Eddy is my husband. He’s as handsome as ever. His chest is still broad, his limbs muscular, his head is as covered in curls today as on the day we married, and—trust me---he’s still a ladies’ man.
Thing is, he loves the fleshpots: Women, fun times, and fine food---specifically beef, the redder, the rarer, the better. He gorges himself, chews, and slurps, and swallows, laps up the juices, grunts with pleasure, and never leaves as much as a scrap for tomorrow.
I’m a part-time secretary at St. Joseph’s Church. If I don’t get home on time, Eddy runs down to the shops himself. He sneaks behind the customers to the back of pretty Lisa Bailey’s bakery looking for something sweet. After that, he comes back home, settles with his legs folded in front of him, satiated on the sofa, and sighs. His is the good life, for sure.
But Doctor Keller claims he’s too old for the good life.
I’m home on time. First, I tempt him with goodies—liver strips in mushroom sauce, or melting marrow bones, gravy and yams on his favorite yellow plate, the one with the roses and the chip on the rim that he never seems to notice, the last of my mother’s best china. He wolfs them down, lacking all decorum, as she herself used to say (my mother loved Eddy so) squishy noises issuing from his mouth as though he’s plodding through marshland, his sweet, soft eyes melting from the pleasure of it all.
His main course is blueblood red beef, none of the chicken feed the doctor prescribes, which leaves him roaming the neighborhood again for something he can sink his teeth into. I serve him steak, the richer and more expensive the better, pink and tender on the inside, juicy and delicious.
I watch as his stomach swells. I undo the button of his vest, the one Suzy, my daughter-in-law, knitted him for Christmas. And now that he’s done? Well, now that he’s done, he sinks onto the cushions, vanquished.
And I know exactly where he is.
Dessert. He picks at it, at his leisure, sugar hardening round the stubble on his chin.
After dinner, we take our stroll---nothing strenuous, just a few blocks down Grant Street. Eddy enjoys the evening air, the smell of new cut grass, birds congregating in the maple tree. He sniffs the roses, thrusting his nose into the bushes with the same gusto he pursues all his pleasures. He’s like a kid that way---hurls himself into things.
But tonight, at the corner of Rochester, Eddy begins to drag. Stops walking. “What’s the matter?” I ask, but he doesn’t answer. His head is stretched forward. His stomach begins wrenching up and down, in and out. He’s belching and vomiting on the very flower he’d just been sniffing. His left leg is trembling, and now he is slumped up against the tree. He seems so small. I’ve never thought of him as small before. He belches and wrenches for some time.
“Don’t move,” I tell him. “I’ll be right back.” I leave him heaving over the ivy on the corner of Rochester and Grant, run back through the shadows for the car, and drive him to the emergency room.
The floors have been washed for the night. They’re green. Folding chairs have been pushed flat up against the walls like they’ve been told not to take up too much room, to know what’s good for them and keep their mouths shut.
The office reeks of Lysol. The receptionist sees Eddy, lowers the phone from her ear, and propels us into the doctor’s office---ahead of the other after-hour patients pretending to read their papers, waiting their turn.
“I told you last time,” the doctor pronounces, “you’ve outlived your life style. Cut out the beef.”
A gavel pounds on some celestial bench.
The cell-phone buzzes in my pocket. “We’re at the hospital,” I whisper. Being here is like being in a library—you whisper on instinct. It’s Eric, our son, truly a wonderful boy, but solicitous to a fault about his dad, seriously concerned that we might be retarded---and that we’ve probably been so since he was a child---and a ridiculous worrier now that he has a family of his own to raise.
We’re not invalids, I keep telling him we function fine, just getting up there, is all, as God intended.
“He’s in surgery,” I whisper, and he makes me go into the details.
In short, the doctor repeated that Eddy is no longer in the steak days of his youth. He can no longer run free, nibbling on whichever sweet thing catches his fancy.
So that’s how it is.
He tells me he hates being kept on a leash. Nowadays, he says, he can’t even pee without me hovering over him, can’t take a crap without me telling him where to dump it. Life’s not fun for him.
And when we reach the light at the bottom of our street, he refuses to heel.