Richie Zaborowske ~ In the Offing

This morn­ing, the doctor’s nose twitched along, trapped in a web of spi­der veins, as he used jar­gon and acronyms. As he said can­cer of the breast, instead of just say­ing breast can­cer. As you sat there, wear­ing that damned hos­pi­tal gown, and silent­ly cursed him. When he left and the nurse came clack­ing in, you didn’t want to talk to her, but she did. And with her fake eye­lash­es, her fake nails, her neck tat­too of a swal­low swoop­ing toward an ear­lobe so naked and so vul­ner­a­ble you were forced to avert your eyes, your anger was wrenched away.

Now you’re sit­ting across from your hus­band at El Sabro’s, wait­ing for the serv­er to return with your drinks. Outside the win­dow, the set­ting sun smol­ders the hori­zon and you ask your hus­band why he keeps check­ing his phone.

His eye­brows rise and he smiles. With his thick dark curls, the dim­ples on his cheeks, he looks like a kid caught with his hand in a cook­ie jar. Guilty, he says, hold­ing up his phone, then turn­ing it off. He places it face down on the table. Just see­ing who we play tomor­row, he says, reach­ing for a tor­tilla chip. You check your men­tal cal­en­dar; tomor­row is soft­ball. Sunday, marathon train­ing. Monday, tennis.

As he scoops up sal­sa, you squint across at him, try­ing to imag­ine how he’d respond if you told him right now.

It’s good. But it’s not Cabo good, he says, rolling his eyes at his own joke.

The two of you are cel­e­brat­ing an anniver­sary of sorts. Last year he sur­prised you. Somehow planned every­thing, the plane tick­ets, the resort, with­out you knowing.

You remem­ber that first after­noon of your trip. The two of you were loung­ing on the beach under­neath an umbrel­la that you had rent­ed for 200 Pesos, which seemed like a lot, or noth­ing at all. You weren’t sure. And it didn’t mat­ter because you were hap­py with your half-fin­ished book, your half-fin­ished Corona.

It was all of ten min­utes before your hus­band popped up from his tow­el. He was rest­less, scan­ning the beach. A group of kids was toss­ing a fris­bee; gig­gling as the wind grabbed hold, and sent it tum­bling through the air. Down the way, a line of red and green flags flap­ping in the breeze led to a man near the shore hold­ing a sign adver­tis­ing jet skis.

Go, you told him, nod­ding toward the man. Kissing your cheek, he grabbed his wal­let and you watched as your hus­band bound­ed away.

The wait­ress arrives with your mar­gar­i­tas, salt for him, and red Tajin around the rim for you. She drops a votive into a glass globe. One slen­der wrist cross­es your field of vision and she lights the candle.

What?, your hus­band mouths to you.

But you don’t respond. You’re think­ing about the hos­pi­tal, think­ing about the nurse. Husbands, she had said, hand­ing you a pam­phlet, are six times more like­ly to leave when their spouse has a life-threat­en­ing illness.


Richie Zaborowske is a dad, librar­i­an, and author from the Midwest. He puts a con­tem­po­rary twist on tra­di­tion­al library offer­ings; his month­ly Short Story Night packs the local brew­ery and fea­tures triv­ia, com­e­dy, and author inter­views. His writ­ing appears in McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, Brevity, The Los Angeles Review, HAD, X‑R-A‑Y Lit, Identity Theory, Jet Fuel Review, and others.