ERNIE AND ERNESTINA: The Writer, His Wife, and their Afterlife
Book One, Part Two, Chapter Two: A Dead Living Person
Four years ago, you said: “I don’t feel like fighting anymore, and that’s not a good thing.”
Three years ago, you said: “I’m okay in the head but not in the body.”
Two years ago, you said: “I don’t have much time left, and I don’t want to spend it doing what I don’t want to do.”
One year ago, you said: “It feels like a rod in my penis.”
Six months ago, you said: “I hurt. I feel bruised all over.” Then you said: “If I had the courage, I would put a gun to my head.”
Five months ago, to a visiting nurse, you said: “If I had a gun, I would kill myself.” The visiting nurse said to you: “You just said you want to kill yourself. I have to call EMS.” I say to the visiting nurse: “Oh, Ernie says that all the time. I don’t pay any attention to it.” She looks at me in disbelief.
Four months ago, in your room at the rehab center, your bed near the window, Joshua and I across the room from you and sprawled at opposite ends of a twin bed, you say to me: “I know I shouldn’t feel abandoned, but I do. Come closer.” I pull up a chair next to your bed. I sit in it. I don’t take your hand. I don’t talk of your feeling abandoned. I don’t know to talk of such things. I don’t feel them.
Weeks later, lying in your hospital bed, looking up at the nurses and aides surrounding you, you say: “I need help. Won’t someone help me?” Then you say: “What I need, you can’t give me.”
Before the chemo starts, you say to me: “I think you’re going to save me.” When the chemo makes you even sicker and inflates your body so that even your fingers no longer look like your fingers, and we stop the chemo, you say: “Don’t give up on me, Ernestina.”
Oh, Ernie, you turned to me for help, and I let you down. I broke trust. I am brought to the lowest point in my life. I am a dead living person.
All my life, I have been a living dead person. Now, I am a dead living person.