The man should have known distance is already in her. / It moves her farther from them all, it has her / collapse on the bathroom floor heaving / obscenities into her faith and not feeling / the least bit guilty for each four-lettered cry. It has her / beating the car’s dashboard as he straps in / the boy and the girl to their seats.
It grips her
fingers into a fist, / it swells her fallen veins, it lets her speak / from someplace deep the man has never / thought to touch. It keeps her curled on the lobby couch / as he offers her name and SS# to the check-in staff. /
Her distance has her slapping the
wheelchair frame, / and then her hospital bed’s off-white sheets, its thin pad yielding / to her hands. It has her angry and restless, / unable to calm herself as the man paces the boy and girl / back and forth past her room. It tells her to tell him / to leave, to not come back with those two, / which he knows means, I don’t want them to see me / and I don’t want to see them right now.
It stays with him / as he returns them home, where,
hopefully, his emergency / called mother-in-law waits in their drive, and it’s there, too, / when he heads back to sit by her.
He learns it has her committed / to Ativan
when he speaks to the nurse manager, who informs him as well / that it has her so deeply she needed to be talked down / by Dr. M. who sat at the foot of her bed until she fell / asleep. It has made her a new friend who is spread out now / on the foldout he expected to splay himself on. This new friend / who checks her email and researches for a paper due tomorrow, / who smiles at the man as he checks on his wife, / who will watch her for the rest of her shift, who will demand / the bathroom door be kept open, who will remove anything / sharp the woman can use against herself.
This distance has her / bound so tightly, it is not distant but close, / so near,
so accustomed to her pain the man has no idea / if he can cross it.