It’s this morning and my stomach hurts. Something I ate, a touch of a virus, who knows. It happens from time to time. It’ll run its course and be gone before I know it. Just like it does with anyone else.
It’s the late ‘80’s and my stomach hurts all the time. This will last for four months, during which I will have multiple appointments, all sorts of scans and tests, and many samples taken.
In early 2010 I’m sitting up in my hospital bed, trying to choke down a cooked carrot. An incision extends from just below my breast bone to just above my navel. You gotta eat, mom says. Look at me, you can see I’m trying. I don’t need your commentary.
It’s a few years later, and my stomach hurts sometimes but it’s especially bad while I’m camping with the family. It’s renal failure from all the extra sun exposure. I’m frequently constipated. I have developed hemorrhoids. It’s the excess calcium in my body.
In the year 2000, I call a suicide hotline from work. I’m bruised and beaten up from another night of drunken chaos. I hate my life. I’m constantly self-medicating with ridiculous amounts of alcohol. I am Jack’s overburdened liver. The lady on the other end is nice and helps me calm down. There’s got to be more to life than this.
Seven years later, my wife is pregnant. I’m going to be a father. I’m terrified but I’m going to do my best. I quit smoking and a few weeks later I quit taking my antidepressants. I’m not sure which feels worse. I make it through my withdrawals and barely manage to keep my job in the process. Later, I develop scarring on my lungs. It’s been theorized that the act of quitting smoking triggered the disease. Funny. I may have been healthier if I just kept up my habit of 8-10 cigarettes a day.
For I don’t know how long, my wife has been smoking and hiding it from me. Finally, while we are separated, I confront her. How long have you been smoking? I ask her. For a while, she says, I do it because of the stress. You can get through this, I tell her, you are strong. How did you know? She asks. You’d be surprised what I know, I say.
Why didn’t you tell me you were on antidepressants? I ask sometime after Sarah was born. It’s none of your business! Carol replies. What do you mean? You’re my wife! I spent seven years on antidepressants. Why the hell wouldn’t you talk to me about it?
During to our separation, Carol asks, Why didn’t we ever try counselling?
Back to several years ago, I ask Carol to go to marriage counselling. Why, so I can sit there and listen to you and a therapist tell me how wrong I am?
You were wrong, Carol. So very wrong. You made all the wrong choices. You failed to protect the marriage. You became a cheater. I can’t help you if you push me away. I can’t be your partner when you see me as the enemy.
I wasn’t lying to you.
Now you know that.
It may be too late, but now you know.
I was never your enemy.
I say this to her in her basement bedroom. I’ve just told her that I miss my family, that I miss her. Carol cries into my shirt, I’m so sorry.
I’m sorry too, Carol. I’m sorry I couldn’t find a way to get you to see.
In the late ‘80’s. All my test results show nothing abnormal, so they decide the cause of my stomach problems is stress. They talk to me about it but I really don’t think anything has been bothering me. Dad and stepmom are married and stepmom is pregnant but what do I care? Life goes on, right? Apparently my body disagrees. My mind will catch up soon enough.
It is now and my stomachache is gone.