i will tell you secrets. horrible secrets: my chest is tight. my breathing more labored. i imagine the solid gelatinous masses pining for one another. merging at some unknown moment and pinching off the air in me. the trachea. the middle of my chest. where i have tattooed the tree. the brachiate. and the double spiral of the milky way. the vortex of suffocation.
it is supposed to be “slow” but i do not believe it anymore. even a snail’s pace could be tomorrow. or the day after. i want to believe in this new drug. but it seems unlikely. i keep thinking about the oncologist’s minor chord ”i am sorry”.
when i breathe with this catch i feel the end of time. i really do. even wish for it a bit. not like before when i thought i knew what it would be like to surrender to the abyss. how i would tip my hat and submit nobly. but this…this gaping black maw, sucking me in, is a nerve test. my protestant upbringing leads me to believe, somehow, that this suffering must have a reward. some tiny moment of relief. of beauty. i want to hear- it’s gonna be okay from now on sweet girl. it’s all okay now.
only this time i think i will actually believe it. really truly believe for the first time in 4 years. i crave reassurance. but only the credible kind. that is hard to come by. but it shouldn’t be too much to ask from an afterlife, i should think.
especially after 4 years of watching and waiting, it seems like the least they could do is play a little song. a little finish-line fanfare before the consciousness sputters out.
on the upside, death does do away with threat. because i do not want to give cancer the finger. i want to give threat the finger. i want to give interminable debilitating threat the hugest fuck you i have the breath for. that shit is a potent devil. it has worn me out. me and everyone i know.
but then we talk about the love. we talk and i am walked and fed. and called and texted. i am loved. loved enough to last the next 40 years. by you and them. deborah, waking me up with texts every morning: “how are you hoobs?”. i want to tell her i am better. instead i tell her i am okay.
i make myself laugh by looking in the mirror at my baldish puffy head and saying “you’re alright.” like you would to a toddler who is milking a tantrum. i can buck up here too. (yes, i can if i want)
i am daily surprised by the solidity of the world. the wonderful growth patterns in the wood of the wardrobe beside my bed. the detail. am surprised at the acuity of my eyesight. i step on the floor and it creaks.
it seems counter intuitive for it all to be so vivid. because some part of me has decided i am getting further from life. fading.
but i do not think i’m fading. just getting tired. so i keep touching and smelling flowers and dogs and people. to remind myself that i am actually still on the surface of this planet. upright. tethered until further notice.
and the only thing for it is to live. to go out and touch as much as possible. to be a part. to be immersed in and permeated by this lovely awful life.
it also seems clear that i will not be able to understand it in time to do a decent job of dying. i will not figure this out before it happens. so i tell myself to let it go. let it do its own job and i do mine.
and i want to make it alright and perfect with every creature i have ever loved imperfectly. and i know that’s not possible. but i want it. for us both.
my niece has turned into some version of a christian recently, so i asked her what she thought happens when you die.
“you go to heaven if you’ve asked for forgiveness”
“do you think i am going to heaven?”
“yes, if you’ve asked for forgiveness.”
“i’ve asked for forgiveness from almost everyone i know, but not from god, at least not recently. does that count?”
“um, i think, maybe if you are a good person.”
i did not make her suffer through my “good person” ruminations. which are many. i am a ferocious equivocator. and i could not see any way for us to carry on civilly. so i just love her. hope she knows it. hope she comes to understand me better someday when 19 years old is buried in her deeper strata.
i will tell you the worst part of this: if you die “young”, you don’t get to find out what happens next. how all of your peers end up parking themselves into old age. all the tragedies and vagaries and fortunes. the stories. i love the fucking stories. and it just kills me (ha) to think i will miss them. i am always so curious what will happen next. i want to drink it all in greedily. now.
i might even ask for forgiveness (i’m sure i could think of something) if god could promise me stories.