On the way down the hall to where I’d finally see Logan, I intended to stuff the small bag from Megan inside one of his suit pockets. But there was already something in the pocket. I stopped a few rooms before him and pulled out a tube of lipstick. Georgio Armani lipstick. Shade: Acid Tangerine. Unless Logan had gender issues about which I knew entirely nothing, it wasn’t his. It wasn’t mine; I didn’t buy lipsticks that cost more than my age.
I stood there holding it like I thought it would tell me its life story. It’s lipstick, Elle, not Viagra. One tube of lipstick does not an affair make. Right? Worse things, delicate, lacey things, had been found in men’s jackets and glove compartments and pants’ pockets. Things much more convicting than Acid Tangerine. But I didn’t know too many men who carried lipsticks for women other than husbands or maybe kind or bullied broth-ers. It just seemed a tad more intimate than friendship. Maybe my guilt exceeded my sanity.
“Excuse me. Did you need some help?”
Probably a smart question to ask a woman leaning against the wall in the ER fixated on a tube of lipstick. It came from a tall, curly-haired man wearing scrubs and a white coat embroi-dered with “Dr.” followed by something unrecognizable.
“I’m fine . . . just . . . uh . . . stopped to put this . . . ” I held up the little silver-tubed culprit. “ . . . in my purse.” I dropped it in. “My husband’s in room E . . . ”
He smiled. Maybe with relief that I wasn’t a patient waiting to happen, and he’d be stuck with me. “It’s two doors down.” Dr. Something pointed to make sure I understood spatial con- cepts and scurried away.
Logan was on his cell phone, sitting on the side of the bed wearing his suit pants and his hospital gown when I walked in his room. “Hold on, Matt,” he said, tossed the cell phone on the bed and held out his arms.
Still holding his jacket and my purse, I hushed the cacoph-ony of women — my mother, Holly, Faith, Martha, Megan — who pulled apart the threads of my life, and stepped into his embrace. My head against his chest, I kissed his neck as he softly kissed the top of my head. When death tapped its finger on life’s shoulder, whispering it was only a heartbeat away, it reminded us of what mattered most. If only we could warm ourselves with the blanket of these intense moments when life’s chilling realities surrounded us.
“Logan? Logan? You okay?”
“I love you, Elle,” Logan whispered in my ear before his arms released me.
“I love you more,” I said, and he smiled. The “love you more” had been a silly verbal volleyball we played in those early years when saying, “I love you,” to one another generated more emo- tional energy than “I’m going to the grocery.” It slipped out of our banter when we started focusing more on “stuff ” than us. Maybe the presence of that little gold tube reminded me what could have been lost between us. What I hoped hadn’t been or wouldn’t be lost.
I moved Logan’s neatly folded shirt and tie off the swamp green plastic chair in the room and sat as he picked up his phone. “Sorry. Elle just arrived.” He sounded on the verge of surprise. Without his beige hospital wristband and a bandage on each arm where they’d drawn blood, Logan didn’t look like a man who’d been the reason for a 911 call. His hair looked confused as to which direction it was supposed to be headed, but tousled worked well on him. The relaxed face he’d greeted me with grew serious as he spoke to Matt. After a few “yes” and “no” responses, he said, “Wait, I’ll ask Elle.” He tilted the mouthpiece up. “Did you tell my mother I’d been admitted?”
My throat snapped even though his tone wasn’t the least bit accusatory. I looked at the floor, which was not being at all cooperative in opening up to swallow me, then told Logan, “No. I thought it would be best for me to wait until I saw you. I didn’t know, for sure, and —”
“Elle, it’s okay. But she already knows, and Matt’s just doing some damage control.”
“Damage control? She’s angry, isn’t she?” I tapped my foot and stared at the wall behind Logan. “I’m doomed. She’s not going to let me forget this one —”
I heard “No,” but he’d started talking to Matt again. “Okay. Will do. And, Matt, thanks.”
“Logan, I’m sorry,” I said. I checked my cell phone. “I don’t have any missed calls. Is she upset? On her way here?”
“She’s calling a divorce attorney,” he said and laughed immediately. “Matt was able to get in touch with her, and she’s home.”
“Remind me to buy that man an outrageously expensive gift this Christmas. Maybe an island.”
“Would you hand me my shirt?” He untied his hospital gown and pulled his shirt on. “Martha’s not the reason Matt’s doing damage control.”
“What? Then where’s the damage?”
He sat on the bed as he finished buttoning his shirt, but something shifted in his posture. In the way he spent too much time rolling his tie around his hand. “Elle, look at me, and wait until I finish explaining. But you have to trust I am telling you the truth. Okay?”
I nodded, but it’s a given, “you need to trust me,” was the key that opened the door to suspicion.
“The late news reported I’d been taken to the hospital by a young woman, in their words, ‘whose identity was yet unknown.’ The reporter said the young woman ‘in question’ and I were seen driving into the Timbers apartment complex, and the 911 call was made after that. But —”
Someone knocked on the door and opened it at the same time. “Mr. Butler, I’m Agnes, the nurse on duty. I have your discharge papers.” Cotton candy pinks and blues streaked her blonde hair, and she wore scrubs decorated with Disney char- acters. She grinned. “Can you tell I usually work pediatrics? I work in cancer care, so I do what I can,” she said and held up locks of her hair, “to make them laugh.”
Logan and I looked at one another. “Later,” hung between us. The worst saved until last. Not the way it should go. I wanted to tug on Agnes’s stethoscope and ask if we could have a girl chat outside. I’d tell her my husband was in the middle of explaining what might be an affair waiting to happen. Could this wait? One or both of us might need your services when he’s finished. Agnes would, “tsk, tsk” and pat my back and tell me how sorry she was, and how I should get on in there and finish this off. And I would waltz in, punch Logan maybe on his cheek, not his nose. He had a nice nose. Then I would sit in the ugly plastic chair, and he would tell me every detail I never wanted to hear. Instead, I sat in the ugly plastic chair feeling like an ugly plastic wife.