Kate kept going from room to room; trying to find a place to settle down and rest, to just stop thinking, escape from the terrible new knowledge. Cancer…the new word could not be formed by her own lips, it would hurt to speak it aloud. But even in staying silent there was no escape, one couldn’t leave cancer someplace and shut the door. There would never be escape or peace or numbness again; those days were over. She was trapped, inextricably tangled in this mutation that had taken over her breast, a stranglehold that was going to last forever.
It made her think how much of her life had been about escaping. She’d almost even managed to escape the anguish of her child's death…sometimes she could forget Ethan was really dead by dwelling only on the memories of him, mentally flipping through them like folders in a secret file cabinet, pulling out certain ones when needed.
But that was different now, too. Now she couldn’t even find Ethan, couldn’t find that sweet spot that she went to in her mind’s eye, that place of happy days and precious visions. Cancer seemed to change whatever she was trying to focus on. Somehow it magnified everything, brought more and more to the surface. It was as if every single bad thing that ever happened was suddenly feeding off the cancerous tumors and growing too, growing beyond the boundaries of her ability to stifle it. Nothing worked to keep the dark feelings at bay. There seemed no speck of happiness left to cling to, nothing, not one thing she could conjure up to look forward to or place her hopes upon. “What was the point?” was a phrase that kept coming back into her head over and over.
Of course Nola was the point. Nola needed to be the point here. For crying out loud, what kind of mother was she that her first, second and third thoughts weren’t for her daughter? She knew that’s how she was supposed to feel, what she was supposed to do. But it wasn’t how she felt and she couldn’t do it. There was something broken; a disconnect. Had it always been damaged, or did the cancer eat that away too?
Nola barely acknowledged her existence these days, and who could blame her? She’d hadn’t been there for this child, really. Memories haunted her…were they ever close? It was stunning the thoughts that kept rolling in her mind without stopping. No, wait, yes, they were, maybe, when she was little, younger. Or at least Kate had been going through the motions, was it good enough, did she love her enough?
“Good God, what have I done?” Her own voice echoed through the empty house.
The sudden clarity with which she saw things now was blinding, it was almost as painful as the knowledge that her life was probably over, that she might die soon. It was as if every thing became crystalline, pure thoughts just flew through her brain without cessation or censor, without bidding either. Nothing was within her control anymore. Not one thing. This was all beyond comprehension.
Wandering around and around the house she kept talking to herself just to hear a human sound, to know she was real, this was all happening. The awareness, realizations just kept coming in waves, mistakes she made, ways she could have been better, memories of times she should have been happy. “Why wasn’t I happy more, why didn’t I notice all the things that were there to be happy about?”
Now, now when she saw those very same things that should have made her happy before instead they made her mourn all the more, grieve for the life she had thrown away so far. She had wasted so much time…if only she’d known there was to be so little of it. If only she had known.
“Would I have had Nola?”
If she’d known that she might die would she have had another child after Ethan? She knew the answer. No. But yet she couldn’t bring herself to begrudge the life of her daughter, as disconnected as she felt she couldn’t let herself stay in that thought.
Instead she kept moving, kept doing, kept trying to find a place to land, a place to let go. Eventually she found herself in the bathroom opening the medicine cabinet. Plenty of painkillers. Just to sleep. Just two, maybe three.
The next morning as the sun shown brutally thru the lace curtains Kate wished she had remembered to draw the blinds, wished she could continue to sleep, go back into the depths where she had drifted…far past dreams and awareness of any kind. Sleep was now probably only going to be available to her artificially, she knew that, had suffered from insomnia enough to know that there was no way she could ever just lie down and sleep with the awful knowledge of cancer now looming over her, as if a monster from a childhood nightmare had come to life, no longer just lurking in the forgotten dust under the bed. But sleep was also her only refuge. The night before was a complete blank, she barely remembered falling into bed. There were no thoughts, no more flurry of memories and realizations. Just the empty relief of complete nothingness. She should call the doctor and get a regular prescription for sleeping pills. Surely they give that to people like her? Who has cancer and can sleep on their own?
But no doctors today. She knew there were phone calls, arrangements she needed to make, appointments to schedule, facts to learn, decisions to be made. The thought of it all was completely overwhelming. It was impossible.
“Where do I start?”
The sound of her voice alone in the house was no longer comforting. It was unfamiliar, as if it were someone else’s. It was. It belonged to someone with cancer. She didn’t know that person. She didn’t want to.
Tomorrow. Tomorrow she would face things. For today she wanted nothing more than to sleep again, just a little longer. Thankfully she had plenty painkillers left to last till she got something of her own. Graham was always getting prescriptions for his back and not taking them, he was too tough, said they clouded his mind. That’s exactly what she wanted, to cloud her mind. There were plenty to choose from. For today, she could just use what she had and sleep. She would bury her mind in a thousand clouds until there was nothing but softness to smother all thoughts of cancer.
six words: see ya soon - minor eye injury still needs healing