An Economy of Words - 005: A-C-H-E
“Hey, sweetness, what’s a four-letter word for pain?”
“I dunno, honeypot, how bout having your nuts shoved into a vice until you scream like a child whose favorite toy was stolen by the Grinch on Christmas fucking Eve?”
“Um, I think that may be more than four letters.”
“Fuck you, asshole!”
“What the heck did I do?”
“I can tell you what you didn’t do. The dishes, for one thing. . .”
“Hey, I already apologized for that! I’m sorry I overslept. But c’mon, sweetness, you know I’m not a morning person and you scheduled this shit awfully early.”
“Whatever, you’re the bastard who insisted that I have it done again.”
“Actually, I believe it was Doctor Schwarzenbach that recommended we do this after you finished the first round of. . .”
“Yeah, well, he’s a chauvinist pig too.”
“Really, why do you say that? I’ve never heard him say anything even in the zip code of being sexist. In fact, I kinda like the guy. He totally reminds me of the rad guitarist in that one band Kurt was in. You know, the one that went on tour until their van broke down somewhere up near Arcata. . .”
“Will you please just shut the fuck up for once?”
“Wow, what’s up your ass today?”
“I dunno, maybe my inconsiderate husband who is completely oblivious to the fact that I’m trying to read this article on how much the bank bailout is going to cost each and every one of us as taxpayers.”
It was difficult. Practically impossible, I must say. Nevertheless, I mustered all of my might and bit my fucking tongue. Hard. I didn’t even mention that she’d been holding the magazine open to the same page for over fifteen minutes. Nor the fact that it was upside down.
The one thing I’ve learned – and it may be the only thing – during this whole ordeal is that sometimes you really do need to just shut the fuck up and let your ailing wife rant, even if she’s not making any goddamn sense.
“Man, I fucking hate this place!”
“I know, sweetness,” I murmured into her ear as I rested my head gently on her shoulder. “But, trust me, everything will be okay.”
“Okay! What the fuck do you know, dickhead?”
Elbowing me in the nose, she snorted: “It’s not your fucking boobs that are gonna be mauled by some nasty cow with frigid hands, loose sweatpants, and a bad attitude.”
“Speaking of bad attitudes, I know you’re scared, sweetness. I am too. Still, I thought we agreed that we’d try to maintain a positive. . .”
“Oh, we fucking agreed, did we? Well, how come we didn’t agree that you’d be the one pumped full of poison for the next however many months?”
Throwing her magazine across the room – which was packed with other anxious souls, half of whom nodded at me knowingly – she screeched: “Better yet, how come we didn’t agree that you’d be the one who got sick every single morning? That can’t even imagine ever enjoying the taste of food again? And that lost all of their fucking hair! Where do I sign up for that convenient little arrangement?”
“C’mon, sweetness, the doctor said this is just a precaution to make sure it hasn’t spread. And I know that prospect is kinda terrifying, but I’m sure whatever happens, we’ll manage. . .”
“That’s easy for you to say,” she mumbled as she glanced at her wrist. “What the motherfucking shit is taking so goddamn long anyway?”
“When we were kids, my mom used to tell us: ‘Patience is a virtue.’”
“Your mother’s one to fucking talk.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?”
“Oh, I dunno, just that when we first started going out, she was always pestering me about when we were gonna get married. And then when we finally got hitched, she started dropping all these lame little hints about how much she wanted grandchildren and how hopeless Chip’s love life was. . .”
“In her defense, the guy is a total loser.”
“Look who’s talking, did you even bother to call that guy back about the copy-editing job?”
“Not yet. But it’s on my list of things to do.”
“Along with the dishes and the laundry and fixing that fucking toilet and paying all those parking tickets you got down in Santa Cruz and. . .”
“Wow, sweetness, why don’t you take it easy on me for once? After all, I did wake up at the crack of dawn to accompany you on this. . .”
“So fucking what! Do you want a gold medal for getting your lazy ass out of bed and driving me to this hellhole so that these pissants can remove any last shred of dignity and self-respect that my shriveled body still possesses?”
“Aren’t we being a bit melodramatic?”
“Fuck you, cockhole!”
“All I’m saying is that every time we have one of these tests you freak out and act like it’s the end of the world.”
“You have absolutely no idea what you’re talking about, do you?”
“I beg to differ, sweetness. After all we’ve been through, I think I kinda know how your mind works by now. And I’m pretty sure that even the smallest possibility of having to endure more treatment is rather. . .”
