2 AM—steroid insomnia
Or insomnia of another sort of course
Statistics & mastectomy pictures
Reconstruction, Tamoxifen, Michigan
Bankruptcy, relationship, religion,
Jack the Ripper, gender/secondary sex characteristics,
the Bodleian, Haworth, Wuthering Heights,
Simone de Beauvoir, ‘writer’s block,’ the emptiness,
Mastectomy, my imaginary children
Chemo in the morning
Dr S—what to say?
The emptiness—the horror
This is the hour when you notice clocks ticking, clocks you can’t find. Inevitably I wake him, fumbling for my glasses and bathrobe. He sits up, flustered, and says my name. I confirm. “Are you ok?” he asks. How can I possibly answer that? I will always be against this disease, afraid of my body. Will I ever be “ok” again, then?
My computer, that suggestion of connections, short circuits as per usual. I sit at the kitchen table and drink a glass of water. Consider the impossibility of Erie Pennsylvania.
For moments I believe I could go home—sell coffee, build bookshelves, learn German. And then I imagine them dredging my body from the Thames; I am unable to cope with the slightest inconveniences of living. Why can’t I just behave like that quintessential quasi-sick-in-the-head cancer patient, celebrating sunlight and buttered toast, ‘embracing’ the previously-ignored minutiae of existence? I’d like to believe I am too bright to be seduced by the perverse propaganda of this disease, but perhaps I am just not brave enough to live in any instance, under any circumstances.
My children are—have always been; I remember sketching their future existences as an eleven-year old—so real to me that to ever know I could not have them, could not raise them, watch them become people, I surely could not bear to live. So I continue to hope for that sake, unable to bear the consequences of the alternative. I do not want to live solely for myself. I believe I would be a good parent—God, I already love the thought of them more than my own stupid life.
I am so ashamedly cruel to wish cancer on almost everyone I see, but who, really, would not think of a stranger: better you than me?
Three AM. The unbearable certainty of going to lie beside my lover and stare fitfully into the empty space where the ceiling is. My body unable to regulate its temperature. Half-sleep somewhere near dawn, perhaps punctuated by nightmares. And the awful familiarity of what the morning has in store. It could be worse, of course—I think all the time of what could be worse. And it is precisely thinking of all that is worse in the world that undermines my faith and hope in my own insignificant recovery. Better people, younger people, people with more “promise” and “everything to live for”—what right have I to pray for my own uncertain future when a whole world of brilliant people die and have died in wars and ovens and accidents and other acts of inexplicable tragedy?
K. is haunted by the recent suicide of a former colleague from St. P’s—that college has, it seems, an extraordinary rate of tragic deaths among young alumni, or perhaps I am naïve to the preponderance of tragic young deaths in the world. First there was J, who drowned in India, then L who fell to her death in a climbing accident. Now A, on the verge of an enquiry from his employer about misuse of company resources, losing his job or perhaps prison, puts on his best suit, has an expensive meal in some London restaurant, champagne etc, then jumps eight floors.
Two weeks ago a woman jumped from the Carfax Tower. Money trouble, apparently—the headline something like CREDIT CRUNCH KILLS. And traumatizes crowds on Cornmarket Street, no doubt. How unthinkably sad and selfish.
And it troubles me, when I would so like to live.