“Letting Go is Giving Up”
Short Story by Jeff Hill
It’s funny. Remember what you told me when you were first diagnosed? You told me not to worry. Not to try. Just to enjoy what time you had left. But I’d wasted my whole life on me, and it was time to start living it. For you. With you.
And that’s why I did all of this. For you. For us.
You see, before I met you, I had one thing going for me. I was good at my job. But you? You have so much to offer. You always have. Not only are you the one woman to make me rethink my life, but you’re the most beautiful person I’ve ever known. Inside and out. You’d walk into the room, even in your most fragile of days, and the light would surround you. No. Not surround. It was you. You were the light.
“Boss, you want me to give you a minute? I mean, alone?”
“You’re fine right where you are, Sal. She doesn’t mind. Not one bit.”
Do you, baby? Of course you don’t. You never do. You always just let people do whatever makes them happiest. Well, I’ll tell you. I was just about as happy as I could possibly be the night I met you. You remember. I know you do. But that memory is for us and us alone. Even Sal doesn’t know how we met. And he knows everything.
He’s the most noble of my cause. He’s been with us from the beginning, and here he is, still with us both, at what you would say was the end. You know, it’s funny. I never believed in any of this crap when you were actively pursuing and willing to believe in all of it.
Like when we went to see that old voodoo priestess over in New Orleans. I wanted her to prove it. I wanted her to hex an enemy of mine, cast spells on him and try to put a disease into him or something. “Doesn’t work that way,” he’d said. You told me to stop being rude. You told me it wasn’t magic. It wasn’t a trick. It was real.
But after the diagnosis, or as everyone but Sal and I called it, the death sentence, you seemed to have simply lost interest in finding any magic in the world. I did all of this for you. All of these trips, you just wanted to relax. And enjoy the beauty. But you know what, baby? Without you here, there wouldn’t be any beauty. So forgive me, and I know you will, for being a bit of an asshole on all of our trips.
We traveled the globe. You saw the sights. Sal hassled the thugs at the doors. And I spent every waking moment looking for a cure. First we went to Dragon Cave in Thailand, to study and pray and seek inner altruism with Buddhist monks. I tried to pay them, but they said that it was free, which was a load of crap because then they said that it wouldn’t work because of the evil spirits that followed me on my voyage. And before I could say that I had nothing to do with it, the head monk told me that you, my wife, were just as much to blame. Your willingness to look the other way, or some bullshit.
So we kept searching. Kept spending. Kept wasting. Stonehenge, England, in search of the otherworldly stones, trying to contact alien life forms for a cure. Milk River Bath, Jamaica, swimming with the minerals and spirits of escaped slaves for a cure. Sedona, Arizona, going on a Native American vision quest in the middle of nowhere for a cure. And the results were always the same. Indians are just a bunch of drunks and hippy potheads. You can’t even pee in the water or something would crawl up the stream and stay there. And aliens don’t exist.
The day of our wedding, we consummated our marriage and found out that it didn’t matter how much I loved you or how much you cared for me. We would not produce a child. No matter how we tried, how much we wanted it, we simply couldn’t. But we never stopped trying. You went to church to ask. I went to doctors to demand. And no god or man could help us. But we were happy, in our own way. We still had each other. Until the death sentence.
We traveled. We struggled. You believed, and I wanted to, but never really did. Blarney Castle, Ireland, to kiss the Blarney Stone for a cure. The White House, Washington D. C., to blackmail ourselves into the President’s oval office and look for the secrets of the virus in the journals of the Freemasons for a cure. Wishing Bridge, Switzerland, to make a wish after dropping a dime or something of importance into the water below for a cure. I wrote a blank check for a quarter of a mil with no results. The President outed his only son himself rather than reveal his involvement in the outbreak. And luck doesn’t exist.
When you started to show, you had to leave your job. Then you had to stop hosting the weekly parties. Then you asked me to change. At first, I thought you meant you wanted me around more. You wanted me to quit my job. But, like I said before, my job was all I was ever good at. My job is my life. But I was wrong. I should have left the mob when you begged me. I should have left when I realized that you were my life. Always had been. Always will be.
But I didn’t. I kept pulling strings and doing business all over the globe, all the while searching for something that you didn’t even want. Mecca, Saudi Arabia, drank the healing waters of the followers of Islam for a cure. Pilgrimage Church of Guadalupe, Spain, to touch the mysterious black Madonna statue for a cure. Illuminati Chambers of the Vatican, Italy, to read the secret journals of the original Catholic secret society for a cure. But all were failures. My mom’s always hated Notre Dame’s football team full of Catholic liars. Everyone knows the mother of Jesus wasn’t ever black. And God doesn’t exist.
And here we are. Right here. Right now.
It’s funny. Remember what you told me when you were first diagnosed? You told me not to worry. Not to try. Just to enjoy what time you had left. But I wasted my whole life on me, and it’s time I started living it. For you. With you.
You see, without you, the man I’m trying so desperately to be doesn’t exist.
And that’s why I’m not letting go. You may have made peace, but I’m sorry, baby. I just haven’t given up yet. You see letting go as giving in. And accepting. But that’s just not how I see it. I see letting go as giving up. And quitting.
“Go ahead, Sal. Dig her up. The caretaker says we only have until sunrise.”
See you soon, baby. I’ve got one more place to try.
Originally published in Fiction 365 in 2011.
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