It is Holy Week, Maundy Thursday to be exact, and I am standing in line at Target waiting to pay for Sulfamethoxazole. I have some sort of infection that started in my nose, spread to my sinuses, and, worst, has manifested itself on my hands: little round bumps that itch and fester. They’re disgusting. I’m disgusting. I’m certain that if this were medieval times, I’d be put to death due to my condition.
I have no plan to take my medicine. I’m going to tell you it’s because of the side effects. I’m going to tell you that after reading every word of the document attached to the red pill container, I have decided I will surely die if I swallow these pills. It’s what I tell my husband, Jesse, while I’m waiting to pay for the medicine I have no intention of taking.
“I got it,” I text him, “but there’s no way I’m taking it.”
“Callie,” he begins and I can see from the little moving bubbles on my phone there’s more coming but I cut him off.
“You wanna know what I could die from? Diarrhea! I’m not dying from diarrhea!!!”
He doesn’t text back. He knows I’ll pay for the medicine. He knows I’ll bring it home, unfold the side effects document, flatten it on our bathroom counter, and place the corresponding pills on top. He knows I’ll be frantic. He knows that I will be so afraid that I’ll go for a run.
Jesse knows that I am grieving, or that I don’t know how to grieve. Maybe it’s that I refuse to grieve. He knows my pills are a scapegoat for a deeper fear, an unquenchable sorrow, a gaping loss. Almost eight years ago, my Aunt Lucy died. She went to the doctor thinking she needed gall bladder surgery and it turned out that she had pancreatic cancer. She was dead two months after that; about ten days before my daughter Harper was born.
I think I probably worshipped Lucy. I know that since I was a kid I wanted to be like her. She was fierce and she was fancy. Once, I saw her kick a garbage can over in a spaghetti strapped silk midnight blue gown and I thought, “I want to be exactly like that.”
I loved her style. I loved how she decorated. I loved her laugh. I loved that she blasted Jim Croce throughout her home so that my cousin Tara and I rocked our baby dolls to, “You Don’t Mess Around With Jim.”
You don’t tug on Superman’s cape. You don’t spit into the wind. You don’t pull the mask off that ol’ Lone Ranger and you don’t mess around with Jim.” Lucy was Superman. Lucy was the Lone Ranger. Lucy was Jim. You didn’t mess with Lucy.
On Easter Sunday, I learn that Mary Magdalene and Mary ran, too. They came to the tomb and an angel told them He was gone. “Trembling and bewildered…the women left because they were afraid.” (Mark 16:8)
I still haven’t taken my medicine and I have Band-Aids around my fingers to cover up my marks. I’m pretty sure I have a fever. The sinuses under my eyes are throbbing. But when I get home, I will run. I will take off my heels, and unzip my blue dress that my older daughter Hadley gave me for Christmas. I will pull on shorts, and a tank top. I will lace up my shoes—carefully because I don’t want to hurt my fingers. I will put on my Calvin baseball cap and pull the bill low. I will run until I cry. It will take about twenty-five minutes.
On Easter, I imagine myself running with the Marys, and I imagine Jesus and Lucy watching us. I begin a conversation with these women:
“Hey, Mary and Mary, Jesus and Aunt Lucy want us to be still and know.”
“Yeah,” says Mary Magdelene, “forget that.”
“I’ve been still. I know too much,” the other Mary says.
“So let’s keep running,” I say.
I round the corner towards home but decide to go further; me and my imaginary friends. We run and we cry because we lost somebody we love and we don’t know what to do now.
On Easter Monday, in the middle of the night, pain from my right index finger wakes me up. The infection has gone underneath my nail bed, swelling my finger to the width of a hot dog.
“Jesse,” I whisper frantically. He rolls over.
“My finger,” I say and he puts his hand over his eyes for a second, then pulls himself to a sitting position. He takes my hand and turns it over, examining it. He gets out of bed, and walks to the bathroom. I hear him filling a glass of water and then opening the medicine cabinet. I hear the pills shake in their red bottle.
Jesse walks back to bed, hands me the water, opens the bottle and spills a pill onto his palm. He gives me the pill and I take it.
“I don’t want to die,” I say and begin to cry.
“I know,” he says.
“I don’t want Lucy to be dead,” I whimper after I’ve swallowed the pill.
“I know,” Jesse says, and walks to his side of the bed while I drink the rest of my water.
I lay down and begin to position myself as I usually sleep, arms folded and clenched to my side, hands in fists. But I can’t bend my right index finger, so I turn over onto my back and open my palm so it’s facing the ceiling. I hate just lying here. I hate being still. I begin to move my right foot from side to side.
Jesse takes my hand. “It’s okay to live. It’s okay to see what happens.” I fold my three working fingers around his.
“Sometimes I’m afraid to see what happens,” I tell him.
“You don’t have to be afraid.”
It is the last thing he says before we fall back to sleep.