the doctor asks you to draw a clock.
you sit there helplessly, clutching the ballpoint pen as if it could be a lifesaver, a broken man at 35. the minutes pass like hours, the nurse’s encouraging smile becomes fixed plaster, and my heart is collapsing slowly inside this room. inside this room where we have sat for an hour every week. inside this room with its colorful diagrams of brain tissue and lurid plastic models. inside this room where your medical chart presides like a long-term resident, swelling up with eulogies for your memories.
inside this room, you raise your hand hesitantly to paper.
you draw eight small circles and stop.
we drive home, unspeaking, your fingers fumbling for mine at traffic lights and i am blinking away tears- pretending to be interested in suburban landscape and passing cars. my voice breaks an octave higher when i tell you that you’re better, that you’re stronger, that this round of medication will make the difference.
as i pull into the driveway of our house, you look at me in polite puzzlement. you ask me where we are going.
and for a moment i want to remind you that we are back to this little piece of property we bought 8 years ago, when i was still in grad school and you were starting at the law firm. and i want to remind you about the picture we took by the mailbox with your arms clasped around my waist, and i am wearing that ludicrous salmon-colored halter dress that i thought looked vintage and quirky. and i want to remind you of the thrift shop i found the dress in, during our cross-country road trip in your dad’s old ford focus, in that dead strip mall in kansas. and i want to remind you of the first time we fucked in that car, during that sweltering july evening when all our friends were too drunk in julie’s hot tub to realize the two of us had slipped away. and i want to remind you of that other summer night the previous year, when we stood alone in that dog park behind my old apartment and kissed beneath the brightest moon i had ever seen. and you told me you would remember that moment for the rest of your life.
and if of all the ways to lose a person, death is the kindest- then i know that this is the cruelest trick ever designed. watching you misplace your things, your thoughts, yourself, in slow agonizing layers. and the doctor tells me to be strong for you, and my family tells me to be positive for you, and i tell myself that all the neural degeneration in the world cannot take the memories of our love away. but the light of recognition is fading from your eyes, and here in this driveway you stand awkwardly apart from me- a stranger and her husband.
and i say, “honey, we’re home.”