Henry was nervous.
Doctor had called him late the previous evening and told him that he wanted to see him first thing in the morning.
Henry didn’t tell anyone about the call. Anyone being his wife, two kids and his mother. Although he had a brother and sister – they had lost touch over the years and he had no desire to share anything with them.
The Doctor came into his office where Henry was fidgeting by the book case and didnt waste time.
“Henry, sit down.” The Doctor pulled a box of tissues and placed them across from the chair where Henry sat down.
Henry disappeared from reality at that moment. He knew something was wrong, something was terribly wrong. He began to hear a faint ringing in his ears, felt his heart begin to race and a cold chill run up his spine.
The Doctor looked directly into Henry’s eyes and began to speak.
“Are you sure you do not want any family members with you?”
“I am sure – what is it? Am I dying or something?” He said this jokingly but when he saw the Doctor’s face he realized this was not a joking moment.
He walked out of the building in a stupor. He tried to push the buttons on his cell phone but his fingers could not be still from shaking. The Doctor had said “Inoperable; could be a day could be a year. But if I was you I would get my life in order.”
Henry sat catcher style under an awning of a bodega – he was mentally paralyzed and did not know what to do.
He stood up and called his wife.
“We need to talk.” Henry said.
“They called you too? I cannot believe these people. I paid the minimum of the bill and now they are threatening to send it to collections. They already took away our-”
“Stop. I need to talk – can you come pick me up? Meet me by Starbucks on 13th St.”
“I can’t go there now I have a million things to do.”
“Honey, its important.”
“Did you lose your job? If you did screw them – you didn’t like doing what you were doing anyway. You can find-”
“Honey – come we can speak when you get here.”
His eyes were wet, he was shaking and felt as if he was walking in a house of mirrors and couldn’t figure out which way to turn. The sun was shining and it was warm outside – but it seemed dark and he had a chill. He wasn’t sick, he didn’t need an operation, he didn’t need anything other than a misdiagnosis or a miracle.
Finally, after what seemed like an eternity she walked in.
“Whats going on?” She asked. “Are you have a panic attack?”
“No, yeah, well, yes but for an actual reason. Apparently I am dying.”
“OK take a deep breath.”
“No honey. I just came from the Doctor and he told me that there is a real reason for my headaches, dizziness and forgetfulness.”
“Can i call him?”
“Call, I don’t know what else…”
The Doctor called her back within 5 minutes and explained the situation. It was true, he was dying and it could be at any time.
They went outside for some air and walked along the avenue until she stopped him.
“I don’t mean to sound like a bitch here but I need to ask you; you are up to date on your life insurance, right?”
“Yes I am. I need to go see Mike and draw up a living will and an estate will. I think that’s what you call it.”
“So what do I do now? How do we go on? What can we do? Do we just wait for you to die?”
“I don’t know but we need to tell the kids…I need you to tell the kids.”
“I don’t want to be alone, babe…I don’t want to die.”
They wanted to get second opinions but the next available to appointment was 7 days away. Henry decided he needed to go for a drive one night alone.
Henry had lived a cautious life more out of fear than anything else. He married Nancy right out of college and had two children within four years. They never traveled since he had a fear of flying and spent more time dreaming than doing. His children had resented him for his neurosis and his wife had once had an affair. Fear was causing the things he feared most to occur and once they did he had no idea what to do other than keep on working.
He was a Professor at the local University – he had gone to school there and had received his Doctorate at that same institution. While he was still a student he began to teach and once he graduated he continued to teach. Before he knew it he had be given tenure and became the Chair of the English department making a six figure salary.
His children grew up and traveled with their mother who was adamant to not stop living because of Henry’s fear.
“Why should I stop living because he is too scared to face his demons?” She would tell anyone who would listen.
There are spouses who improve each other by being together.
There are spouses who drag each other down and there are spouses who inspire each other to be more, to do more.
Henry and Nancy were the kind of couple that kept things cold and safe. It could be why she was in an affair with a friends husband for several years. Everyone knew about it – besides of course Henry and when the wife finally left her husband Nancy decided to break it off.
“I never loved him; it was a sexual convenience.”
Henry confronted her and she shrugged and said, “Why should I stop living because you are too scared to face your demons?”
He realized that there was some twisted perverted truth to what she said and wasnt really in the frame of mind to get divorced.
“Who is to say there is anything better out there?” But he was depressed and it was killing him.
He drove towards the neighborhood where he was born and raised. It all seemed so much smaller now than it did in his head. The lake, the railroad station and the “Main Diner” on Main Street and Penn Avenue. He hadn’t been to this part of town since his father died around 15 years ago. Him and his mother didn’t get along very well and she moved to live with his sister who lived an hour away in Marlboro. His brother lived in the town next to Marlboro and they barely kept in touch other than family gatherings.
He went into the diner and sat at the same booth he used to sit at before Nancy, before fear and before he ever thought that he was on borrowed time.