Callum leans back on the recliner as he drapes the patchwork quilt over his body. His fingers trace the images, the scenes that connect him to moments of his husband’s life.
He runs his fingers over the cluster of embroidered stars. This scene is the night they met, during a party, out on a friend’s balcony. Shivering, Callum turned to go back inside. He bumped into Jerome, dark-skinned and bearded, walking out. They apologized and talked for a moment, despite the cold. The moment kept going.
This busy pattern of lines and dots is Jerome supporting him during the college years, the exams, the dissertation defense, the sleepless nights. Way too many pepperoni pizzas. Jerome wanted pineapples on his side, “If you don’t mind.” Callum never minded any of Jerome’s quirks. They were part of a package deal, and he loved the package.
The alternating black and white squares are Jerome’s love for chess. He would play for hours with his mother or father. This pattern contains a yarn texture that somehow reminds Callum of pipe-cleaners. It’s an odd connection to make. Jerome never smoked, always exercised, ate his fruits and vegetables. Everything that should have protected him from cancer. Should have.
The pattern with gentle blue swirls is their time looking out over the ocean from their hotel room, during the honeymoon neither of them had seen as possible. The chemo already seemed a distant memory by that time. Salt air emanates from the pattern Callum touches, swirling around him like their dancing that night, like Jerome’s kisses.
The gray squares with black frames are the last days they spent together when the cancer returned to claim its elusive prize. The smoothest fabric makes up these squares of the roughest times. Callum wonders if he should have used sandpaper in place of this gentle material. This part of their journey wore him down and tore him apart, seeing Jerome thirsty, sweating, pale, sick.
The simple red and yellow patterns are the reminders that Jerome got his diagnosis their first month together and said they shouldn’t fall in love. They already had. Callum would accept no talk of ending their relationship or of being spared anything. They both said all they wanted to say, and still only wanted each other. Simple.
Despite fears of only making it a few months, Jerome lived fifteen years past the diagnosis, and he brought all these designs to Callum’s life. Callum presses his face to the blanket, smells a hint of Jerome’s aftershave.
One pattern consists of dots chasing each other, scattering, circling. Not knowing which way they’ll go next but just wanting to continue. That one is his favorite because it reminds Callum of their life together the most.
Duane Simolke (pronounced Dwain Smoky) received the StoneWall Society Pride in the Arts Awards for his books The Acorn Stories, Degranon, and Holding Me Together. He lives in Lubbock, Texas, where he runs a blog.