Why Do We Say Sorry?

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y_phog

In the supermarket yesterday, ten people said sorry by the protein. At one point, two men hit the base of a woman’s spleen with their shopping carts as they went for the boneless turkey breast. Gotta have it. So, so sorry.

I guess it’s good to know you’re covering your ass. You’ve got your shield, adorned with two tiny syllables. A handy defense.

Two weeks ago, on a Wednesday at noon, my mother texted me: “Daddy is in the hospital again. Wondering if you could come home to Philly tonight? I know you’re busy in New York. Sorry.”

What?

Sorry. Sorry he’s in a hospital for the third time in five weeks? Sorry he can’t figure out how to use his cell phone? Sorry he walks from the bathroom to the bedroom and back to the bathroom, mumbling an unending list of indictments against his own body? Yes, I’m busy, but, I mean.

My father’s resting heart rate is over 100 beats per minute. It’s called tachycardia, Latin for fast heart. A few years ago, when his pulse began to accelerate and my mother began to send apologetic texts, I called her: “Can you stop? It’s not helping, and there’s not really anything you can do. You’re not, like, a heart wizard.”

“Harris.”

Sorry.

We love to play defense, at least in my family. My dad is dying, and we raise our little sorrys, tossing them back and forth like the purple Nerf football I used to pass to my dad in fourth grade. Once, in our backyard, I lobbed it over his head and into the street. A mulberry almond between two lanes of traffic. He walked right into the street, kneeling down to pick it up as I apologized to the back of his head.

So, two weeks ago, I took a train. Exchanged sorry for a seat. After a few hours, I was sitting on a plastic chair, watching a woman get paid to stick a needle in my dad’s arm while saying sorry ten times fast. He looked up at her, smiling. She laughed, fumbling the insertion of the IV. She had to start over, and then he apologized, too.

We used to take walks, when I was little. Six-mile walks, to get haircuts. He’d get a good ten yards in front of me and then stop, turning around and smiling, and opening his hands in mock provocation, as if to ask, “so that’s the best you can do?” Instead, he’d say sorry — I’d be a quarter mile behind him, so I’d only see his mouth move.

A doctor came in to tell us all about hearts. Their speeds and shapes and predilections. The way they move. The way they kind of do their own thing, beating out a Fuck You in Morse code to the doctors, who can’t figure it out, even with their iPads and Latin roots. None of us could tell you what the hell a heart will do next.

Eventually, it was time for me to go. Long night, probably should head out to catch my train. Really wish I could stay longer. But, hey, we try.

I can’t say why we do it. Apologizing for being fast, or strong, or hungry, or human. For living, or texting, or having a husband who is seventy-three with a heart that beats a little bit faster than everyone else’s.

Instead of sorry, let’s say what we mean: He is dying. We all are, actually. He used to walk ahead of you on the six-mile march to the barber. He used to walk so fast and then turn around, laughing at you, as you’d stand there a quarter mile down the road. Is that really the best you can do?

Sorry. I tripped. I accidentally touched your boob as I was lunging forward, trying to grab a boneless turkey breast. I was walking too quickly, and I didn’t see you there. Agh, sorry about that. Thought Catalog Logo Mark

This post originally appeared on Medium.

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