Cancer

 

“We can’t afford this trip!”  She snapped like a fly swatter against a window.

“You’ve always said you wanted to go to Istanbul,” The old man’s tongue slurred the words with a stroke mouth.

“Not now, now that we’ve grown feeble and without glow.”

“I still glow.  I can still glow,” He said it twice by accident.  Redundancy angered her.

“Are you a fucking self contained echo chamber?”  The sarcasm came easy, easy as apple pie.

“Money?  We have money, more than we need.”  He could see that he was swimming against the current.  The mighty Mississippi could not be held.  George knew that Sheila had made a list.  They call it a bucket list nowadays.  “Sheila this has always been…”

“Before I die?  Something I’ve always wanted to do before I die.”  Her eyes were dry, no crying from this brave one.  “Well guess what, I’ll be dead and you can bury my shriveled ass in Istanbul.”

He shrank from her vulgarity.  This wasn’t his wife.  Once soft like silk and tender, oh so tender, Sheila Stokes had been beaten down by her cancer.  Her mind made a one-eighty.  George couldn’t bear his wife’s slow metamorphism from angel to monster.  The fine hairs on his damaged neck rose to greet his fear.

She saw her husband’s eyes, the fear strangely aroused her.  Sheila tasted victory.  Her chest heaved triumphantly.  “I must go now George,” she said flatly without an ounce of emotion and with that brief farewell Sheila limped over to the balcony doors.  George thought she wanted a breath of fresh air.  Instead the gray and demented woman once his sweet wife stepped onto the balcony.  Straining, she pulled herself onto the four foot concrete railing.  “George, do not miss me.  I am not worth the missing, never have been.”

Those were her last words as George struggled with his walker to shuffle to the balcony.  He watched frozen with terror as his wife’s body fell almost lithely off the small wall separating the couple from a forty-floor drop to the pavement of mid Manhattan.  He dared not to look over.  His memory of her would be brief enough.  Nevertheless he did not want to watch his wife hit the sidewalk or to imagine the sound of crunching bones at impact.  George could only stare into the abyss of sadness.  Life is an accumulation of personal stories but at this moment he couldn’t remember one.  Now was not the time.

The cancer lost its battle.  By God, Sheila Stokes was not about to let something as foreign as a malignant tumor beat her, nothing could beat her, nothing.  Turning slowly away from the wall George stepped through the balcony doors.  Shuffling slowly but with unmatched strength of mind he pointed his walker to the kitchen and the awaiting oven.

It is never suppose to end this way.  No one makes plans for cancer, the brainless killer.  There are some however who make plans for other things, unspeakable things.  They sit quietly in a wheelchair or a corduroy recliner and plan.  The unmistakable sweet smell of gas drifts through their minds calling gently, entreating with a promise of eternal comfort.