My husband Harly thought he had the flu,
felt lethargic and never wanted to eat.
I just thought he was lazy. After hauling
bags of grass seed all day at the local plant,
he’d flop down on our couch, slather Vicks
on his chest, cuddle with our baby girl
and watch Barney. He stayed up late into
the night playing TechnoBowl, chest pains,
tingling in his joints, then fell asleep, TV
blaring, lamps aglow. He never left the house
except to work, and when he pressed his calves,
he left fingerprints. After his stools lost color,
we saw doctors who dosed him, told him eat less,
walk more. It was a nurse who noticed
the golden hue of his eyes and skin, insisted
on a blood test that showed a liver gone bad.
I drove us back to our modest home in our town
of a thousand. Harly sat in the passenger seat,
sniffing—a twenty-seven-year-old man
who would need a specialist, tests, a transplant.
But right then, all he needed was to hear
the radio play Tom Petty, to rest his head
on my chest. He smelled of sweat and soap.
I’d never seen him cry in the time we’d been
together, but over the next six months,
as he watched his baby girl scream through
her own blood tests, his brother lose his life
to the same disease, his own body wither
from broad-chested and strong to brittle
and thin, I’d wipe them away, one by one,
as they blended into his yellowed cheeks.