Sean Dietrich

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VALENTINE

By Sean Dietrich

I’ve seen her climb a mountain. On her birthday. No joke. I was beside her, praying for God to kill me. When we made it back to earth, she was so overcome with emotion all she could say was, “Sumbitch.” To which I agreed, “Sumbitch.”

And then we cried.

I won’t forget the time she landed in the emergency room, her tooth half knocked out. The doctor said, “We’re going to give you a shot in the gums ma’am. And it’s gonna hurt like fire.” She nearly broke my hand, and screamed, “Sumbitch!”  The nurses thought she was going to pass out. But then, her husband yelled, “Sumbitch!” and fell out like a Pentecostal. And years later, I saw her collapse on the floor when a nurse broke the news that her own father had died. She cried so much, the snot and tears almost ruined her shirt. And her husband’s. I saw her mind go numb on the day of his visitation. I watched her change into a full-woman when they closed the casket. It must’ve aged her twenty years inside. Though you’d never know it on her face. God, she hates those fine lines around her eyes. But not me. She’s earned them, dammit, and I like them. They make her look like a real human being. Someone who knows things. Genuine things. And sometimes late at night, I think about how brief all things are. And then I feel sad to think that one day I won’t be here to tease her, or scrub her back. All women need someone to tease them, and scrub their backs. It makes me sorry to imagine the morning one of us sips our coffee alone. When one of us slams our thumb in the cabinet and yells, “sumbitch,” in solitary. And no one says it back. You see, I know life’s not fair; that someday, time will select one of us to fall. That one will miss the other so much they’ll quit eating, sleeping, and even crying. And I can only thank the Good Lord above. That it’s not today. Happy Valentine’s Day, Jamie.

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