At lunchtime, he leaves the hospital while his wife goes through more tests. The doctor says they will try their best. He is also trying his best, but he cannot eat another meal at the cafeteria on the second floor, by the smudged window overlooking the small, square courtyard where an old woman with a lame leg leans on a fake apple tree everyday eating her white, withered sandwich. Somebody is always wiping tables in that cafeteria, cleaning them with rags reeking of disinfectant, which reminds him that he is dirty, germs on his hands, in the gaps of his nails, something invisible and harmful. Something that harms her. He walks to the beach a mile down the road. It’s not a sandy beach, only rocks. He sits down on a bench. There’s a nameplate on the back. Barbara and John Clements. He is sitting on Barbara’s side—the shady side. He can buy some clementines on his way back, she’d love that. Can she eat those? He’ll have to ask the doctor. Vitamin C is good. The waves are beating the shore relentlessly. He walks towards the gray water. White specks glimmer in the distance like fish bellies. But of course they are not. The fish are alive and well and the water is clean. It blooms as it hugs the rocks. Suddenly he is seized by a fear that he’s forgotten to water the flowers at home. He must have, though. He can picture the purple spray bottle sweating in the sun. Pots of roses, peonies, tomato plants line the shelf he’d built the summer before, and she is bending down, her hands on a petal, smelling the flowers with her eyes closed.
Yunya Yang was born and raised in Central China and moved to the US when she was eighteen. Her work appears or is forthcoming in Epiphany, Hobart, Gulf Coast, among others. She currently serves as an assistant editor for Barrelhouse. Find her at yunyayang.com and on Twitter @YangYunya.