I live in a world of darkness; light splinters in through occasional cracks in the white, plastic blinds. I would rather be in the darkness than in the light. When there is a hint of brightness I hide under my covers and lie still, squeeze my eyes tight. I have felt this way for a long time. Every now and then I try to picture myself in the past buying red tulips and iced coffee but it has been so long ago I can barely remember what it felt like. I now lie in a hospital bed, the IV dripping fluids into my wobbly bluish vein, pain medication scheduled every four hours. There is no silence in a hospital ward, it’s always too noisy; I can’t even hear myself think, maybe they do this on purpose for distraction.
When visitors come I put on pale, pink lipstick and try to sit up to give the image of energy. I attempt to smile and make conversation but really, what is there to talk about? We all know I am dying but nobody wants to talk about that, well, except for me. I bring up the topic from time to time but my friends squirm and change the subject. Since it is not happening to them I don’t understand why they won’t have a conversation with me about it, for goodness sake. Death is my future, it’s all of our futures, some sooner than later. It makes them feel uncomfortable to mention the word, I want to yell at them “man up, I’m the one who is dying here, not you!! ” but I don’t have the energy.
When my father died, many years ago, I had one friend who just let me cry, her name was Margo. I didn’t have to say anything, I just needed to be able to be with someone I trusted, her arm around my shoulders and I could cry. No one else, even family, made me feel that safe with the exception of my dog. She would jump on the bed and I would cry and she would kiss my face and lick my tears. She was one of the most empathetic dogs I’ve ever known, her nickname was Buddha Dog.
I wear red “cowboy” bandanas in my hair, or what’s left of my hair, I look like a cross between a bad-ass motorcycle chick and a kewpie doll, that’s one hell of a combination but it amuses me. I’m not supposed to admit this but I really don’t like when my children come to see me, I’d rather they didn’t but my husband disagrees and lectures me on this. Why should they have to see me like this, thin and disintegrating and in pain? I would rather them remember me as I was, happily eating mango sorbet, laughing at my own jokes. I would scratch as many cars as possible and not be mad when they teased me about what a horrible driver I was if I could turn the clock back but I can’t. I can’t do a thing except lie here and wait; I am powerless.
Sometimes I ask for foods from my childhood, Wonder bread sandwiches with the crusts cut off with butter and Kraft American cheese or creamy Skippy peanut butter with honey and sliced bananas. These things are soft and don’t hurt the sores in my mouth as much as some of the other foods they try to make me eat. Even if I can’t eat them, I try to touch them and smell them and it makes people feel good to bring something. I’ve learned that. I will ask for simple things so they will feel better.
I don’t have much time left but time enough to know that this life is a short one. Enjoy, not each day, but each part of every day no matter how shitty it is. You are alive and you still have your future. I do not. Hold on to what you have, it is just a fleeting moment or two. Really, hold on to what you have while you can.