The Quiet

by Cara Long Read author interview March 25, 2013

John cannot help but think about her, even if he isn’t entirely enjoying doing so. He is at the hospital sitting with his mother—at her bedside even—watching her die by inches, and still, still, he thinks about her. The room is silent, save for the occasional sigh or moan from his mother. Most times, he does not even know if she is awake or asleep because she keeps her eyes closed a lot now.

John’s mother moans and he adjusts the pillows for her. The nurse, he knows, will pop in to check on her soon. He tries to think of which nurse it will be. He looks at the schedule written on the board in his mother’s room: Malcolm. Yes, he thinks, Malcolm will be in soon. John gazes out his mother’s window at the parking garage. There isn’t much to see, save for the dingy gray garage and a few cars pulling in and out of it. He lets his mind wander back to his ex-wife. The last time he saw her it was June. He had to go to the house to collect some things and when he rang the bell she didn’t answer. He remembers being annoyed by this. He had to call her from the front stoop.

“I’m in the back, sorry” she said. “I got a pool!”

When she answered the door she was toweling her hair, which he felt was an unnecessary thing to do as it wasn’t really that wet.

“Do you want to see it?” she asked him of the pool, after she had let him inside.

“When did you get a pool?” was all he said in return.

“I got an above-ground one,” she said. “A few weeks ago. I love it!”

“No,” he said. “I don’t want to see the pool.”

John retrieved his belongings while his wife went back outside. When he left, he did not even pop his head out to say good-bye—that’s how much he did not want to see her pool.

John’s mother does not know that he and his wife have separated, though to everyone else he began referring to her as his ex-wife right away. “No chance for reconciliation,” he told his friends. “Should have never gotten married,” he added. John had been sleeping with another woman for months before his marriage ended anyhow. But it was his ex-wife, Lorna, who initiated the divorce. He was eating cereal alone at the kitchen table one morning when his phone rang. He picked it up and heard Lorna say: “Hi John. I’m just on my way to work and…” she trailed off for a bit. “And I’m not coming home this weekend.”

There was a pause. The pause was so long he removed his phone from his ear to see if the call had dropped. Then he heard her muffled voice say: “I want a divorce, John.”

He remembers that he put his spoonful of cereal back into the bowl when she said this.

“Yeah,” he responded flatly. “Give me two weeks to get my stuff out, ok?” He can’t remember if he was surprised or not, but now he thinks he must have been. At least a little.

Two weeks later, he was in an apartment. His relationship with the other woman fizzled shortly thereafter. Now, three months later, his mother lies dying in a hospital room and his ex-wife is closing up her pool. That was life he supposed.

After his mother was moved into hospice, he asked Lorna if she would drop by to see her. John also asked her not to mention anything about the separation (he couldn’t bring himself to tell his mother because she’d been so sick and she adored Lorna) and Lorna had agreed to stop by and stay mum.

He shifts in his seat and looks at his watch: 5:45. Lorna is coming around 6. He turns on the TV and stares at it, not caring what’s on. Out in the hallway, he hears rustling bags and knows instantly that it’s Lorna. She tries to enter the room quietly, but quiet escapes her. Lorna is always bustling and rustling and clicking and ringing. Her energy can consume a room. She tiptoes in and waves hello to him, before running into a chair, which scrapes along the floor. His mother lets out a soft groan. John stands to help Lorna with her bags and she kisses him on the cheek. Once her hands are free, she moves the chair she bumped next to his mother’s bed and sits down. She takes his mother’s hand in hers and whispers “Hi Maggie. It’s Lorna. I’m sorry I haven’t been to see you sooner.”

John’s mother briefly opens her eyes and faintly smiles. Lorna sits with her, holding and stroking her hand for almost an hour. Malcolm pops in—asks John if his mother has been up, if she’s in any pain, etc. Malcolm then loads more medicine into Maggie’s IV. Lorna smiles at Malcolm and he smiles back at her. She stands up to leave shortly after Malcolm finishes up with John’s mother. Lorna tells John that she brought him Chinese food from his favorite restaurant. He says “thank you” and he means it.

Lorna hugs him and when she does so he can smell her hair, which to him smells like wind and salt and soap. For the first time, he feels how much he’s going to miss her and he feels it with his whole body. Lorna pulls away from him, tells him to keep her updated on Maggie’s condition and if he needs anything, anything at all … then she bustles out of the room. John returns to his chair. He tries to see if he can see Lorna’s car pull out of the parking garage, but it’s gotten too dark outside. Instead, he pulls the curtain closed and sits back down by his mother, waiting for the quiet to envelope him.

About the Author:

Cara Long lives in New York State, though not New York City. She is very open to change right now.

About the Artist:

Jorge Gobbi has a major in communication sciences at Universidad de Buenos Aires, Argentina, where he also teaches. He is in charge of the seminar "Communication, travel and social representations," a course from the Communication Sciences career, and he is also Stella Martini's teaching assistant in the subject Theory and Practices of Communication II. This photo is via the Flickr Creative Commons. More of Gobbi's photography can be found at www.blogdeviajes.com.ar.