Harry and Sylvia

A post-Valentine’s Day love story

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The hospital room was quiet aside from the persistent bleeping of the monitor and the electronic whine of the television, which was on but muted. Sylvia tapped away at her cellphone screen, diligently lining up and destroying rows of colored bricks. Harry sat in the chair beside her hospital bed, the newspaper in his hands but his eyes firmly on her.

“Sylvia, darling,” he said, almost in a whisper. ‘We got to have us a talk.”

“About what?” Sylvia squawked, still assaulting the cellphone. “I almost got this level beat!”

“You know what we have to talk about.”

“Fine,” she huffed. Sylvia put the phone down on the tangle of bedsheets and did her best to sit up. She could not get far, with her leg suspended from the hospital-frame something-or-other and encased in itchy plaster. “Jesus Christ, Harry, what did you expect me to do? I had to get out.”

Harry peeked over the top of the morning edition paper sheepishly. “But Sylvia-” he pleaded.

“But nothing! Whattaya think, I want to stay there with you stinking up the whole car like that?”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Harry protested quietly, his face turning rosy and eyes cast back down to the paper.

“Oh, you know, Harry. Don’t give me that! I mean, there you are, pooting all over the place like something crawled into your hind parts and died.  Really, Harry, what else was I going to do?”

“But Sylvia!” Harry persisted.

“But what?”

“I was driving.”

“So?”

“On the highway,” Harry replied, folding the paper into a neat rectangle.

“Does that change anything?” Sylvia asked, crossing her arms. “You, with your gas all over the place!”

“I was going forty miles an hour, honey. You broke your leg! What the hell were you thinking?”

“What was I thinking? Jesus Christ Harry, for thirty-eight years you’ve always farted in the car. Always. Even when it’s too cold to roll down the windows. That damn pillow you sit on smells like death. Always pooting. Poot, poot, poot! Swear to God, strike a match, and the whole car would probably go up in flames. I can’t take it any more Harry, I’m sick of it!”

Harry slumped back into his seat. “I’m sorry, Sylvia,” he said. “But you could have just said something-”

“Said what, Harry? What good would it do?” she replied. “You know you have ass problems. Your insides are rotting or something. You better go over to Doctor Horowitz and have him take a look up your wazoo before it’s too late. You need help.”

I need help? You’re the one who jumped from a moving car. Going FORTY. On the highway! You’re lucky you just broke a leg and got concussed. You could have died, Sylvia!” Harry sat back up in his chair, having made a valid, irrefutable point.

“Do you know what thirty-eight years of that can do? I mean, why, Harry? You don’t break wind like that anywhere except the car. You know I can’t drive, so I just got to sit there and suffer. Every day. Your gas has poisoned me!” Sylvia said seriously, pointing accusingly toward her husband of nearly four decades. “Your ass gave me temporary insanity.”

“I swear to God, Sylvia, you drive me bananas. You’re crazy as a bedbug!” Harry unfolded the paper and returned to the sports section.

The room settled into relative silence. The constant din of hospital machine bleeps and blips continued in the background. As it grew darker outside, the silent television bathed the room in a bluish glow. Sylvia’s cellphone died, and it soon became too dark for Harry to finish reading the home and garden section. So he sat quietly with the paper folded in his hand, dozing off. At some point, the other hand had made its way to Sylvia’s bed. His fingers intertwined with hers, and when the television light was right, her wedding ring sparkled just as much as the day he had put it on her finger.

“Looks like it’s getting on bedtime,” he said to Sylvia, who herself barely held her eyes open.

“Yeah, I guess it is,” she replied sleepily.

“I love you, crazy old woman.”

“And I love you too, stinky old man,” Sylvia admitted. She buried her head into the pillow and for a moment the hospital room almost felt something like home. In minutes they snored together contentedly, in time to the rhythm of the hospital noises surrounding them.

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