This is really just a one off. I rarely share my work, so I'm a little intimidated :>
The lights dimmed as the subway car entered the tunnel.
It was cold. So cold you could see your breath, so cold your cheeks were rosey and your eyes watered.
The car was all but empty. They sat at the end, she holding on to him as if by letting him go she’d never get him back. She counted her breathes, timed them so that they’d breathe together, a Herculian effort, given her sobbing.
He sat blank-faced, staring straight ahead, watching the subway walls. “They should clean off those walls” he thought to himself “start off fresh.”
“How could this have happened to us?” she choked out, between tears and waves of self pity, “we’ve been good people. And why didn’t the doctors find this earlier?”
“I don’t know” he replied, thinking about how difficult it would be to clean the subway walls.
“You’ll have to miss work for treatments. You can’t be expected to go and-“
“I know” Perhaps they’d just have to remove chunks. Perhaps the graffiti was too big to just be washed off.
“What took them so long to find this? Why is this-“
“I don’t know”. The truth was, he had known for a while. When you’re dying, they tell you. And he wasn’t afraid.
“I think we should talk to my brother. He’s a lawyer. They should have-“
“No.” It was his business. It was happening to him. How could this happen to me, he corrected.
“But we could have done something if it wasn’t fo-“
“I’m not suing them.” What he disliked most about this was how it was all about her. She wasn’t the one walking around with a malicious whatever. She wasn’t the one who would lose their hair and with it the respect of his peers and community, to be replaced with pity as ‘oh, look at that poor man.’
She squeezed his hand. “At least think about it, ok?”
They sat in silence. She breathed hard, as if to catch up with him.
“When can they schedule you for treatments?”
“I don’t know.” And he didn’t want to. Why would he? Tens of thousands of dollars in debt are no inheritance.
“I’ll call them when we get home.” She seemed to comfort herself with this. A restoration of order, back to the henpecking.
“I can handle it.” Why would she? So she feels as if she’s doing something?
Her grip on him grew a little looser. It didn’t really bother him though. The car was warm enough, he didn’t need her added heat.
“I love you”
They sat in silence. Lights flicked through the windows of the subway car. She stopped crying.
“You know I’m here for you if you need me, right?”
He stared at the graffiti on the walls. What did it mean to her?
He slipped loose of her, still quietly sitting.
She breathed, then he.