You call from the Emergency room
at 5:26 a.m.
assure me that everything is fine
you just woke up
out of breath at 4 a.m.
heart palpitating
in pain.
Being just 6 blocks from the hospital
you drove yourself there
just to be safe
but everything is fine.

Everything is not fine!

You have three nurses
all, conveniently, called Chris.
Say you have to go
will call back soon.
I lay back into bed, two hours away from you,
with no way to reach you,
to worry,
feel exhausted from our 5 minute conversation.
Eventually to drift into helpless sleep.

Wake at 7:30 covered in 3 cats and a dog
they can feel my fear.
Normally at odds
they’d decided to work together
apparently to physically smoother the worry out of me.
The lower half of my body is numb from their weight.
I begin yet another lecture
about human zones versus animal zones in the bed,
realize their de-stress plan worked pretty well,
stop the lecture and hug them instead.

Everything is not fine!
They get it. Move closer in.

You call to say you’re waiting on the cardiologist
they are monitoring your blood pressure
every 15 minutes
you will text me results soon.
Assure me that everything is fine.

Everything is not fine!
Our life doesn’t work without you.

By 10 you’re on meds, feeling better.
Have a follow up appointment with another cardiologist next Wednesday.
You’re complaining now that you don’t have internet access.
The perpetual waiting of the ER is dragging.
I relish this good sign.
Text you 20 smart things to do to lower your blood pressure.
One at a time.
You text back silly ideas, like “don’t wear pants.”
I text back “These 20 things can be boiled down to one thing: listen to your wife.”
Your nurses agree with me.
I have street cred.
You have to go again.
Assure me everything is fine.

Everything is not fine!
This sucks!

I go outside to throw angry stones into an uncaring sea
to cry angry tears onto pissed-off-at-life cheeks.

By late morning they release you
and you begin the long drive home.
Groggy on new blood pressure meds.
Assure me everything is fine.

Everything is not fine!
How can the doctors know you’re ok to drive?!
They just met you. You and groggy don’t mix well.

I clean the house to distract myself.
I’m getting no work done today anyway
might as well have a clean house.
Take the dog to the beach to distract myself.
At 3 p.m., as we’re walking home, you join us.
I breathe my first real breath of the day.

You tell me about your doctors.
Your medicines.
Your plans.
I nod intently, not listening,
abandoning all pretense of being present right now.
Our life doesn’t work without you.
What would I do if I lost you?
My skin, stubbornly unwilling to thicken,
begins to bleed along with my bleeding heart.
Our vulnerability is so beautiful.
Then I’m back.
“I’m glad you’re home,” I say.
Remember to breathe again.

We make dinner and I start to relax a little.
Flip on Netflix: we’re watching Bones, Season 6.
They reunite a kidnapped and abused girl
with parents she hasn’t seen in 12 years
using one of her pulled teeth.
We weep. Laugh. Move closer on the sofa.

Everything is not fine.

“I thought I was going to die today,” you say.
I say, “I thought so too.”
“I think I’m going to be extra sappy this weekend,” you say.
“Ok,” I say.
I don’t bother saying “Me too” because I’m always extra sappy and you know that.
Then the dog and three cats
join us on the sofa
and everything feels
just a little bit sweeter.
I take my third real breath
of the day.

Together we take a small step toward fine
embracing to embrace
our new normal.