But I wonder how different my world would be if any of those things had happened. You can’t change just one part, can you? When you sit there and wish things had happened differently, you can’t just wish away the bad stuff. You have to think about all the good stuff you might lose, too. Better just to stay in the now and focus on what you can do better in the future.
“Ethan,” I tell him, “the minute I saw you again, I just knew that you and I were . . . I mean, I’m pretty sure you and I are . . .”
“Don’t,” he says. “Just . . . not right now, OK?”
“OK. I’ll leave you with your sopa seca.” I smile tenderly and then open the door to leave. He sees me out and shuts the door.
When I get to the last step, he calls my name. I turn around.
He’s standing at the top of the stairs, looking down at me. “I love you,” he says. “I don’t think I ever really stopped.”
I wonder if I’ll be able to make it to my car before I burst into tears, before I cease to be a human being and become just a puddle with big boobs and a high bun.
“I was going to tell you that tonight,” Ethan says. “Before all of this.”
“And now?” I say.
He gives me a bittersweet smile. “I still love you,” he says. “I’ve always loved you. I might never stop.”
His gaze falls to the ground, and then he looks back up at me. “I just thought you should know now . . . in case . . .” He doesn’t finish his sentence. He doesn’t want to say the words, and he knows I don’t want to hear them.
“I love you, too,” I say, looking up at him. “So now you know. Just in case.”
Luckily for everyone involved, my physical therapist is not my type.
“OK, Ms. Martin,” he says. “We are—”
“Ted, just call me Hannah.”
“Right, Hannah,” Ted says. “Today we’re going to work on standing with a walker.”
“Sounds easy enough.” I say it because that’s what I normally say to everything, not because it actually sounds easy enough. At this stage in my life, it sounds quite hard.
He puts my feet on the floor. That part I’ve gotten good at. Then he puts the walker in front of me. He pulls me up onto him, resting my arms and chest on his shoulders. He is bearing my weight.
“Slowly, just try to ease the weight onto your right foot,” he says. I hang on to him but try to back off just a little. My knees buckle.
“Slow,” he says. “It’s a marathon, not a sprint.”
“I don’t know if you should be using running terms to someone who can’t walk,” I tell him.
But he doesn’t spit something back at me. Instead, he just smiles. “Good point, Ms. Martin.”
When people are nice and sincere and they don’t fire back with smart-ass remarks, it makes my harmless sarcastic words seem downright rude.
“I was just joking,” I tell him, immediately trying to take it back. “Use all the sports analogies you want.”
“Will do,” he says.
Dr. Winters comes in to check on us. “Looking good,” she says.
I’m half standing up in a hospital gown and white knee socks, leaning over a grown man, with my hands on a walker. The last thing I am is “looking good.” But I decide to say only nice things, because I don’t feel that Dr. Winters and Ted the physical therapist are up for my level of sarcasm. This is why I need Henry.
Dr. Winters starts asking questions directly to Ted. They are talking about me and yet ignoring me. It’s like when I was little and my mom’s friends would come over and say something like “Well, isn’t she precious” or “Look at how cute she is!” and I always wanted to say, “I’m right here!”
Ted moves slightly, pushing more of my weight onto my own feet. I don’t feel as if I have balance, per se, but I can handle it.
“Actually, Ted,” I say, “can you . . .” I gesture at the walker, asking him to bring it right in front of me, which he does. I shimmy off him and put both arms on the walker. I’m holding myself up. I don’t have my hands on a single person.
Dr. Winters actually claps. As if I’m learning how to crawl.
There is only so long you can be condescended to before you want to jump out of your skin.
“Let me know when you want to sit back down, Ms. Martin,” Ted says.
“Hannah!” I say. “I said call me Hannah!” My voice is rough and unkind. Ted doesn’t flinch.
“Ted, why don’t you leave Hannah and me alone for a minute?” Dr. Winters says.
I’m still standing with the walker on my own. But no one is cheering anymore.
Ted leaves and shuts the door behind him.
Dr. Winters turns to me. “Can you sit down on your own?” she asks.
“Yeah,” I tell her, even though I’m not sure it’s true. I try bending at my hips, but I can’t seem to get control properly. I land on my bed with more force and bounce than I mean to. “I should apologize to Ted,” I say.
She smiles. “Eh,” she says. “Nothing he hasn’t heard before.”
“Still . . .”
“This is hard,” she says.
“Yeah,” I tell her. “But I can do it. I just want to do it. I want to stop being treated with kid gloves or having people cheer because I can feel my toes. I know it’s hard to do, but I want to do it. I want to start walking.”
“I didn’t mean it was hard to walk,” she says. “I mean that it’s hard not to be able to walk.”
“You sort of tricked me,” I tell her, laughing. “Your sentence was misleading.”
Dr. Winters starts laughing, too. “I know what I’m talking about,” she says. “This stuff is frustrating. But you can’t rush it.”
“I just want to get out of here,” I tell her.
“I know, but we can’t rush that, either—”
“Come on!” I say, my voice rising. “I’ve been lying in this bed for days. I lost a baby. I can’t walk. The only time I can get up is when someone pushes me around the hideous hallways. Something as mundane as walking by myself to the other side of the room is unimaginable to me. That’s where I’m at right now. The mundane is unimaginable. And I have absolutely no control over anything! My entire life is in a tailspin, and I can’t do anything about it.” And Henry. Now I don’t even have Henry.
Dr. Winters doesn’t say anything. She just looks at me.
“I’m sorry,” I say, getting a handle on myself.
She hands me a pillow. I take it and look at her. I’m not sure I know where this is going.
“Put the pillow up to your face,” she says.
I’m starting to think Dr. Winters is nuts.
“Just do it,” she says. “Indulge me for a second.”
“OK,” I say, and put the pillow up to my face.
I pull the pillow away from my face. “What?”
She takes the pillow in her hand and gently puts it up to my face. I take it from her. “Scream as if your life depends on it.”
I try to scream.
“C’mon, Hannah, you can do better than that.”
I try to scream again.
“Louder!” she says.
I scream louder and louder and louder.
“Yeah!” she says.
I scream until there is no more air in my lungs, no more force in my throat. I breathe in, and I scream again.
“You can’t walk,” she says. “And you lost a baby.”
“It’s going to be months until you fully recover,” she says.
“Don’t hold it in. Don’t ignore it. Let it out.”
I scream and I scream and I scream.
I’m angry that I can’t walk yet. I’m angry that Dr. Winters is right to clap for me when I stand up with a walker, because standing up on my own, even with a walker, is really, really hard.
I’m angry about the pain.