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What The Doctor Doesn't Tell You

The doctor doesn't tell you how leaving the hospital feels like a relief. How just getting to the always-cool parking garage feels like an escape. He doesn't tell you how magnificent the first turn away from the building creeps joy through your body and maybe just little bit of horror at yourself. It's something you learn on your own.

​The doctor doesn't tell you how bitter you'll be when looking at your husband's beeping, motionless body. How you'll repeat the last conversation with him internally, and how much you don't regret being annoyed before he ended up here. You see it as justification more than anything—that you pointed to this very outcome and it happened. You see it as his fault and only his fault, so how can you be upset you were so vicious? 

After a week you start to feel something for one of the people who look after your husband, and you take it in as it comes. He's younger than you but not by much, and it's easy to speak to him in a way that’s almost flirtation. Nobody tells you how good it feels to think like that when your husband is out cold in a hospital gown.

You try to make your comatose husband look more attractive. You shave his week long beard and comb his hair,but he still looks like someone who might not wake up, and it's hard for you to see him as anything other than that. The doctor, though, looks strong. He doesn't tell you whether it is cheating if your husband's brain is turning to slush. You don't bother asking, either.

​One night, while leaving and feeling the escape that leaving brings, you hear the man you're not sure you're cheating with call from across the parking garage. He looks tired but beautiful and seeing him outside of the hospital makes him even more attractive. He jogs over to you and asks how you're doing, and you answer by hugging into him. He holds you and you remember the feeling of arms. The doctor didn't tell you how much you'd miss it, but it becomes apparent as he cradles you in.

You pull your head from his shoulder and find his lips—and he pulls away from you. He calls you by your last name rather than your first, and you realize that the doctors didn't tell you he was just being nice. You stand away from each other and you feel the awkwardness creep up through your lust and want. You tell him you're sorry and find your car.

The doctor doesn't tell you how easy it will be to stop going to the hospital. How you can simply avoid the calls and listen to the voice messages about the decline of a husband you probably don't love anymore. Instead, you wait for the final message to collect the body and put it in the ground. The doctor doesn't tell you how that will be, either.

Matthew Kabik's work has appeared or is forthcoming in Wyvern Lit, Pithead Chapel, Bare Fiction, and Atticus Review. He earned his MFA from Arcadia University and lives in Lancaster, PA. Follow him on Twitter @mlkabik or visit his website for a complete listing of publications.