by Miles Ryan Fisher
I arrived late for the first day of grad school and scanned the unfamiliar faces seated around the room. We went through introductions. I said my name, where I was from, that I was pursuing a writing degree to become a teacher. Halfway through class, the door opened and a girl hobbled in, her foot velcroed into a thick plastic medical boot. She sat down right across from me, and I tried not to stare.
After class I waited for her on the sidewalk and introduced myself. How are you feeling? I asked.
She looked down at her bound foot. It’ll heal, she said. This is just for a few days.
I mean emotionally. How are you feeling—emotionally, I said.
Would you like to go for a walk when your foot gets better? I asked.
But we don’t even know each other yet, she said.
That’s the point of the walk, I said. To get to know each other.
We took a walk through a park where a creek trickled, and she asked me a lot of questions. I’m not done with my questions, she said at the end of the walk. So we took another. And then a third, and at the end of the third walk, I moved in to kiss her. The moment before our lips touched, she whispered, But we don’t even know each other yet.
We kissed anyway. And kissed. And kissed some more as walks rolled into weeks and weeks rolled into months and while we were rolling around on my bed late one night I asked her if she wanted to have sex. But we don’t even know each other yet, she said. Then she pressed her mouth against mine and shifted her hips so we aligned.
Late nights fed into lazy mornings. We took weekend trips, then weeklong trips, and then I disappeared one afternoon to get the one thing that would make these trips permanent. I knew exactly how I wanted it to happen. We would take a walk on the beach, a walk with no end in sight. We’d stroll a little higher up, away from the waves and up by the dunes where the sand is dry and the sea oats are swaying. I’d tell her about how I’d looked for her my entire life and yet she still managed to surprise me the day she appeared—that day she hobbled in.
I sunk my knee into the sand and took the ring from my pocket. Will you marry me?
She looked at me for a moment. But we don’t even know each other yet, she said.
I started to speak, but before I could get the words out, she flung herself onto me so hard that we tumbled into the sand and let it cake our bodies.
Every day thereafter was just us. Eating. Sleeping. Talking about all that we could manage to fit in. We bought a bungalow with a yard big enough for a golden lab we named Chips. We filled the house with not much, only things that were needed to make it our home. Desks made of old, knotty wood. Shelves stacked with hardback novels. Frames filled with colorful candids that would change through the years.
Once our home was ready, we filled it with one more thing. She walked out of the bathroom and into our bedroom. Come here, she said.
Are you alright?
I’m fine. And someone else is fine, too. I’m pregnant.
I put my hand on her stomach and wanted to hold it there long enough to feel it grow.
She looked down at my hand. But we don’t even know each other yet, she said.
She placed her hand on mine and, before I could respond, she brought her lips so they hovered close enough that we could feel the charge between us.
We named her Sam, and she ran around us like we were her sun and she was our life. We radiated, and she grew. The years wrapped around, one after the other. We watched as she began to live a life that was slower to revolve around us. She started eating dinner with her friends. She started holding hands with someone her age. Through high school and away to college and with a kiss on each of our cheeks she let go.
And just like that, we were back to us again. Sitting at the kitchen table. Lying beside each other on our bed. All the years and we still found new things to talk about as we started growing gray.
One day I went in for a routine check-up, and the doctor detected a growth. It’s probably nothing, I told her. I feel just fine.
I went in for further testing, a biopsy I didn’t tell her about.
It’s malignant, the doctor said. And it has already spread.
I knew what he meant.
That night I went home looking healthy even though I wasn’t. I pulled into the driveway, turned off the ignition, and just sat there. It was the first time I’d ever done that.
When I finally walked into our home, I’m sure she saw it written in the wrinkles on my face. You need to sit down, I told her.
What is it.
I got the results from some tests.
What is it.
She wouldn’t sit, and I wouldn’t say the words. I’m dying. So instead we just stood there, staring at each other, hearts pounding as if we were experiencing what it’d be like to break up.
She collapsed to the ground. I wrapped my body around hers, trying to absorb her sobs. Every second felt longer than every year we’d lived together now that the end was in sight. Her body grew exhausted. She finally looked at me.
Say something, I said.
She closed her eyes, opened them.
But there’s so much more I need to know about you.
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Miles Ryan Fisher
Miles Ryan Fisher grew up in the suburbs of Philadelphia and lives in Washington, D.C. He has a Master of Arts in Writing degree from Johns Hopkins University and works as Editor-in-Chief of Italian America® magazine. In his free time, he enjoys playing in an adult baseball league and coaching eleven-year-olds.
3 thoughts on “Growing Gray”
A tear-jerker. It makes the point that love and loss are one. That the story isn’t told until it ends. AGB
The dovetailing reminds me of classical music. Clever and well done! And the story itself, to me, is sweetly sad if that makes any sense
Good story. The above comments say it all.