It’s Never Too Late
Frank always went on a long run before work, and this morning was no different. He laced up his beloved and trusty Brooks, pulling each string as if it were his own life he was securing. Once out the door, Frank felt loose and free, darting across the pavement like a bullet leaving a gun. With his eyes looking straight, he observed the dew-glittered foliage he soon would pass.
Back at home, Judy was sound asleep from a night of customary drinking. Frank managed to take a shower and get dressed without so much as a twitch of an eye coming from her. It wasn’t until he slammed the front door shut on his way out, that she stirred. Judy got out of bed and went over to the window to wave Frank goodbye as he sped off to his job.
At the office, Frank was always drowned with work because he was always helping other people; coworkers were constantly knocking down his door with questions. Frank had a hard time saying no; he was the token Good Samaritan of the office. Some people seemed to be taking advantage of his virtuous self by not giving him time for his work. While some coworkers were quick to go to Frank for help, others were equally in support of him taking more time for himself. One guy in the office, Tireese, who wears think glasses, said to Frank one day :
“Boy do you look tired, you ever think of taking time off?”
Later that night, Frank returned home, tired and stressed.
“What’s wrong honey?” asked Judy, her eyes narrowing to a stare as she tugged at her holey sweater.
“Just work stuff,” said Frank, “too much of it.” He took off his tattered coat and set down his brief case on the broken bench beside the door.
“You said you’d fix that last Christmas,” said Judy, viciously tapping an impatient toe.
“I know, I guess I’ve just been very busy lately”, said Frank as he wandered around the first floor of his house, observing other neglected items, some which he didn’t even know were there. He saw a crack in the mirror’s frame he and Judy were standing in front of, but he did not appear to see her reflection staring back at him. Frank took off his glasses, and rubbed his eyes. When he opened them his vision was blurred, like he was seeing streetlights reflecting on a black river, flowing through the night.
“Let’s have dinner now,” said Judy, as she padded into the kitchen, her dark blue slippers shuffling along as if they were resisting her movement.
Frank sat his khaki-clad self down across from Judy and started loading up his plate. Dinner consisted of overcooked chicken, peas, and mashed potatoes; Judy’s favorite part about making them was the mashing. Not only did it get her anger out, but it took a while, and time was weighing her down. Judy didn’t get out much, though she probably should. She’d like to go out with Frank more, but he was always busy. So, Judy was alone for most of the day, with nothing but time to kill.
After dinner, Frank went on his computer, of course. Meanwhile, Judy moped around, until her eyes latched onto the latest issue of Travel + Leisure magazine. She couldn’t help but dream of being anywhere she was not. Judy plopped down on the yellow floral patterned couch next to Frank’s desk. Frank glanced at the cover, then went back to reading his e-mails, his eyes glued to the screen. When Judy was done dreaming, she set the magazine on Frank’s desk, and then went over to the window to look up at the black sky with its fiery stars.
“I’m going to sleep Frank, see you… whenever,” said Judy as she walked towards the stairs.
Frank was so engrossed in his e-mails that he didn’t even notice Judy’s hollow eyes staring back at him as she ascended the steps backwards, bottle in hand.
Since Frank was always helping out everyone else in the office, his time at home was used for his work. Judy thought it was great that Frank was so passionate about his work, but she wished a little of that passion could be put towards her. She always felt lonely, sometimes even more so when Frank was home, because it was like he was deliberately trying to block her out. Work seemed to be on the forefront for Frank, working all day and all night as if the devil were his boss.
The following morning Frank went on his run and quickly got ready for work, not even looking at Judy to make sure he wasn’t waking her. After hurrying out of the house and slamming the front door shut, he looked up at the window for his usual wave. When it didn’t come, Frank waited for a second, then got in his car and though to himself, “She must be sound asleep.”
At the office, another stressful day ensued. “Hey Frank, how are you?” asked one coworker.
“Uh, keepin” busy,” he replied.
“Busy is good. And Judy?”
“She’s good,” said Frank automatically, not consciously giving thought to the answer before it left his mouth. As the coworker walked away, Frank’s response repeated itself in his head like it was an unsolvable mystery. “Is she good?” Frank whispered to himself, his gray-blue eyes widening as if the more he opened them the closer he’d get to finding an answer. This thought ate away at Frank’s mind for what seemed like hours until he finally concluded to call Judy and find out for himself. He punched Judy’s number into his phone, and, to Frank’s surprise, Judy’s sister answered, a look of wondering suspicion coming across his face.
“Mary? where’s Judy? Is she okay?”
“We’re at the hospital Frank, you should really come down here,” said Mary urgently into the phone.
As Frank opened his mouth to respond, his boss walked into his office, casting a large shadow over the desk and Frank behind it. He slapped a paper-filled folder down on the desk with a note saying “DUE BY THE END OF THE DAY” in thick red pen.
“Frank? You there?”
“Uh… can it wait Mary? I just got a big assignment I really need to work on.
“ No Frank, this is serious, this is your wife we’re talking about, not some silly project for work.”
“Okay, Mary, I’ll leave soon,” said Frank as the veins on his forehead enlarged .
When Frank hung up the phone, he realized that he didn’t even know why Judy was in the hospital, and for some strange reason, he didn’t feel very worried. Frank decided that since Mary didn’t say what was wrong, it probably wasn’t anything too serious, so he started working on his assignment. An hour had gone by, and Mary had called again. Frank looked at his phone, and upon seeing her name on the caller ID, put it back down. “I just need a little more time to finish this thing,” Frank growled to himself. Six more missed calls later, and he was done. Frank ran the folder over to his boss’ desk, and left the office with a huge smile spreading across his face, until he remembered where he was going.
Arriving at the hospital, Frank felt his stomach turn at the thought of the disappointing looks he would receive from both Mary and Judy’s eyes. He parked and walked to the entrance, locking his car repeatedly as he went. Inside, his eyes scanned the building for the front desk.
“ I’m looking for Judy Malone, ” he said to the receptionist.
“Right this way sir. We’ve been expecting you.”
Frank took long strides down the hall, leaving as much space between each step as his khakis would allow. Frank slowly opened the door to Judy’s room, squinting his eyes halfway so they were just as much open as they were closed. Opening the door all the way, Frank had to squint his eyes further because of the bright lights inside. After a few seconds of adjusting, his eyes made out a large machine with a tube going into Judy’s body. He followed the tube with his eyes until he saw her face, motionless, with closed eyes.
“They’re pumping her stomach Frank, she’s been falling in and out of consciousness for the past few hours. She just went out again before you came in,” said Mary in an accusing tone.
All the color drained from Frank’s face until it became a sickly white. “Is, is she gonna come back?” he stuttered, and Frank never stutters; he prides himself on his speech.
“They’re trying hard, but she’s gotta regain consciousness to really know, why don’t you go over and sit by her. It’s never too late you know”, said Mary as if she were responding to the thoughts spinning around in the depths of Frank’s subconscious.
Frank went over to Judy and perched himself on the edge of her bed. He stared at her angelic face, waiting for her to show a sign a waking. After a minute or two-long eternity, Judy’s eyes opened wide to the stranger beside her. When she realized it was Frank, her eyes went to a squint, and her face grew red with anger. Frank wasn’t sure, but he could’ve sworn that there was even steam coming from her ears.