By Karen Mandell
I bring my husband’s plate to the sink. He’s left half his bagel and his lox, the whitefish at $5.99 a pound. I wrap plastic over the plate and put it in the fridge. If he doesn’t eat it later, I’ll have to. He says his appetite is down.
Now he’s in the bedroom putting on his new walking shoes. This is what comes from going to the doctor for a check-up. And it was my idea. But I didn’t think he’d turn into a fanatic just because his blood pressure is high. The doctor says get out, exercise. Otherwise…I hear all this because I march right into the doctor’s office.
Sam is all right up to the point where the doctor switches to his low, gravelly tone. I expected the doctor to say eat more salad, lay off the beer. Not you’re killing yourself, buddy. The message under the message.
When Sam comes out of the bedroom, he’s got his Dolphins cap on, a T-shirt, Bermuda shorts, and walking shoes laced up with a double knot. He looks all feet, his shoes still white and spiffy, though he’s clocked god knows how many miles on them. Three weeks now.
I walk out with him. I have my book and towel in the canvas bag I bought the day Sam got his shoes. If I sit at the pool for a while, I’ll catch him on his way back. We’ll go home together. I’ll cut us up some watermelon and cantaloupe. It’ll taste good after being out in that sun.
At the pool, I sit facing the street. I see him when he’s a block away. He moves slow but steady, like a tank. He drove one in Iraq. Still has bad dreams about it. Fear’s coming back to him, he says. I don’t like that.
Picking up my bag, I walk toward him. “Sam,” I say. “Enough walking. Let’s go up.”
He doesn’t look at me. He moves his arms up, down, like pistons, and walks past. He’s gone half a block before I can even think of what to do.