Another two inches.
I pull the wrapper off the sugar-free chocolate again and toast the horizon and, somewhere, a small New England town.
I don’t say, “cheers.” In Japan you don’t say that for the sad things.
I keep my milk chocolate in the freezer right now. The summers of Japan are too hot for it to survive on the kitchen table. It also keeps it out of sight, and somehow this helps (against all proverbial expectations) keep it in mind.
That’s where I want it. In my mind, it’s close to the other thoughts, the ones that make me careful of it: Thoughts of my father, still in the rehabilitation clinic, because home is on a second floor and he can’t do stairs. He’s not been home since the one toe, then the other toe, then the rest, and then the top half of the foot.
And now they’re taking more.
I’ve seen his “footsies” of all end results, taken with his ipad with candid alacrity, on our private family Facebook page, all wrapped up in bandages of course, a nub that should be going farther than it does, that my mind knows should go farther than it does. Once, there was a troubling spot of blood. I wait on selfies when this happens, and save them, and date them, with unspoken and untyped fears.
They’ll take two more inches, they said.
Like butchers, I glower at the news. Like his leg is a hunk of deli meat. Like they’re paid by the cut, so they’re taking their time, instead of fixing the problem so he can go home.
It’s not a reasonable thought, but it’s how the anger comes, even like it did before, and joins the fear and the chocolate in my head, with that picture: Ham. On a slab. And white aprons behind a glass counter.
How much a cut, doctor? In a hurry? You took your time getting a scooter ordered in, didn’t you? So he had to hobble instead and it got infected again. And how much insurance did that time buy you? With all the q-tips and jello and rolls of toilet paper in between?
I fall asleep feeling like my ankle’s in a garrotte. The next morning it’s just a rubber band, so I try to walk it off. I wonder if it’s sympathy pain or fear for the future, or prophecy. The next day it’s the bottom, near the toes, whenever I walk on it, like a bruise.
The anger’s really at myself, isn’t it? I reflect as I limp. There’s a reason I’m keeping the chocolate in mind.
Word comes that the surgery went fine. “Fine” is relative when the word “surgery” is close by. I know there’ll be another footsie from the ipad, but I wait to look at the family Facebook page when its notification pings my phone with the text. I don’t think my mind has room for it.
I just reflect, as you do past age thirty, when death is not a distant myth. Death is a truth that makes you selfish, even when your father is getting his foot shaved. It steals thoughts away from the man who carried you in from the car as a child (because you knew he would if you pretended to sleep).
I sit appalled at how his misery feeds my survival with the good kind of fear, the kind that makes me walk, cut back on the salt, and turn down second helpings. It makes me do all those things I couldn’t do by myself. It keeps that bag in the freezer a “sometimes food,” when just months ago half or more was a daily fix.
I still need my father, I realize, in the selfish way that children do. It’s the kind of need that can’t give back for it. And I get angry at myself, because I’m an adult now. It was supposed to be my turn to help him. There should be grandkids by now. He should have gotten the chance to carry them.
I go to my room and lie in my bed, and read the IMs off Facebook Messenger, because I’m still shying away from the family page. My father makes jokes and puns with far more emojis than most people use with three word sentences. The last, “I’m going under the knife again,” doesn’t get me so much as his, “Love you bunches,” for its extensive use of almost every heart emoji, and then a kissy face. I’m in Japan. He’s in New England. He loves with heart emojis and I love with worried questions about back-alley surgical degrees. And I don’t know what else I can do.