The following Wednesday, I made a doctor appointment with my primary. I hadn’t taken my meds for months and I haven’t done labs. When he saw me he was deeply concerned, sending me to do labs, pronto. I had to cancel my anger management meeting, but it was cool. I wasn’t ready to face my class after surviving my ordeal. I didn’t feel up to the questions.
A few days later my primary doctor called me in to see him.
To my dismay my doctor got on me, but he didn’t lay it on too thick. “I’m going to get right to it. You’re no longer undetectable and you’re badly dehydrated and malnourished. I’m admitting you into the hospital. I would advise you to comply. This could be the last decision you’ll ever make if you decline.”
After a few weeks of intense treatment and a high insurance bill later, I was released from immediate treatment and endless IVs.
Now that I was undetectable again, I called my anger class and set up a meeting for tonight.
A substitute counselor has been taking over for me since I’ve been out of commission. I didn’t even get to finish a project I gave them to do the day I wrote Marcus Johnson, the dl thug, an anonymous letter in one of my classes as part of a class assignment.
The last memory I had of Marcus was when he watched over me when I got in my car after one of our sessions and didn’t leave until I safely drove home.
Pushing him out of my mind, I signaled right, slowly riding the brake. A picture of me and Jonathan was on the dashboard.
Turning onto US1, I made a quick right into an enormous shopping center, parking by a row of cherry bushes. I sighed, hollow inside. I was dead without my husband.
Locking up, I walked through the parking lot, heading for class next to a Subway.
Entering the glass door, my students, friends and colleagues said, “Surprise! Happy Birthday! Welcome back, Harry!”
I was overwhelmed. I’ve been so miserably depressed I hadn’t known my birthday crept up on me. Not that it really mattered.
This was my first birthday without my baby. Amidst hugs and a plethora of warm kisses, Jim, one of the class participants cranked up the music and the smell of pasta filled my nose.
There were a few people crying and a couple others tending to my every need.
“We have two new students joining us today, Harry,” said Marcus. He was handsome and cocky as ever.
He embraced me in a way that showed longing. He truly was happy to see me
“Anything I can get for you?” asked Marcus, cupping my hand, fondly. I was impressed. There was something different about him. He no longer wore jerseys and baggy pants with Timbs. The first three buttons were unfastened on his gray dress shirt and his black slacks highlighted his well-toned body.
He still wore his Timbs.
“Wow, sir. I see you certainly matured since our last meeting. Dress clothes? Your dreads are gone. I guess you can tell me why the transition? Who knew a glittering rough cut diamond was under those funky baggy jeans.”
“I held you down since you were absent. I learned how to keep account books and played secretary with Jim. I have your receipts of the money used for utilities and supplies. I’ve become a more responsible man, nearing the end of my probation.”
“I...I don’t know what to say. Thank you.”
Marcus leaned in and kissed my cheek. I felt warm and fuzzy, but quickly numbed myself...feeling like I cheated on my husband’s memory.
“Your position is back as the teacher, Mr. Waters. I was happy to hold down the fort while you dealt with personal issues.”
“Let’s grab some of this delicious grub y’all cooked or catered, who cares. I haven’t had a full meal in months.”
Sitting in a comfortable chair in the front of the class, a group of forty people sat in a huge circle.
“Thank you all for the welcome back and birthday surprise.”
I fell silent. I stared at my food on a plate in my lap.
“I’ve been through hell and back. I’m a widow, can you believe it. I have to find a way to forgive myself for not being in love with my husband when we got married. I deceived him as well as myself. I didn’t even love myself.
“That’s my truth. And quite honestly I feel like the scum of the earth for celebrating another year of life and my baby is buried six feet under.”
Jim took over. “We understand, Harry. It’s one thing to be the teacher, helping us become better anger managed individuals, but it’s another thing for us to be there for the teacher and helping you deal with the cards you’ve been dealt.”
Marcia, one of my adult students, said, “Marcus, our substitute teacher has been a God send.”
Everyone agreed, giving him a round of applause. He was deeply humbled. I clapped. I was really moved by the initiative he took to keep the class, my business, afloat with no college degree or formal training.
“He even handled the paperwork for the courts and our supervisors. He enrolled in community college, learning billing and coding and business management. We’re very proud of him.”
Marcus stood up, placing his hand on my shoulder. “I did what my heart told me to do. You all are family. Harry has helped us deal with our anger issues. All of our lives have improved because of it.”
Marcus handed me a wrapped gift, medium sized and continued.
“Will you let us, your students, give you an exercise to show you that we’re going to help you deal with your anger issues and the death of our friend Jonathan.”
“I’d be honored.”
“I’m glad you said that. We have two new members in the group tonight, assigned by the courts. Group, meet Lynn Waters and Bob Grimes.”
I dropped my food on the floor, staining my white Keds.