“Can I call you back, hon,
I’m on the phone with your sister.”
He sounded funny.
“Dad, what’s wrong?” I said.
And he said, “I’ll call you back.”
I can hear my mother in the background
just barely over my thumping heart in my ears.
I watch my husband stand over me,
his arms crossed over his chest. His face tight.
How many times have we been here?
With bad news shuttled over a phone line between
the crackle and heat of the cell.
I am terrible at math but I calculate the chances
of more cancer. My mind races to remember
what the last scan said.
It spread, a voice in my head says. It’s happening again.
“Dad, what’s wrong?” I ask again, this time yelling,
as if deafness were the problem.
“I’m on the phone with your sister,” he says again,
also as if deafness were the problem.
He stutters just a bit when he says, “I’ll call you back.”
I hear my heart.
I hear my mother’s tiny voice.
I watch my husband.
I can not wait.
The record skips.
It happens all over again.
A part of my brain tells me,
this is Hell. This moment before knowing.
11 hours ago