“See, there you go again, telling me what I think. Jesus Christ, you’re such a fucking man! Always trying to control the narrative. I’m not scared of this stupid test. Not in the slightest. I already have cancer, so how much worse can it get?”
“That’s exactly what I’m saying. So what if there’s something more going on here? Worse comes to worst, you do a couple more rounds of chemo and have a few extra shots of radiation. Sure, you may vomit a bit and lose some more weight from the diarrhea. And perhaps your hair doesn’t come back until next year. Who fucking cares? We still have each other. We’ll make it through this shit just like we made it through. . .”
“What’s this we shit? I mean, what the hell do you have to do?”
“Shit, sweetness, I love you to death and everything. Honestly, I do. But you’re starting to sound like a broken record.”
“Yeah, well, you sound like an inbred parrot all hepped up on goofballs.”
“A rather bitchy broken record, I might add. I mean, look on the fucking bright side. More treatment means more of those amazing heroin lollipops.”
“You mean the Actiq?”
“Yeah, that stuff’s fucking-A brilliant! If the worst thing in the world is that we have to lick that shit and get high for another few months, I can live with that.”
“If I may be a bitchy broken record, I must – once again – point out that is pretty fucking easy for you to say since I was the one in excruciating pain while you were blissfully sucking down those putrid tasting lollipops. Which, by the way, are fentanyl, not heroin. You’d think, after all this time, you’d at least know your motherfucking opiates.”
“Really? It sure felt like heroin. And the only reason I was sucking on them lollies was because you were too chickenshit to try them at first. Even though Doctor Schwarzenbach assured us they were perfectly safe.”
“Yeah, well, you were clearly way too busy doing your dumbass crossword puzzles to notice all them articles in the paper about people dying from those fucked-up fentanyl patches. Anyway, what really pisses me off isn’t any of this bullshit medical drama, it’s the simple fact that my able-bodied husband can’t get off his ass and do the damned dishes so that – even though for once in my life I actually had somewhat of an appetite when I woke up – I didn’t have to waste all my energy washing a dirty bowl before I’m able to eat me some fucking nola!”
Just then, when it looked like my emaciated wife might just lunge at me and claw my eyes out with her brittle nails, the nurse finally called her name.
After breathing a temporary sigh of relief – I couldn’t stand having the same fight over and over – I soon found myself pondering the solution to the next clue in my puzzle: “Eden in a bottle.”
Studying the trio of women – silently twitching as they sipped coffee in solidarity – sitting next to me and the solitary guy with the pencil mustache staring blankly back at me from the other side of the claustrophobic room, I was glad to have something to occupy my mind as time passed like an octogenarian shuffling through Wal-Mart with a walker.
When the John Waters Doppelgänger was summoned into the anteroom, we all squirmed like fifth-graders watching a beloved classmate get called into the Principal’s Office. Right about the time I finished my puzzle and resigned myself to being the next poor bastard to be sent off to that purgatory, I was confronted with my wife’s scowling face.
“Fuck those motherfucking fuckers!”
“So what did they say?”
“Fucking asshole cunt dickwads!”
“Is it that bad?”
“Fuck, fuck, fuck, fuckedy, fuck, fuck, fuck. . .”
As she stormed past me – rattling off cuss words like some sort of beautiful sailor on shore leave – I pried the results out of her trembling hands and caught a glimpse of the single greatest word in the English language: “Benign.”
Beaming like a blind idiot on the drive home, naturally, I made numerous pathetic attempts at small talk.
“You know what I always liked about that show, Bewitched?”
“That it didn’t involve some obese cow tugging on your fucking cock and shoving it into an ice-cold machine and squishing the everliving shit of it?”
“Well, there’s that. And the fact that Samantha was like totally in charge of that family. As opposed to say, I Dream Of Jeannie, where Larry Hagman had this sexy genie in a bottle who was only there to cater to his every whim. I mean, you wanna talk about some sexist bullshit. . .”
“Do I even want to know how this brilliant thought snuck into your tiny cranium?”
“It was a crossword puzzle clue.”
“Of course, what else? God, you are such a fucking dolt! I really don’t know why I ever married you in the first place.”
As her overly harsh words dripped from her tongue, I twiddled with the car radio – searching for that one station, somewhere left of the dial, which would inevitably be playing our favorite song – until she burst into a monologue worthy of a Shakespearean superhero.
