I am not one to talk about awareness. Not when I am surprised every mid-April to learn income taxes are due. But I do have moments of lucidity when something rivets my attention. The threat of imminent death, for example. Or immanent sex. Sometimes, too, quiet moments of reflection heighten my awareness.
Small wonder, then, that I was feeling especially aware this past Thursday while sitting in the hospital waiting room outside the cardiologist’s office alongside the sexiest man I know.
Two weeks ago, on the day my husband Dave retired after 24 years at this same hospital, he went to see his doctor about recurrent chest pain. A treadmill stress test uncovered some abnormality. He was referred to this cardiologist. He was told to arrive 20 minutes before the appointment to fill out paperwork.
I took the afternoon off work so I could accompany him. I was late. Dave already had the pickup running when I pulled in the drive. I jumped in and we sped off, sped down the country roads, silence heavy between us.
We arrive at the office only three minutes late. I breathe a sigh of relief. The “paperwork” amounts to three questions the receptionist puts to him in rapid succession. I’m not listening. My eyes are on the man next to us. Slim-bodied and a little shorter than Dave’s 5'-7", thick silver hair cascades over his shoulders and part way down his back. He wears a long-sleeved pink dress shirt and jeans, huge belt buckle, shoes of Italian leather. I keep looking at him, stealing glances. As we seat ourselves in the waiting room for nearly an hour-long wait, I ask Dave, “Do you think that man is gay?”
He knows who I’m talking about. “The man at the counter? What makes you think so?”
“He’s violating social expectaions.”
“He has long long hair. He’s slim and trim. He was telling the receptionist he watches what he eats. He’s wearing pink.”
“Hmm.” Unlike me, Dave is slow to leap to conclusions about people’s sexual orientation.
“This is Indiana,” I say. “Chances are good.”
Silence. Then I stare at my husband.
“What,” he says. He knows I’m up to something.
“Want to break some social expectations?”
“You already are,” I say. “You’re sitting too close to another man. You’re thin. You take care of yourself. You look years younger than your actual age. But I could help you bust a few more.”
He gives me a look.
“Bob Wallace?” A woman’s voice. The man in a wheelchair near us jerks his head up. His daughter has stepped out for a moment, however, and isn’t here to push his wheelchair. The nurse tells him she’ll call him again in a few minutes. She does. Daughter has yet to return. More waiting. Third time’s the charm for Bob.
I’m about to pick up an issue of Angina, sole magazine in the wall rack, when Dave’s name is called.
All the cardiologists here are top-notch. Asked which one he preferred, Dave chose the cutest of the bunch. He has good taste in men, my husband. This doctor has a full head of close-cropped dark hair shading to gray, gray-blue eyes, dark eyebrows, a classic profile, compact muscled body.
Doesn’t hurt that he delivers good news. The abnormality in the stress test probably indicates nothing. Dave has none of the risk factors for coronary heart disease, except that he is male and over 50. The physician recommends a low-level dosage of medication to regulate blood pressure, keep the heart from beating too fast.
“Come see me again in a month.”
+ + +
Our mood is upbeat as we leave the hospital to run errands en route home. First stop, the expensive grocery store for a few items the cut-rate shop doesn’t carry. Whilst I flip thru a magazine on raising chickens, Dave leafs through a photo collection of the royal wedding. How very gay we are, I think. Here I am looking at cocks while he’s checking out the queens.
Several minutes later Dave gives me a guilty glance. “I know I’m taking a lot of time,” he says, “but I’m enjoying this.”
I tell him not to hurry. I am aware of how little time we have together, any of us, how sweet our shared moments. Attentiveness offers this gift: it reveals the wonder in the everyday.
As we pull out of the parking lot Dave thumps the steering wheel, “Man, I like living with you!”
“And I with you.” I reach over and lay my hand on his thigh. Warm sunshine glints through the open window. A small black jumping spider edges along the windshield wiper. A nearby cardinal sings, “Pretty, pretty, pretty, pretty, pretty, pretty, pretty, pretty!”
An edited version of this essay appeared in the July issue of the Community Letter.