It was Sunday, the day before MLK Day. I woke up about 8:30.Billy was still sound asleep. The house was freezing. Our front house is old and drafty so I went into the kitchen, opened the oven door and turned it on to 500 degrees. Bob was ready for his walk. I didn’t sing the “walk” song (“Somebody’s getting’ a punch in the nose…”), which would have sent Bob into barking spasms. I just got out a plastic “Big Business” bag (as Billy used to call it) and we were on our way. When we got back from the walk, Billy was still curled up in the comforter but he was stirring awake.
“Come on. Let’s start the day,” I said.
“I’m lounging!” his voice was petulant, and the phrase was very familiar and playful. When he didn’t want to move from any given position, he would say, “I’m lounging.” I let him be for a little while because I learned if I pushed it, he would get crabby.
I went upstairs to the guesthouse, booted up the computer and checked email. I went back down and started to cook breakfast. Billy’s favorite breakfast was Lucky Charms – every time he ate them, he would proclaim, “They’re magically delicious!” He spoke with a lot of exclamation points. But today I fixed him his favorite hot breakfast – egg-in-the-hole.
I took them into the bedroom on the bartender’s tray he had found somewhere. “Come on, get up,” I said in my best dill sergeant voice. “Nooooo” the “no” was elongated. This, of course, meant yes but it was part of the game. “Come on!” I repeated. He wiggled up, saw what I had and started to eat it right away, still half-asleep.
“What do you want to do today? Want to go to the movies with Tommy and me?” I had tentative plans to go see “Gosford Park” with Tommy.
I knew the game was now in full swing. “Do you like your egg-in-the-hole?”
“Are you going to get out of bed?”
“Is that all you’re going to say?”
“Is ‘no’ your favorite word?”
The day was off to a good start. Our well-rehearsed script was playing and we were both in a good mood. I went off to the shower. Billy came in, peed, and then said, “Terry?”
“Look,” I knew where this was going but I pulled back the curtain a little anyway. As soon as I did, I got squirted in the face by this little toy Billy had. It was a plastic baby that, when squeezed, would shoot water from its little pee-pee. I slammed the curtain back and said, “Stop it!” This time it was my exclamation point.
Billy hopped in the shower as I was getting out. We dressed and I called Tommy to firm up our plans. Billy didn’t want to go (“It looks boring!”). Billy had stopped smoking cigarettes six days before. He was on the patch. He had not stopped smoking since he started as a teenager. This was my idea and in response to the chest pans he had been complaining of during the last week. Billy embraced the idea and posted “No Smoking” signs he had made on the computer all over the house and guesthouse.
“Put my patch on!” his goofy petulance was still in play. He lifted his shirtsleeve and I applied the patch.
I was up on the guesthouse when Billy came up, stood on the landing and loudly proclaimed, “I’m a non-smoker!”
“I know, honey, and I am very proud of you.”
I picked Tommy up around noon and Billy was going to work on some eBay items he had for sale.
I got home around 4:30. Billy was gone. We had planned to watch the Golden Globes. Around 5pm, I went to Alejo’s, our favorite neighborhood Italian restaurant and got Mozzarella Marinara, spaghetti and meatballs for Billy, and rigatoni and meat sauce for myself. Billy got home about an hour later. I was already upstairs in the guesthouse watching Joan on the red carpet.
“Hey, honey, where’d you go?” I asked.
“Over to Hal’s to bring him some pictures for his apartment.”
“I got you some spaghetti”
I went downstairs, fixed us some plates of food and when I came back, Billy was setting up a photo session for some eBay stuff he was going to post. We sat on the couch and ate dinner. Our Globes hopefuls were Nicole Kidman and “Moulin Rouge,” our favorite movie.
After dinner, I laid on the couch as Billy worked behind me on the computer. Billy was very focused on “staging, which meant he would take pictures of his merchandise with great care and creative backdrops. The Globes started but he was intent on getting his new bounty online.
At one point, I looked back as he was taking pictures. I remember the look of determination on his face. I remember, in that second, falling in love with him again. He had lost his job shortly after 9/11 - he was in the travel industry - and he was depressed at not being able to find another gig. But in November, he decided to start selling on eBay and he had built a very good base of operation. In that second, I could see how much he was enjoying himself. I could see he believed he had his own future in control. I could see why I loved him so much.
The Globes were over. Nicole won. I was watching the news. About 11:30 or so, I said, “Let’s go downstairs.”
“OK, I’ll be down in a little bit. I just have a little more to do.”
I went to the door, Bob in tow, and went downstairs. No “good night.” No kiss. That would happen when he came down to bed.
That was it. The last time I saw his eyes open. The last time I heard his voice. The last time I had my Guyster