Illustration by FINAL GIRL, anonymous street artist,
see also “God of Thunder” by Brian Kamsoke
Sundown at 5. Chill in the house. I open the hall closet for a sweater.
And I see it. Hanging between my red raincoat and his father’s blue windbreaker.
Our son’s fur-lined fleece hoodie. Grey, except for the Penn State panther in an oval on the right, just below the collar.
It’s been there for six months. Since the morning I washed the contents of the white plastic bag, marked “Patient Belongings.” There wasn’t much inside. Pajamas, slippers, boxers. And the fur-lined fleece hoodie. The one he wore that August afternoon in his 5th floor walkup. New York City. No air conditioning, yet he’s shivering with his hands in his pockets and the hood pulled over his wispy brown bangs.
“How can you be cold?” his father asked. “I’m burning up.”
Just like he was, except from a fever, not the weather.
There is no thermometer in the apartment. I race down five flights to the corner drugstore and back. Panting, I plead until he puts it under his arm.
“Nothing to worry about,” he scoffs at the number. “101.2. A virus.”
But it wasn’t. A year later, he’s living at home again. Like a teenager, not a thirty-year- old man. Chemo twice a month with a doctor neither one of us likes.
“Too blunt. No bedside manner,” he says, slipping a bone-thin arm into his fur-lined sleeve.
We leave that hospital in search of a second opinion.
And feel hopeful for a while. Until the morning he rises from bed too dizzy to walk. Faints on the way to the bathroom.
Waiting in emergency, he asks for his hoodie.
We bring it to the 7th floor, Oncology Unit. It comes home, weeks later, in a white plastic bag.
And now it hangs in the hall closet, between my raincoat and his father’s windbreaker. Should it stay there? As if waiting to be worn again?
I put my fingers against the fleece. Remember all the hours he sat huddled inside it. Mostly on the couch watching Seinfeld or How I Met Your Mother. Dozing off at commercials.
For a brief moment, I regret burying him without his hoodie—no less loved than the tattered teddy he had at age three.
What’s done cannot be undone.
Slipping the soft fabric off the hanger, I raise one arm, then the other. The sleeves are a little long but it’s wearable.
I snuggle into his spot on the couch. Turn on the TV. A Seinfeld rerun.
Jacqueline Jules is the author of three chapbooks, Field Trip to the Museum (Finishing Line Press), Stronger Than Cleopatra (ELJ Publications), and Itzhak Perlman’s Broken String, winner of the 2016 Helen Kay Chapbook Prize from Evening Street Press. Her poetry has appeared in over 100 publications including The Broome Review, Sow’s Ear Poetry Review, Hospital Drive, and Imitation Fruit. She is also the author of 40 books for young readers. Visit www.jacquelinejules.com.