Lenore supposed that if she had not rejected chemo and radiation, it would have been easier to forget, once the tortures were over, about the ever-present threat of metastasis. But she had gambled on the gentler, non-conventional treatments, and that choice had entailed a major overhaul of her life — radical changes to her diet, a demanding exercise regime, pills, shots and herbs morning noon and night, a variety of heart and soul manipulations, constant research, and many attempts at stress reduction. Her healing protocol was daily and ongoing, which meant that she could never really forget about her newest "challenge." Sometimes she resented that. Other times she thought of it as a gift. What a blessing to be reminded anew, every day, several times a day, that she was not immortal.
She thought about the woman on TV, the one who had been impaled by a picket fence post that had pierced her neck, courtesy of a tornado, and how she had been saved in the ER. The woman' life hung on either side of a splintered millimeter. No one could believe their eyes. And yet she had lived.
There were so many mysteries. What was that clink in the engine that her auto mechanic could never hear? Why could she so rarely be happy with her hair? How did the kitchen become so messy, so fast? Why did her toes get hot at night? How did one remove the old windshield wipers and attach the new ones? What brought a cancer cell to life?
The raw terror of the last year had exhausted her. The bags under her eyes were bulging. Most mornings she didn't notice the sunrise. But this morning, as her brain thrashed in the buttery light of six a.m., the orange-red robe of dawn swathed her in a moment of relief and calm. She loved how the sunshine bleached away the dark brown stains that sullied the past. She loved how today's silken dawn illuminated every membrane. It was odd, this respite from the dark side. Rarely did she choose to see the glass half full. God forbid she might begin to believe in the possibility of some fabulous surprise waiting around every corner. Her modus operandi (well established by now, at the age of 53) was to expect worst case scenarios, and to keep her joys well hidden, choosing to elaborate, instead, upon the story of the fire that she had barely caught in time, or the slime that grew on her landlord's brain.
Dawn, of course, was just another prop, when you got right down to it, and she was always turning to props for survival. Only yesterday, for example, she had relied upon the memory of the sublime kiss she had shared with Frank that day on the beach, years ago. Their son had been playing in the waves with the dog that was now dead. That kiss had flown in the face of everything bad that had ever happened between her and Frank. It had swallowed her whole.
The surgical wound to her breast had healed. Bloody at first — red, festering, itchy, yes — but then the curdled, purple crust appeared, the overlay of scab that had finally given way to soft new skin, one more chance to start over.
She sat down at her desk. Outside the window, a crush of brown September leaves lifted and swirled themselves away. Wavy fractals of light and dark tossed themselves onto her small, worrisome realm, which included a large pile of bills, most of them overdue and medical. She breathed deep into her shivering core, until the first honeyed light of morning stuck to her stubborn, cold blue veins and warmed them.