Ruth’s doctor never made us wait. No gentle approach, no layer of euphemism obscuring the truth, no gingerly poke and quick retreat from the scary thing over there. He filled in answers to unspoken questions. “There’s a lot we can do.” “This is manageable.” “You might have many years.” But then circling back. “It can’t be cured anymore. Our goal now is to slow down the cancer and give you as much quality life as we can.” To paraphrase, the films meant Ruth was going to die.
One day late that summer, just before Hurricane Irene, Ruth told me she was sorry to be leaving me. To know that she would be causing me so much pain. Best I could muster was, “Yeah, me too.” About that time my father died unexpectedly. Ruth burst into tears. So did our son. I didn’t flinch—I had already been ripped up by the roots.
Writer Daphne Merkin once described depression as a thick black paste covering one’s life. But it didn’t actually feel like that, nor was it a goop from a sci-fi film after the alien explodes. It was a coating, a thin translucent layer, invisible to the outside, hard as a diamond, and in that moment I couldn’t tell if it was holding me together or smothering me, but either way it was isolating me from the bustle of the lobby and the living world.