The doctor says, it’s everywhere. From kidneys to heart and back to bone, cannibal cells divide and deploy. What does it look like? I’m thinking the industrious carve of tiny termite alleys. Or a delicate pattern of holes and fissures that, in the right light, are pretty — maybe a doily heart, a snowflake liver. Maybe it’s as straightforward as dry rot: chipping, flaking rottenness. Such a pretty girl, people say.
At the grocery store I buy antioxidants. Blueberries, strawberries, green and orange things. I hold a cancer-fighting rainbow in my basket and ask the clerk to help me find soy milk. Rearranging the store wasn’t such a great idea, I tell him. I liked it the way it used to be. Everything made sense before, not now.
Sunday she complained about stomach pains. It was after our run, we were having lunch, with margaritas and our kids. Cheese salvation on the patio, under fog and a fringed umbrella. Stress, the divorce, have a Tums, I said. She mostly talked about custody. I nodded, offered to help with the kids. How about Wednesday? She asked. I have a doctor’s appointment.
The Friday nurse asks, Here for Allana? Go on in. I’ve brought her a book and a block of bittersweet chocolate, with almonds. I imagine she’s laced up like a corset from belly button to sternum. Blue pen still marks the entry points. Three hours pass and I’ve read her half of the book and eaten the chocolate. Now my stomach and hers ache. It’s everywhere and she doesn’t even know. I never keep secrets from her.
What does it look like?
First impression of Allana: face too perfect for good conversation; long, blonde hair, blonde even at the roots and pillow lips. Legs lovely and lean like the L’s in her name. On Sundays she smells like real maple syrup because we meet for long runs after she’s grilled pancakes for the kids. She always writes in cursive. The hospital gown doesn’t cover up her calves, muscular still, even though we haven’t run in two weeks.