He had the urge to clear the ground, to look out and see nothing. It had been building in him for years, since the night his life changed forever, since she had died. His wife. His lovely wife of eight years, stolen from him far too early by a far too cruel disease. They met in college, it was like a fucking movie to him. She was eighteen, fresh from high school on a full ride scholarship, with her parents being well-to-do alumni and him being twenty, from a working class family and having to work his own way through school. She had studied law, her parents both were lawyers and she had grown up fascinated with it. He had studied art, history and modern, but he worked as a line cook to pay for school. They argued at first, never angrily, but passionate and full of the righteousness that only the young and informed can possess. It started out as a conflict of beliefs, she said order, he said chaos. She wanted to pass the bar, he wanted to own one. She said jump, he said sit. Somewhere along the way the conflict turned to flirting, which turned to dating.
The ground is so cluttered. It was a beautiful garden years ago, her hobby when she was still healthy. Still alive. He looks out at the overgrown bushes, remembrance of roses and days past. Her parents put the down payment on this house as a wedding gift. He sips his coffee and remembers meeting them for the first time. She was so happy to introduce him, in his dirty jeans and band shirt, they'd run into them in town and he was still all messy from work. He half wanted to hate them, two well off lawyers, nice clothes and soft hands. He expected them to look down on him, as people like them had always looked down on people like him. He was almost disappointed with how nice they were. Down right friendly if he was honest with himself. They went out to lunch, it was all pleasant conversation and good food. They paid of course, but thought it was endearing that he offered, and they weren't condescending about it.
It was autumn when she was diagnosed. It always is isn't it? She had graduated from law school, passed the bar exam, two years previously. She was twenty seven, her garden was beautiful. So was she. He sits on the porch and remembers the day as he smokes a cigarette. She was sick for some time before he convinced her to see a doctor, she never liked doctors. Who wants to be sick? She'd ask as if not having it diagnosed would make it not there. Sitting in the doctor's office as he gave her a death sentence was the hardest thing she'd been through. Pancreatic cancer, uncommon in someone so young, but not uncommon enough. Diagnosed too late, it had spread to other vital areas. Inoperable, they said it was inoperable. Six months to a year, she wept as she told him. He wept as well. He held her through the night, they spoke of their past. First date, first kiss, vacations. The love they shared and the days they spent together. Neither brought up the future. He said he'd quit smoking, she didn't see the point. He held her every night he could, through pain, sorrow, and helplessness. An affirmation of life, an act of love.
That was years ago now, and all he has is overgrown ground and hope. He sits at his table and reflects on the bitterness he felt for a while. He didn't know how it could happen to someone as beautiful as her, but death comes to those deserving and undeserving alike. He has a girlfriend now, an artist. She's sweet. He still keeps in touch with her parents too. They're still so kind, he couldn't have afforded the hospital or funeral without them. He still misses her, and wouldn't change that, but he knows he has to live, and love, and be happy. He won't let the disease claim two lives.
WRITTEN BY MATT FATT
ILLUSTRATION BY SARAH MCCROREY