Jack Listens to the Language People Use

When Wendy told us she had lost her
husband, we wondered at her word
choice:  lost, as if Bill had become
a boy, become an eight-year-old
lost in a grocery store as the PA

system echoed his name through
aisles crammed with consumers and
comestibles, everything but Bill.
But what word should she use
after having heard hospital hedging

for five months? Bill began with
anomalies and insufficiencies, progressed
to pseudo-police speak as his heart
was arrested, as if it will be arraigned,
kept away from law-abiding body

parts for some time. Everything
became acute or chronic, and it ended
in failure, as it always does, as if
we are surprised again and again by our
bodies’ breaking down, as if death is

not in our design. And when we ask
Wendy how she is, we do not want
to hear how she is falling to pieces
or falling apart (like a cheap suit,
my friend Mark often adds); no,

we want to know how she is holding
up or holding it together—whatever
it is—want to believe that Bill
behaved like a boy, became
distracted in a grocery store, spent

too long looking at comic books while
waiting on Wendy: a story we will
laugh about at a cookout at their house
several years from now, gathered
to celebrate one more of Bill’s birthdays.

Author: Kevin Brown