quicksilver out the seams

Posted on May 1, 2012 by Val |4 Comments

6 weeks ago
i went on a bike ride today. in an utterly innocent body. there is no hint or ache or muted scream from any of the four corners of the beast. all is perfectly seated pistons. eager happy legs. big volume heart and lungs. a thing more interested in the chase than itself. i found myself thinking- maybe we misunderstand cancer. maybe it isn’t really so terrible. because right now, it doesn’t feel terrible. and i know how the rest of that goes, what with the “not yets” and the insidious nature, and so on. i know. i remember coughing blood. but even then, just me and the little spot of blood in my hand; innocence.

i will confess that i am having a nostalgia for the past that never existed. again. i watch too many BBC period dramas. romanticized suffering. where you get to die at home in bed. surrounded by the people who are tender for your mysterious body and the loving it makes possible. and you are never sure you are dying. until you are. the internal is as cosmic and unknowable as the ethereal. we conjecture and guess. they put hands and leeches on. fret and change the cloths. pray for intervention. but the cosmos above and within, moves how it will.

and it is true that these modern days we don’t die the thousand times we could. from infections and broken bones and tuberculosis. we are cocksure modern ghosts. but there is a price, i think. we hand over control to the scanning machines and to the waiting rooms. paperwork. a co-pay. we truss up god in scrubs and submit our terrified hearts to florescent overheads. and there is no room for the village in the waiting room.

we give over our bodies or the bodies of people we love. submit to the intermediary with an advanced degree in detachment. we become our pathology. and forget the hands of lovers. forget the swirling cosmos inside us.

and unless you lack insurance, the body doesn’t get to keep its secrets. i spent the morning listening to the autistic tap dancing of the MRI. the quiet cocking of pistols at the poker table. someone performing CPR on a songbird. and as a finale, the copulating of the hammer and the dental drill. i was choreographing an awkward modern dance all the while it probed my brain. running its fingers under the folds and lobes of my earliest smell of horse, the fear of outliving my mother, my lust for parsnip.

i worry about becoming unrecognizable to the mama bird. i worry i’ll be handled too much. and leaking quicksilver out the seams, the natural life will take one look and fly away. that by not dying early and quickly, i have forfeited my humanness.

the walking undead. in exile. it is the danger of the dark magic they perform in the infusion room with the green-apple colored recliners. ice water in paper cups.
at what price?

this is all hooey of course. but i realized that it is an element of my unease. and needed rooting out.

and the part i can do something about is the hands. maybe not the leeches. but remember to feed the soul. tell the truth. try to leave behind something tangible. heal our sore hearts first. let it all in and let it all go. remember the cosmos and spend a few evenings with our heads tilted back.

  1. Oh Val G. The way you write. The way you think. And you can never forfeit your humanness. There’s just too damn much of it. There’s hardly room for the quicksilver.

  2. Stacy, agreed.

    Val, your humanness is undeniable and full. Your words carry, flow, fill all around us.

  3. The humble and honest passion that comes through your writing is strengthening to read. Strong art, strong storytelling, and very much alive.

    I have passed through my own gauntlet with cancer and been afraid to hear too much about others’ experiences with cancer, lest the ghost, the specter, come back to visit me. As if one is protected by looking away. Now it is interesting for me to find a feeling of intimacy and comfort alongside the fear, through reading your writing about your experience with cancer. I feel some new peace and less fear, perhaps because your spirit feels stronger than the ghost. Perhaps because by you/me facing the ghost/beast, it has become not so much the “other.” Yin and yang, life and death, you or me and cancer, self and the “other,” are fully intertwined — there is always a little of one within the other. The adversary/ghost perhaps becomes an ally or at least a touchstone of sorts that can guide you/us through these “last” passages of life.

  4. this all makes me so happy. i think you are exactly right. superstition is a prison. and the fear keeps us from getting to important places. an opening up when we feel like curling in on ourselves. going out to meet the thing when our instinct is to bar the door. talking about our deep fear of loss when we can barely admit it to ourselves. walking through the world with open hands. all of us. you, me and all the others.
    thank you so much for sharing this. for writing your beautiful words. it makes this feel useful. and that is everything.

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