ERNIE AND ERNESTINA: Searching

David delivers mail to my building. In our occasional talks in the mail room or by his mail truck, I’ve come to realize he’s a wise man.

“I don’t like anything to fester in my heart,” he says to me today. “Any little thing that bothers me, I tell my wife. She wonders why I bring up all these little things, but I don’t want the little things to get any bigger.”

I remember when Ernie brought up a grievance long festering in his heart. I was vacuuming the tribal rug. He stood not five feet away, framed in the kitchen’s doorway holding a cup of tea he’d just fixed. “You’re a heart-hearted shrew,” he said.

I looked up. He was glaring at me. His look spoke far louder than his voice. I didn’t respond to him. The roar of the vacuum cleaner went on as he passed me and headed to the bedroom.

But now, I’d do this.

I turn off the vacuum cleaner. I say: “You’re angry with me. What’s wrong, Ernie?”

“I’m scared.”

“Of what?”

“That you don’t love me. That I’m dying. That no one cares that I’m dying. That I can’t stop it from happening. I’m pissing blood, and that scares me. I awake in the middle of the night from my recurrent nightmare that I’m dead. Once I dreamed that my father and my two uncles, all in black suits, were coming toward me, holding out their hands to me. I don’t want to go to them. I don’t want them to touch me.”

“Oh, Ernie, what can we do?”

“Blood in my piss is not normal. I think the bladder cancer’s back, but I’ve been too scared to even say the word.”

“Cancer! Cancer! Cancer! There, I’ve said it. I’ve screamed it. Now what?”

“I’m sorry I called you a hard-hearted shrew. Maybe you do love me, Ernestina. Maybe you really do want me to stick around.”

“Oh, Ernie, you don’t know how I feel about you because we don’t talk about that kind of thing. Maybe I don’t even know how I feel about you.”

But I do now.

And it’s too late for whatever I feel to help Ernie.

--

--

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store
Ernestina

Ernestina

My writer husband’s favorite nickname for me was Ernestina, so in this 3-book memoir, he is Ernie. This is his story, our story, and my story. I invite you in.