Pub Crawls

Peter Marcus

In an hour long past midnight, we’d stroll away from the stately
habitations and sit in a non-descript Irish bar on Lex to conduct
a post-mortem on another bleak day. Though the house-wines
were screw-top dreck, my sister downed four half carafes of white
while I pounded Guinness pint by pint. What was there to recall
about those nights except that they were ghastly. Mother, a pallid
waste, gasping as she strained to suck the ever-thinning air.
Our family, like Himalayan mountaineers who’d come to realize
dying is also an ascent. When we brought her in for her decisive visit
to her nonchalant oncologist, we sensed his impatience—wasting
precious time on an invalid with a doom-and-gloom prognosis.
A journey those last weeks from impudence to apathy and surely no
more strength to reminisce. By then we’d reassessed what triumph is:
not fighting for an inert life but a savage giving-up and in. We both
admitted being tempted to taste her high-grade morphine, which
she hardly took, fearing madcap visions followed by an overdose,
but we didn’t have the nerve and merely languished on our barstools,
discussing her brief verdicts and terse reviews of Broadway shows
and art-house films at Lincoln Plaza. “Awful,” “stupid,” “terrible,”
“I hated it.” A lexicon fitting for a cancer death. And yet, regarding
her life journey, we never knew her truth—a specialist she was
in keeping secrets from herself. Whenever father left her bedside,
one of us would spoon her atop the wildly flowering duvet,
while the other sibling stood gazing blankly at the panoramic view
of remote control sailboats circling the pond, daydreaming
of those raucous sea lions gliding through the waters at the zoo.