I stared at him, thinking he had made a mistake. That I had made a mistake. I went back through the cards. No mistake.
I couldn’t face him, so I looked out the window at the sun until my eyes hurt. Then I stood up, my back to him. You know, it’s all a hypothetical until it happens to you.
I remember where we were. Exactly. Precisely. Sitting in a restaurant in L.A., and Christopher Reeve was two tables over in a giant wheelchair with all this apparatus, looking more like a Transformer than a person.
“If that ever happens to me,” Micah said. “Kill me.”
“Me, too,” I said, watching someone spoon-feed Superman. I lifted my glass of merlot. “Just put a pillow over my head.”
Later that night, after we made love in our hotel, he spooned around me and whispered in my ear. “I mean it.”
“If we couldn’t do this . . . if I ended up like that, kill me. Make me a promise.”
“I promise,” I whispered. Like promising you will love someone forever, you mean it at the time. I did.
He couldn’t hold me to it. Simple. He couldn’t hold me to a promise. I spun around. “No. I won’t. I can’t. I love you.”
I pulled the chair closer to his bed and sat down. “You’re still here. You can still communicate.”
His eyes drifted to the cards. His face twitched.
I leaned close to him and put my lips to his forehead, letting my tongue trace its way to his black curls. The curls I twined around my fingers. The curls that made me tremble the first time we did it, falling to the floor and tearing off each other’s clothes in a scene that now made me wake up sobbing with the memory.
He could feel my tongue on his forehead. I tried to pretend that was enough, licking the saltiness. Tasting him.
“Why now?” I wanted him to tell me.
He spelled it out.
“Look behind you.”
I turned around. What? What the hell was I looking for that would mean it was time to kill him? Time to die. A picture on the wall of us. The window. What?
And then I saw them.
Spiders. Spinning a web in the corner of the window.
Screaming, I tore at them, killed them one at a time, smashing their guts onto the window panes with my bare hands, shrieking at them. “Get away!”
I faced Micah, sobbing. “Did they . . . climb on you?”
“Well, that’s not good enough, Micah.” I stared down at my palms covered in insect guts and blood. “Not a good enough reason.”
I refused to hold up the cards. Sun set. The room grew dark. I could hear the oxygen filling his lungs, this dependency that would never, ever, ever get better.
Finally, I switched on the light. I stroked his forehead, his face. I placed my tongue next to his eyes and flicked sensuously, begging him. “Please . . . Micah.”
I knew better to argue with him when he was able-bodied. That he hadn’t been able to move anything but his eyelids for a year shouldn’t have mattered.
I held up the cards.
Please, Baby. There will always be spiders.