I decided to get up when my mind started making shadow puppets from the darkness of the room. The bed was cold. It may have been the sound of Benny moving about in the studio that had awoken me.
Somewhere between rinsing the soap from my face and brushing my teeth I became aware of the absence of nausea. A subtle relief from weeks of running from the bed to the toilet with accompanying heaves and hawls of stomach acids and dinner fragments. This morning I awoke feeling hungry and almost capable of enjoying a bacon double cheeseburger loaded with onions and pickles, my mouth watering at the anticipation of a non-existent meal. A bowl of Raisin Bran Crunch, bananas and toast with orange marmalade would make a suitable substitute.
The unlit morning was vibrant with silence that echoed through the house. Benny had fallen asleep at his desk and sending him to bed would bring on excuses as to why he had to keep working. I’ve always known him to be the type to work through difficulties. I moved about the studio, stealthily capping tubes of paint, placing drying brushes in their bath of inky water and shutting off the desk lamp. He adjusted his hunched posture only minimally before falling deeper into reluctant rest.
The clattering of the phone created a vacuum that pulled the silence toward it and pushed out its metallic resonance in the guise of the theme song to the pink panther. My response hindered on the intuition of the calls purpose.
“Liz?” Dean, Benny’s elder brother, had a tone of questioning uncertainty that left a sour taste at the back of my throat.
“Okay.” A dry grip of tightened vocal cords brought on by Dean’s tone. “I’m sorry Dean, seriously. How’s Jack?”
“He’s in crisis mode, so its strict control and planning from him.” His voice was phlegmy and his words were being swallowed in whispered exasperation.
‘Okay. We’ve discussed this, he knows what to do.”
“He’s sleeping right now. I’m gonna wait
till he wakes up. This is the first time he’s slept in two days.”
“What am I supposed to do?”
“I don’t know. I’m sure Jack needs help. We’ll be flying up as soon as possible so we’ll be needing a pick up from the airport.”
“What am I supposed to do Liz?”
“Don’t ask me Dean, your mom’s dead and I
already have one of her children to watch over. Figure it out, its’ not difficult. This isn’t a surprise and if it is, then you need to ask yourself what you’ve been doing with yourself.”
“I’ll make the call. I want to be the one to break the news.”
“He won’t wanna hold your hand so don’t go looking for support.”
“Well, still, let him sleep a few more
hours. I’ll make what arrangements are needed from here and call Jack to see where he’s at.”
“Why wasn’t I included in all this planning?”
“You were waiting for an invitation? These are your parents.”
“I just think I could have been included.”
“Now is a great time to think some more.”
And with the sound of the click, silence encompassed me once more. It took three breaths to gather myself. Benny’s muffled drone of rest could be heard lapping at the oncoming sounds of morning and mourning. The play on words made me giggle. I would’ve gladly have turned off all the phones to keep him blissfully unaware.
The woman, my mother-in-law, wasn’t always someone who made herself available for others to befriend. I couldn’t imagine what she had gone through these last few months. What peace she had sought had finally arrived. Benny was morbidly aware of this inevitability when the first diagnosis came over a year ago and recognized the eventuality of time. Dean held to illusions and ignorance to get through the visual decay of his only beloved parent. After the first round of surgeries Jack approached Benny and myself about a plan and Dean accused us of desiring death upon his mother, never their mother.
A siren was echoing against the sunrise. From this break came a flood of all that was yet to be endured and I instinctively felt for my yet to be protruding abdomen. Recognizing, for the first time, it was there.