The hall outside of our apartment smells like chicken as I climb the stairs and stand in front of our door. I inhale deeply and listen to the sounds of “Tiny Dancer” coming from inside. I close my eyes and lean my forehead against the cool wood of the door, count to twenty, and then enter the apartment.
Akira is dancing in the living room, swaying her hips. She turns towards the sound of the door creaking open and beckons me with an outstretched finger.
“Dance with me.”
I don’t want to – I’m exhausted – but I sway in time with the sounds of Elton and move towards Akira. She puts one hand on my waist and holds my other outstretched. We dance cheek to cheek until the song is over.
Another song starts and an alarm rings from the kitchen. She smiles and sweeps into the kitchen to take care of dinner. I slip my shoes off my feet and take a seat on the couch. I rest my head in my hands.
“Dinner is served.”
I lift my head and she has brought out two plates of chicken with asparagus. She sets them on the coffee table and disappears back into the kitchen. She returns with two glasses of wine and forks. We chew in silence until she asks about my day.
I tell her about the three hour meeting, the arguing directors, the assistant who quit. She watches me speak with concern sparkling in her eyes. She refills my wine glass without me noticing it’s been emptied. She quietly cuts, chews, swallows, as she listens to me grumble about the difficult work day I’ve had.
We’ve just finished dinner and a bottle of wine when I remember that she had mentioned a doctor’s appointment this morning.
“How did your appointment go? What did the doctor say?”
A week ago she woke up with pain in her right femur. The pain had caused her to start limping, and without any sort of trauma it was worrying her into a state of anxiety. I told her to make an appointment to get it x-rayed. That was today.
Akira tells me indifferently that the radiologist saw a tumor on the femur, but they scheduled her for an MRI tomorrow. All I can hear is the word tumor.
The two syllables echo throughout my head and it’s as if the air has left the room. I gasp for breath and see the alarm in Akira’s eyes. She thinks I might be choking, but I shake my head. I lean myself forward, head between my legs, and try to find the air. I know there must be some. Akira seems to be breathing so rhythmically. She rubs my back and her touch is enough to force the air back into my lungs.
We sit on the couch for a long while before either of us says a word.
The only thing I can say.
She tells me, yes, that it looks like a tumor but they’ll know more with the MRI. And then a biopsy. She tells me it’s probably no big deal.
But after we’ve crawled into bed that night, we lay face to face and as my eyes find hers in the darkness of our bedroom, I can see that they are as terrified as mine.