Terry and I been married a year, and it’s been the best year ever. I shoulda done it years ago instead of holding her off eleven years. I never seen her so happy. The only thing that makes her sad is she ain’t pregnant yet. She worries we waited too long, and she’s too old now. I don’t know what to tell her. I never worry about things like that, but my Mom tells me it’s a big thing for girls, so I know it must be true, ‘cause she used to be one.
The shit hit the fan six months ago. I was eatin’ breakfast, readin’ sports in the Daily News, pissed because all our teams suck, and the owners ain’t doing nothing to make things better. It was time to go to work; I tried to get outta my chair, but couldn’t catch my breath, sweated like a pig, wanted to throw up. Terry had one look at me and called 911. I told her it was nothin’ but she wouldn’t listen.
I was pissed when an ambulance came a few minutes later, but was too weak and hurtin’ with pain in my chest to fight the medics. Terry says she wasn’t surprised when the docs in the emergency room said I had a heart attack, “I been tellin’ you, Nicky.” She said, “you can’t keep eating bad food and live long enough to see our children grow up. You gotta eat some greens, some fish. I read in my ladies magazine you gotta eat Mediterranean.”
“I eat Italian that’s Mediterranean, so give me a break Terry, I ain’t feelin’ so good and this ain’t the time to bust my balls. “She bent over and kissed me, “Sorry Nicky, you know I love you, I just wanna keep you around.”
“Hey cut that out, you two are going to have to wait till you’ve recovered from the operation.” That was a new Doc that come in the room. He was a scrawny little geek with bad hair and thick glasses. If he wasn’t wearin’ a white coat, you’d never pay him no mind.
“What operation?” I ask. I’m no pussy; played on one leg in the city championship and scored the winning touchdown; they didn’t find out I had a broken ankle till they X-rayed it later. But I don’t like some guy, I don’t care how long he been in school, cuttin’ me open.
“I’m doctor Johnson, Mr. Damico,” He says, “You’re a lucky man. If your wife didn’t get you to the hospital in time, we’d be talking about a funeral instead of an operation. You have two blocked arteries and we need to operate, graft four bypasses.”
I look over at Terry, squeeze her hand, don’t say nothin’, but she knows I’m sorry I give her a hard time when she was yellin’ we had to go to the hospital. I only went when she started cryin’; I can’t stand to see girls cry, especially her. She squeezed me back and started cryin’ again. I don’t know what to do, so I ask the Doc, “Are you sure we gotta do that Doc?” I didn’t wanna piss him off but I figure it can’t hurt to ask.
“Yes, we have to Mr. Damico; the sooner the better.” He says, “with your permission I’d like to schedule it for tomorrow.”
“If we gotta, we gotta.” I tell him, “go ahead.” Like I said, I’m no pussy, but I don’t feel good about the whole thing. Tell Terry to stop askin’ Doc questions about the operation, recovery, and all that stuff. I want him to go away, I don’t wanna think about it.
The next day they wheel me away first thing in the morning, don’t even give me a cup of coffee. Terry’s there, she’s holding my hand, kissin’ me and cryin’ again.
They rolled me into the operating room, and a bunch of people hustled around me, hooked me up to a lot of machines, handled me like a piece of meat. I had to yell at one girl I thought was gettin’ too friendly with ‘Mr. Happy’. “Watch it, lady!” I said, “I’m a happily married man.” She apologized, but I didn’t believe she meant it, so I was gonna tell her again to stop it, but the drugs started working and I went under.
I don’t know where I was when a bright white light hit me. It hurt my eyes, and I yelled, “Dim the fuckin’ brights! You’re not the only one on the road.” The light stayed on, and I heard a guy say, “Is that you, Nick?”
“Yeah, it’s me, and who the fuck are you?”
“It’s Tony the Hat, Nick, don’t you recognize me?”
“How can I recognize you; I can’t see shit with these fuckin’ lights. Wait a minute, you can’t be the Hat. He’s dead.”
“That’s right, I been dead almost ten years.” He says. I don’t like the sound of that; only nut jobs hear dead people. Father Colletti says a lot saints heard voices but meaning no disrespect to the father, or the Church if you want my opinion them saints were all whack jobs. I take a deep breath and say, “Yo, Tony, if you’re dead how come you’re talkin’ to me?”
“I’m your welcoming committee. Everybody from the St Monica’s was busy, so they sent me.”
“Welcomin’ to what?” I say.
“To Heaven.” He says, “But I’m not dead, I’m just out ‘cause they’re operatin’ on me.” I say.
“Sorry Nick, I know it’s a shock, but you’re a goner.”
“That’s bullshit! If I was dead, grandpa Nick and my Nonna would be here to meet me, not you.”
“Big Nick is down below, he did some bad shit nobody knew nothin’ about, and Angela is on a prayer retreat; there is a lot of that goin’ on here.” I don’t know what to say. Try to think what grandpa Nick coulda done that was so bad, ‘cause the Hat was no fuckin’ saint, and they let him in.
Tony tells me to stop askin’ questions and walk towards the light, but I think how much Terry was looking forward to becoming a Mom and say, “Fuck that! I ain’t goin’! I owe Terry. I knew she was the best on day one, but held her off for years before I ask her to get married, so I ain’t bailin’ on her after less than a year. I fucked up, but God’s punishin’ her, not me, and this ain’t fair.”
Tony says to stop fuckin’ around, it’s not up to me, and I gotta do what I gotta do, but I feel a thump, his voice gets weaker, the light dims, and then they’re both gone.
I’m kinda groggy when I wake up. My throat is sore, and I got a bunch of tubes and wires attached to machines with blinkin’ red lights comin’ out of me. A nurse sees me open my eyes and checks me out. Tells me I was very lucky. They almost lost me on the operating table. I know what she’s takin’ about but say nothin’. Like I said, people hear you think you been talkin’ with the dead, they think maybe you belong in the loony bin. She brings Terry in. She’s cryin’ again, but this time she looks happy. I’m glad so to see her, she don’t know it, but I’m sure she’s the reason I’m still here. Someone up there must have agreed she deserved better, and let me stay.
I just got back to work a few weeks ago. The Docs said I couldn’t climb roofs and carry heavy stuff till I was completely recovered. I was bored hangin’ around the house, there was nothin’ to watch, all our teams still suck. The only good thing to come out of this I had plenty of time to work on gettin’ Terry pregnant, and she tells me her Doc says we’re goin’ to have a girl. I don’t know nothin’ about what you do with a girl, you can’t teach them to play ball or stuff like that, but I never seen her so happy, and that makes me feel good. She, and our Moms, are busy buyin’ stuff, and knittin’ things. Our house is fillin’ up. You’d think we gonna have a whole neighborhood movin’ in with us, not a little baby.
The other thing that makes her happy is she don’t have to nag me anymore about going to church, I go with her every Sunday. She’s glad I’ve seen the light, but worries I’m givin’ too much money to the parish, “We’ve got a baby comin’” She says, smiles, and rubs her belly, “she’s gonna need so much, and we’re gonna have to be careful with our money. You’re actin’ like you think you can buy your way into heaven” I say nothin’, but she’s damn right, that’s exactly what I’m thinkin’, ‘cause there’s no other way the Hat coulda made it there.