This Is Only A Test
By Tiff Holland.
While he’s gone running errands, going to the grocery store or getting the oil changed or whatever, I decide to test myself out, to see if things still work. After a brain stem lesion, a stroke and a hysterectomy all in the same year it could go either way.
I hear the door click. The car starts. I begin with my panties on. I usually think about my husband. We have fifteen years to think back on. Sometimes, I think about when we were dating, when we could barely wait until he was in the door before we began pulling off our clothes. Other times, I think about trying to do things quietly in the nook by the kitchen with our daughter napping on the floor in the living room while we stopped every few minutes to check on her. Mostly, I think about his voice, the way he smells, the way he calls me by only my last name – it seems more intimate than “honey” or “lover” or “baby”.
But not today: to think about him would be to exclude him. I want him here. I want us to actually BE together, but I have to make sure first. He’s so worried about hurting me, making things worse, maybe setting off a seizure. He saw the seizures, but I don’t even remember them. I just know that I want to get back to normal. That I want us to curl up in bed together, that I’ve missed him more than I knew.
I go slow. I think about Timothy Hutton. I have always had a thing about Timothy Hutton, and finally, he has a new series so I can think about him and he’s not only seventeen years old. I think about him and that new guy who plays the former psychic turned detective on my latest favorite crime show. I go back and forth. I used to focus mostly on Hutton’s eyes, but in the series they seem to show mostly hair these days. Hair is big now. It’s the same with the detective, hair. He also has a nice smile. I feel my nipples harden. Really, I want to make this quick.
Coming, I feel my abdominal muscles rolling like waves. I always thought that sensation was the interior organs, but now I know it’s not. The bottom of my feet get hot, like always, and I find myself thinking of seventeen year old Timothy Hutton, his eyes, bright blue as he looks in the mirror after splashing water on his face. His eyes are open so wide. He has just gotten off the phone with the mother of a friend who was in the mental hospital with him and the mother, or maybe the father, told Hutton’s character that his friend committed suicide. So, when I come, I’m thinking about death.
Quickly, I shift focus, although I’m right in the middle. I think about Bill, about him sitting by my bed all day every day even though he was only supposed to be there an hour in the morning and an hour in the afternoon, only he sweet-talked the nurses. I think about him telling me: you had a stroke; you’re in the hospital; I took a leave of absence. The leave of absence part is how I knew I’d been out a long time. And then it’s over, the contractions, spasms, whatever. I think about the pound of flesh I’ve lost. My gynecologist told me that’s how much my uterus weighed. And then the phone rings. An eight hundred number, the collection company for the hospital. I let it go to voice mail. I get out of bed. I get a towel. I take off my medic alert bracelet and put it on the bathroom counter. I start the water in the shower. When Bill gets home he’s going to take me to lunch.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Tiff Holland’s poetry, fiction and nonfiction has appeared in dozens of litmags, e-zines and anthologies. Her work has twice been nominated for the Pushcart Prize and her stories have been included in StorySouth’s top 100 stories and the Wigleaf top fifty. Her short fiction chapbook Straight Out of the Can was a semi-finalist in this year’s Rose Metal Press Chapbook Contest. Her poetry chapbook Bone In a Tin Funnel is available through Pudding House Press.
First published in 3:AM Magazine: Friday, May 29th, 2009.