A Real Love Story

I've never been as affected by a description of real love as I was by this passage from Marian Keyes' Anybody Out There? Such a moving moment, and I can only hope that someday I, and those I love, can experience something this beautiful.

I used to be a right hypochondriac. Not that I faked being sick, but when it happened, I was very interested in and tried to involved Aidan in the drama. If I had, say, a toothache, I'd give him regular bulletins on my symptoms. "It's a different kind of pain now," I'd say. "Remember when I said it was a kind of hummy ache--well, it's changed. More darty." Aidan was was used to me and my drama, and he's day, "Darty, hey? That's new."

I'd even broken a bone about a year and a half ago; I'd been rummaging through cupboards looking for something and I turned around too quickly, cracked my finger against a drawer, and started bellyaching, "Ooh, Christ, oh God. Oh, my finger, that's awful."

"Sit down," Aidan said. "Show me. Which one?"

He took my finger and--I know this sounds a little weird--he held it in his mouth. His mom used to do it for him and Kevin when they were little and now he did it for me whenever I injured a body part. "I seemed to have a very accident-prone crotch.) I shut my eyes and waited for the heat of his mouth to effect the merciful ebbing away of pain.


"Actually, no." Surprising--it usually worked.

"That's bad, it'll have to come off." Before our eyes, my finger swelled and fattened, like a speeded-up video of bread rising. At the same time the color changed from red to gray to almost black.

"Christ," Aidan said, "that is bad, maybe it will have to come off. Better get you to the ER." We jumped in a taxi, my hand laid across our laps, like a sick little rabbit. AT the hospital they took me off for an X-ray and I was thrilled--yes, I admit it, thrilled--when the doc clipped an X-ray to a light box and said, "Yep, there we are, hairline fracture across the second knuckle."

Even though I didn't get put in proper plaster, just a splinty-type thing, it felt nice not to be dismissed as a malingerer. I had "a Fracture." Not just a bruise, not even a strain (or sprain, I'm never sure if they're the same thing, and if they're not, which is more impressive) but a Fracture.
In the following days, when everyone looked at my splint and asked, "What happened?" Aidan always answered on my behalf. "Downhill skiing slalom, she clipped one of the poles." Or "Mountaineering, small rockfall, hit her hand."

"Well," as he said to me, "it's got to be better than saying 'looking for my blue shoes.'"

The hospital had given me two X-rays to bring home, and hypochondriac that I am, I used to study them; I held them up against the light and marveled at how long and slender my fingers really were beneath all that pesky muscle and skin and stuff, while Aidan watched indulgently.

"See that tiny line on my knuckle," I said, holding an X-ray right up close to my face. "It just looks like a hair, but it causes so much pain."

Suddenly anxious, I said, "Don't tell anyone I do this."

A few days later, he was home from work before me--an unusual occurrence--and there was an air of suppressed excitement about him. "Notice anything?" he asked.

"You combed your hair?"

Then I saw it. Them. My X-rays. Hanging on the wall. In frames. Beautiful distressed-gold frames, like they were holding old masters instead of ghostly black-and-whites of my spindly fingers.

My arms wrapped themselves across my stomach and I sank onto the couch. I hadn't even the strength to stand. It was so funny that for ages I couldn't even laugh. Finally the noise fought its way up through my convulsed stomach and heaving chest and emerged as a ceiling-ward shriek. I looked at Aidan, who was clutching the wall; tears of laughter were leaking form the sides of his eyes.

"You mad bastard," I finally managed.

"But there's more," he gasped. "Anna, Anna, there's more. Watch; no, wait, watch."

He doubled over again with hilarity, then straightened up, wiped his face and said, "Look!"

He pressed a switch and suddenly my two X-rays lit up, blazing into glory, just like they were on a hospital light box.

"I got lights," Aidan sobbed. "The guy in the frame place said I could get lights, so...so...so...I got lights."

He turned them off, then on again. "See? Lights."

"Stop," I begged, wondering if it was possible to actually die from laughing. "Oh, please, stop."

When I was able, I said, "Do the lights again."

He flicked them on and off several times, while further waves of mirth seized me, and when we were eventually exhausted from laughing, and curled up on the couch, Aidan asked, "You like?"

"I love. It's the best present I ever got."

ohmygoodness. I. want. that. love.

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