Shishir (Winter) 2019, Short Stories - Riquelmy Sosa




By Riquelmy Sosa


From the weight of the Newport box, I realized I must have been sitting on the toilet for hours or even worse, I might have smoked half a pack in mere minutes, making my way to cancer a bit more of a sure thing. Visiting hours at the hospital already started and this was probably not the best time for me to live up to my habitual lateness.


I signaled my legs to move but my brain stopped on the frame of him slouched on the couch, half-awake, drenched in sweat, as if he just took a dip in the Hudson River, begging me with his eyes to make him feel alive. I froze in that moment; unsure of whether to grab the glucose machine, the insulin or to call for an ambulance that in our neighborhood would arrive as he reached the pearly gates.


I continued my conversation with the droplets falling down the travertine tiles in the shower and waited for their answer on how to help someone recover the joy of a body that has been pushed too far away. I noticed they were swelling from too much moisture and reminded myself to never let him in again on household stuff. I wanted porcelain and I was right. Finally, I jerked up and began to get dressed.


I tried to rush but I could not decide what to wear. I didn’t want to look too festive or too somber. I compromised–-red turtleneck, black jeans, low-heeled boots. I grabbed his overnight bag, carefully packed it with two of everything, and slung it over my shoulders. I slammed the door behind me forgetting that I had come home to clean the vomit and do a little laundry. Too late to turn back, I sped walked down the steps, tripped over a few, and felt the cold breeze slam against my cheeks.

At the 99¢ store on the corner, I bought a mix of balloons, more happy birthdays than get well soons, a handful of birthday banners, red paper plates and napkins, and a birthday card: We are two souls, one heart. I love you deeply and forever. Happy Birthday, my love! I walked into the Baskin Robbins next door to grab a small cake but the cashier told me I had to pre-order at least five days in advance.


I explained that this was an unusual situation, that no one could be quite sure of the precision of impending death, but she would not budge, “miss, all of our cakes are accounted for, I’m sorry there is nothing else I can do.” She was ten seconds away from becoming the undeserving placeholder for my anger but I decided against the argument; I had to get to the hospital.


I drove to three other shops across Manhattan hoping that someone had forgotten a birthday, before it hit me: of the thirty-one Baskin Robbins flavors, I did not know which one my husband would prefer; I left the last shop with a red velvet ice cream cake.


Standing at the doorway of his hospital room, I sported the biggest smile. I was determined to make him forget that he was spending his birthday in a discolored blue gown that barely covered his six foot frame, lying down on a hospital bed with a flimsy mattress and shabby sheets, and chained to more cables than suspended from the Brooklyn Bridge. He, on the other hand, was ready for war.

“I don’t want a birthday cake,” he said.


“Dr. Sulman said a small piece is fine,” I assured him.


I laid it on the table next to half-eaten snow peas, watery mashed potatoes, and baked chicken that I would have betted my life savings was raw. “I was going to make you lunch but I didn’t want to come too late.” He began to untangle some of the wires and asked if I had walked the dog. I began to explain that I was rushing, that…but he interrupted me, hissed like a python surveying his prey, and made his way to the bathroom.


While he was in there, I thought it best to untie the balloons and spread them to complement the birthday decorations I had affixed to the walls. He returned and I could not pinpoint his thoughts from his expression.


“My mom and brother are coming over,” I informed him with a smile. “Jesenia, Samantha, and Tia Amantina are going to try and make it. I couldn’t reach Edwin but I’m sure he’ll be here with Rob. Your parents will be here around 4 p.m.”


Sitting on the edge of the bed, he asked, “Are you serious?! I swear you only think of yourself. But you don’t get it.” I glanced at the morphine drip attached to his I.V. convinced that it was the source of his delirium. He continued, quite clearly, “You don’t stop and consider me. But you always expect the opposite of me. I don’t want any of this.” I held back all of the jerks, asshole, and awful phrases swirling on my tongue and told him that I disagreed.


“Just today,” I said. “All I did was think of you and making sure you had a good birthday in spite of all this crap.”


“No, you did not,” he sneered. “It’s just easier not to argue with you.” The nurse walked in with his insulin shot. I got up and left. As I walked down the corridor, I heard him ask her if he could do it himself.


I leaned on the side entrance to the hospital staring at the raindrops bouncing off the pavement. I lit a cigarette and cried. Sure, I make most decisions. But I am not selfish. How many hours do I spend doing research trying to fulfill the wish for him to eat without constant measures, with no worries – simple indulgence without regret? I am always on the edge of hope for him to wake up any given day cured – no more syringes, machines, strips, insulin.


No sugar highs, no lows. I’m not controlling – obsessive and compulsive, maybe. My phone halted my racing thoughts. It kept making a sound. I found it at the bottom of my purse on top of the birthday card. I read the text twice: I’m sorry for being ungrateful. I love you. We both knew I was going back home. I started walking down the street towards our car. Halfway there, I stepped into the revolving doors at the main entrance and called for the elevator to take me back up.


Riquelmy Sosa is a Dominican-American writer born and raised in New York City. Her writing explores coming of age in an urban jungle and navigating cultural identities, as well as the themes of home and love. From an early age, she began working on social issues in her community and uses her passion for writing as a catalyst for change. She is a healthcare executive and is currently working on a short story collection


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