“I’m sorry, honeypot. I just hate these awful awful mammograms. The whole thing is just so humiliating. Every time I have one, I feel like I’ve never felt so low in my life. So inherently stupid. It’s as if once you enter that horrible room, your life is irrevocably altered. What could’ve been will never be and what will be is too terrifying to comprehend. And then – after they physically crush you – they hand you that flimsy piece of paper, stinking of carbon, and it simply tells you to do it all over again in a few months. . .”
Trailing off, she now rested her head on my bony shoulder and rubbed at her teary eyes.
“Seriously, sweetness, think about it. Both shows had a similar supernatural premise and were on TV basically during the same era. However, from a gender standpoint, you couldn’t get two more radically divergent takes on reality. I mean, Sam was the boss. Poor Darrin had no say in anything that happened at that charming little house on Morning Glory Drive. In fact, he was so inconsequential that he even disappeared for a while there and was eventually replaced. You wanna talk about female power . .”
“Their house was located at 1164 Morning Glory Circle. Also, did you know that Elizabeth Montgomery starred in a made-for-TV movie with O.J. Simpson called A Killing Affair?”
“Really? That’s hella fucked up.”
As I pulled onto our quiet street, I glanced over at my wife and desperately wanted to kiss her chapped lips.
Apparently, she had similar feelings as we were both nearly naked before I even managed to park the car.
Lying in bed an hour or so later – okay, maybe closer to an hour than so – she popped a lozenge into her mouth and purred: “Pain and pleasure are such peculiar emotions. On one hand, they’re obviously opposites. At the same time, it’s almost like they feed off each other in some sort of strange symbiotic manner. Like when I used to get those terrible terrible migraines and we’d be intimate. In comparison to the throbbing pain in my head, it would be like this rush of pure joy. It was just so refreshingly blissful. But then, immediately after we were done, the pain would come rushing back and it felt like a million times worse than before. Just cause it was like swinging from one extreme to the other. I imagine that’s kinda what a junkie goes through during withdrawal.”
“Yeah, sometimes I think about how right after Jordan pulled off his first three-peat, his dad got killed and it must’ve been like so much fucking harder to deal with the grief since he’d gone from such a high to such a low.”
“You know, honeypot, every time I start to think that you aren’t just some lame-ass guy, you say something about sports or sex that’s so unbelievably dude-like, I have to completely reassess my judgment.”
“Hey, wait a sec, you were the one talking about make-up sex.”
“No, I wasn’t! I was discussing the yin and yang of pain and pleasure and. . .”
“Whatever, sweetness, you were totally talking about make-up sex. It’s cool. I mean, make-up sex is like the best sex in the world. In some ways, it almost makes the worst fight in the world somehow worth it. Almost.”
“You mean like the one we had this morning about the stupid fucking dishes?”
“Oh, so that’s what that was all about? I thought you were just being a five-letter word for a female dog.”
“I’ll show you who’s a five-letter word for a female dog.”
As my ravishing wife swung at me playfully with a pillow covered in thin tufts of hair, I deftly rolled out of the way and slid on my soiled boxers.
“Honestly, sweetness, I believe in desperate acts and there’s really nothing more desperate than a messy post-fight hump. There’s just something so redemptive and satisfying about the whole process. In fact, and I might be going way out on limb here, but I wonder if the Jews would have been slightly more willing to endure – not tolerate, mind you – but endure the Holocaust if at the end of the war they knew that they’d be having some amazing make-up sex with the Germans.”
Searching for her jeans, my once-Orthodox wife’s seductive smile returned to a scowl.
“That’s so not fucking funny! How dare you even joke about something like that?”
“Take it easy, sweetness. I was just trying out a line from one of my new stories.”
“Yeah, well, the Reader’s Digest ain’t gonna publish any despicable shit like that.”
“You really think it’s in that poor of taste?”
“I think it’s in atrocious taste. Genocide is no joking matter, honeypot. It’s like a million poop jokes.”
“Only a million? Why not six?” I chortled like the fucking asshole that I am.
Not amused in the slightest, my bare-chested wife threw her shirt at me and hissed: “Fucking anti-Semite!”
“You mean, sexy anti-Semite, right?”
“No, I meant exactly what I said.”
“Okay, fine, you’re right, I’m wrong. As always. I admit it,” I stammered as I pulled her towards me. “Will you please just forgive me already?”
She put her clothes back on and screamed at me some more. Then I apologized. And then we got naked and did it all over again.