Excerpt 2 from What Remains:
Barbara’s breathing slows and softens. She slips into the deep sleep I want for myself. I do not follow her, adjusting and readjusting, trying not to wake her. I am desperate for the energy morning will demand. I cannot fall asleep.
Is this fear or excitement? Probably a little of both.
I am good at fear, something I learned back in the neighborhood. In those days size was everything, in my case a lack of it. Being a runt did not play well in our working-class confines, on the playground early, the basketball court or football field later. Most of all on the streets or down the back alleys where my younger brother had an uncanny knack for starting fights I felt obliged to finish. Finish was often a two-fisted whaling I would pronounce a victory if my tormentor, tired of pounding me, threw up his hands and walked away. By the time a growth spurt leveled the playing field at sixteen, an underdog mindset was in place, both grit and hesitation.
My only opponent these days is a mulish resistance to aging, the face in the mirror when I ease out of bed and into the bathroom.
“Not looking so good, Johnny boy,” a lame attempt to make light of weariness.
I am too exhausted to answer, also wide awake. I open the medicine cabinet and reach for the Tums. My stomach is acidy with anticipation.
I close the medicine cabinet and glance back in the mirror.
“Sure you’re up to it, Bozo?”
The last couple of years have taken a toll. I have a vague but growing sense of vulnerability in spite of daily exercise and a long walk most evenings. Back spasms can sideline me for days on end if I overdo log stacking or most anything else. The blood thinners that ease the ache in my heart turn shaving cuts into exercises in patience and compression, and elevate the danger of bleeding out if the chainsaw gets away from me. Hesitation is creeping back into my life, invading my lifelong and admittedly adolescent “can do” outlook. It’s hard to deny, especially tonight, a few hours before hitting the road.
What Remains, page #3