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Fiction: Radical Surgery

By Margaret Hermes
arttimes online December 1, 2016

Years ago, before they wheeled me off to put me under, I made confession. I told Sam I’d had an affair eight years before. I think I was on fire with this notion that I needed to be purified before I could be cured. Maybe I was seeking absolution in the event I didn’t come back from the operating room. I might have been hedging my bets in case there was an afterlife after all. I can’t remember what compelled me, but I can still see Sam’s frozen face in the hospital corridor as the doors to the elevator – the doors on our past life – glided shut.

Until now, I could only imagine what it must have been like for Sam, waiting for the surgeon’s report, waiting for my report of the juicy details of my five-month fling. He must have wondered about a lot of things as he downed bitter coffee in that waiting room – if he knew the guy, why I’d done this to him, how the operation would turn out, whether he wanted me to live or die.

I survived to find I had amputated a part of my husband that day. He didn’t threaten to leave or throw me out, maybe because I was recuperating, maybe because so much time had passed since I’d cheated that it didn’t sound like a plausible explanation even to him. He looked at me with different eyes, but we hung on. My life expectancy climbed back to normal heights.

And now Sam has died on an operating table, but not before he made confession. He motioned me closer to the gurney and I leaned in to hear him murmur that he’s been sleeping with my sister. I think it’s a lie honed to cut me to the bone, but I can’t be certain.

The only thing I know for sure is that I lost him long before the surgeon did.

(Margaret Hermes lives in Saint Louis, MO