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2013-12-15 - 4:03 p.m.

entropy takes everything

the house smells worse and worse every day. pausing on the threshold, i brace myself against the reek of urine, hot stale air, the odor of a body consuming itself. once indoors, i turn on the attic fan and set boxes of baking soda in every room. one evening, i wash the walls with a sponge tied to a yardstick. it helps a little, for a moment.

changing the sheets twice a day helps more, so i learn how to do it without hurting him. this bed has an intermittent vibrating function, meant to prevent blood clots and pressure sores. every time, it startles me.

"he likes you best," she tells me. i want to quit, but i can't.

more and more, he asks me to put down the laundry bin and leave the dishes in the sink. i sit and read aloud until my voice goes, and then i finish the housework. sometimes, there's a library book waiting on the linen press. other days, it's whatever i've brought with me. i become more conscious of the rhythm of words, their pulse and flow.

it grows dark outside, and the window over the sink becomes a mirror. behind me, i can see nora stretching over the bed, lighting a cigar. she blows the smoke at him with slow, old-hollywood glamour, so intimate that i have to drop my eyes. "well, that's not going to help with the smell in here," i think. whatever helps you make it through.

one day, i make his wife a cup of tea and sit beside her in the kitchen. she looks at me, just as lucid as anything. "i hate the way the nurses dress him," she says, so sadly. "he was always so stylish, such a well-dressed, stylish man." before i leave, i ask nora for permission to go through his bureau. i take a sweater home with me, steek the back and add a button band. crocheted discs go in the place of buttons. i do the same with bias tape on an oxford shirt.

everything is too big on him, but when he's tucked in bed, you can hardly tell. "there's my handsome man," she says, arranging a scarf at his throat. the whole room brightens when she smiles, and it's so clear why their worlds were pulled into her radiant orbit.

entropy takes everything in the end.

i alter ten more sweaters, and then we take the oversized tee shirts and hospital gowns and cut them into rags. give the man some fucking dignity.

when i get home, my husband reaches out to hug me, but i duck his embrace and rush for the shower. no matter how many miles i run, what i eat or which medicines i take, my body will surely break down and betray us both.

* * *

reading: someone's manuscript.
listening to: old-time radio.
working on: a skinny scarf for my dad.
in the garden: it's ugly out there, simply ugly.

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