Letters and Diary Fiction posted February 13, 2012


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A Valentine's letter to my wife

The Rose of Sharon

by Spiritual Echo

Oh my darling,

It's hard to believe Valentine's Day has rolled around again. I found myself staring through the florist's window, wondering about which flowers you'd appreciate, remembering the early years when daisies were your favourites.

We were kids... crazy, crazy kids, who thought we invented love. It was easy to make you smile way back then. The daisies grew wild in the fields around town. We'd run through the pastures as if we were auditioning for some shampoo commercial. Your long auburn curls would dance and play tricks with my heart as the sun splashed its glow on our game of tag. Oh Sharon, you always let me catch you.

You chose violets for your wedding bouquet and dressed your bridesmaids in lavender chiffon. I remember our vows, swearing I'd love your forever, but the rest of the day was a blur. I went through the motions, waiting until we could get out of that damn humid hall and be alone.

I've kept my promise. I love you even more today than I ever imagined was possible.

I couldn't get enough of you, wanting to touch you, hold you constantly. Remember the day you threw the dish rag at me and told me that if I really loved you I could always use that sexual energy to do a load of laundry? In my mind, having no clothes, being 'doomed' to live naked, was heaven.

Against all odds our teenage romance survived. I splurged and bought an orchid corsage and took you dancing for our tenth anniversary. There, under the moonlight, we smiled and nodded at each other. We both knew we were ready to share the love. We were ready for children. I considered that night of lovemaking a practice run, but under the rafters of that obscure country inn, destiny stepped up and caressed us with a gentle kiss.

As you knelt in front of the toilet retching violently, I smiled with glee, holding back your hair and kissed you obsessively, oblivious to the bathroom aromas. We were going to be parents. Life was perfect.

You worried about getting fat, but I loved the way your breasts swelled. I didn't care whether you gained a hundred pounds. I vowed I'd love every ounce.

Then abruptly our dream shattered. I got the call at work. You were haemorrhaging, in an ambulance on the way to the hospital. Your mother was so quiet on the phone, barely giving me the information before dissolving in tears.

You looked so small in that hospital bed. When our eyes met, yours brimmed with tears, begging for forgiveness and mine reassuring, but vacant. What were all those tubes doing poking out of my Sharon? What little I knew about miscarriages, I was certain that all this was not normal. The doctors gave us a few minutes alone. We didn't tarnish them with words, but they were anxious to talk with me and shuffle me out to the corridor.

The doctor used a lot of technical terms that I didn't understand, but then the one word that both your mom and I heard, turned us into ice.

"She has a large tumour on her right ovary. It's a secondary cancer...."

There it was. Cancer. The filthiest word in the English language. Your mother and I didn't hear another word. We clung to each other letting terror wash over us, but the doctor wasn't finished destroying our dreams.

"We've scheduled an operating room. Sharon needs an immediate hysterectomy."

"The baby?"

"There is no baby. It was a false pregnancy, a blessing in disguise."

I admit, Sharon, that's when I began to hate flowers. When you were finally brought back to your room the place looked like a greenhouse with bouquets and vases crammed onto every flat surface. It smelled like a funeral parlour and I was too close to that possibility to appreciate their beauty.

Small tumours were on your liver and kidneys and somehow the oncologist expected us to celebrate the absence of the plague in your lungs. The chemotherapy began, but we fought the cancer together.

Foreplay began in the kitchen, a new version I invented; consisting of making homemade soup, anything you could eat, something to give you back strength and keep you fighting.

The constant vomiting was no longer an anticipation of new life, but a threatening reminder that I might lose the love of my life. All the things you wished I'd done before now became a part of my daily routine. Between the nausea and the night sweats, I was doing laundry every morning. The chore list was my army, the only action I could take against this deadly enemy.

It was when your beautiful hair began to fall out that you pulled back, began to separate from our marriage, from me. I'd wake up beside you, covered in faded strings of hair, dull auburn reminders of a battle that even sleep did not spare.

Sharon. I didn't know what to say. You stared at me, remnants of your beautiful curls pasted to my chest before storming into the bathroom. When you came out you'd shaved your head. I guess I should have gone to you, held you, come up with something anything to say, but I broke into tears. You turned your back on me, walked into the living room and flipped on the TV. I couldn't stop crying and I didn't follow you.

I guess that was the first time I fell into my hole. The self-pity wasn't comforting, not in the usual way, but the pain was familiar. I was doing everything I could think about to try to make it easier on you, but nothing could penetrate that wall you put up. Everybody who came by fussed over you. I felt invisible, like the missing leg from an amputated marriage. No one asked how I was doing. No one offered to stay with you, to give me a break from the cancer riddled apartment. There were times I was resentful, but I never blamed you. At best, I raged at God, demanding to know why he'd blessed me with love and then tortured me with my vows.

'In sickness and in health...' I meant them when I whispered the words. I still believe in promises.

And then suddenly, you were in remission. Your hair began to grow back, but you weren't content with the fuzz framing your face, your smile, the shy return to life. We were off to buy a wig, but not just any wig. There in the boutique you chose a long, Farah Fawcett clone and you insisted you'd like to try to take a turn at 'blondness.'

Over the next few days you took to shopping like a thirsty camel. The bedroom was filled with bags and tissue; old clothes destined for Goodwill. You were reinventing yourself, you said.

The night you appeared wearing a Victoria Secret's negligee, swathed in perfume and the wig, my heart stood still. You succeeded. You completely obliterated my sick wife, replacing her with a woman who walked towards me oozing sensuality and demanding satisfaction. We attacked each other, clawing, clambering for release. When it came, when the primal screams subsided, we collapsed. The joy dissolved and we cried together, touching lips, tracing memories with our eyes. I slowly removed the wig, brushed away the tears and told you, once again, how much I loved you, would always love you until death do us part.

I bought the roses, a dozen long stem beauties, not sure if you'd approve, but I left the florist knowing for certain that you'd understand. It's what the florist expects foolish men in love will buy for their Valentines.

I walked towards the cemetery, the roses clutched against my chest, remembering, and missing you.







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Dedicated to those I have lost, to the love they lived and left behind.
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