:
But the weekend had felt heavy, scripted, on edge. He was jittery, chain-smoking his Tarletons, chain-drinking Pepsi. She was waiting for news that she already knew, news that she didn’t want to hear.
And then there it was.
No preamble, no preface. I’m dying. Dropped into regular conversations about traffic and jobs and butter cake, just like that. You’ll be losing another person you love. You are losing another person you love.
She remembered thinking, I should know how this goes by now. I should know what to do, how to act, what to say, how to be. I’ve done this before.
And yet, he didn’t seem to be in crisis. He said this as matter of factly, calmly, even. His jumpiness receded and a calm seemed to come over him.
“Did you hear me?”
“I heard you.”
“Well, say something.”
“I just did,” she said. “I’m … I’m sorry.”
“I’ve known for awhile,” he admitted. “It was just ….”
“You don’t have to explain yourself,” she said, instantly regretting her harsh tone.
“I was waiting for the right time to say something,” he said. “I think this is the type of news that you want to break in person.” A half-smile crossed his face.
She half-smiled back. “Hey, Jenna, how are you?” she said, holding an imaginery phone up to her ear. “Just thought I’d give you a call to say hi and oh by the way, did I mention that I have AIDS?”
This was their style, the easy way they had between them. It would be the only way to get through this, she realized, the only way to keep hold of what was now. She wanted to ask the other questions – the how long, the when will you … but knew better. She knew that he didn’t have those answers, that nobody did.
Sixteen years ago this weekend, The Husband and I sat with my uncle in his dining room. We were there under false pretenses, supposedly for a relaxing weekend that would include a visit to New York City, but we all knew there was a darker reason for our being there. We suspected, we assumed.
There are several things that stand out from that weekend. The disclosure from my uncle that he was dying of AIDS. Driving through New York City and then into Westchester County to hear him play piano. And his euphoric, almost giddy plans for a garden wedding.
As in, his. With his partner.
Maybe he meant something like a commitment ceremony? No. There would be a wedding. At a rich friend’s home in upstate New York. He would tape-record some of his piano playing. I would do the calligraphy for the invitations. Sure, not a problem. Except … well.
We looked at each other, The Husband and I.
“Is that even legal?” I whispered, wide-eyed.
“Uh … I don’t think so.”
We shrugged, chalked it up to yet another side effect of the meds he was taking on and off.
I mean, how the hell would a wedding even be possible? In that house were the only four people who knew of his condition. (Well, I guess there was a doctor who knew somewheres, but in terms of family, we were it.) Even if it was legal, there was no way there would be, could be such a wedding without someone – namely my grandmother – keeling over.
Quite simply, it wasn’t going to happen. The whole thing was preposterous, to say the least. Something that seemed unattainable, unreachable.
As it turned out, there wasn’t a wedding or a commitment ceremony or anything – mainly because he didn’t get better.
But last night in New York? Things got much better indeed.