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Cancer

By , haverhill, MA
I know, its not fair.
You don’t have to tell me.

But I tell you that maybe we can watch your favorite show on TV, or read one of the books Mom and Dad brought you from home. They used to be your favorites.

And you still sit there, on the chair by the window that Mom always sits in to read or sleep or worry, and you press your hand up against the glass as you lean over and watch the kids in the nearby park play in the snow.

I remember how much fun we had in the snow, you and I, but you probably don’t. You were so young last year, as you still are now, I guess. Cancer has a way of aging even the youngest people in such a short time.

I put my hand on your shoulder and bend down so my mouth comes right next to your ear and my hair streams down in front of my face and I whisper that maybe I can get one of the nurses to let you have some hot chocolate. That makes you smile.

I grasp the hand that rests on your lap and pull you toward your bed. Five little foggy fingers linger on the glass as I fumble with all the tubes they have stuck in you, to make you better. I tuck you into your sheets and tell you I’ll be right back. I’ll have to rush because I know you don’t like to be alone, and Mom and Dad are eating right now in the café at the ground floor.

You’ve been really sick lately. The doctor says you’re getting worse, but things have to get worse before they get better, right? Mom and Dad need a break because they’ve been up all night with you, to be there for you when you get scared. Most kids are afraid of the monster under the bed, but you’re afraid of the monster inside you.

As I skip out the door I poke my head back in and smile. You smile back and lift a weak hand to wave me off and tell me not to put marshmallows in yours because you don’t like them. I pretend to act shocked that you don’t like marshmallows, and you say I’m the goofiest sister ever. Suddenly you look very serious, with your brows gathering at the center of your forehead in little creases. I stride back up to your bed and put my hand on your bald head and shake it back and forth a little, like I used to do. I can feel your burning skin at the tips of my fingers and I remember to be fragile. I remember when you were born, five years ago, and Mom let me hold you for the first time. You already had a full head of hair, and it was so silky and smooth that I would stroke it until you fell asleep.

When your expression lightens up again I stomp out of the room as you giggle behind me, and by the time I’m halfway down the hallway the giggles turn into coughs. Cancer won’t even let you laugh.

A few minutes later I’m heading back with the hot cocoa. It’s a long walk down to the café, and I had to get it twice because I accidently added marshmallows to yours. I always forget things I shouldn’t. I didn’t ask the nurse if you were allowed to have any because I didn’t want her to say no. You need this hot cocoa more than the medicine.

But by the time I reach your room, the nurses are already in there. They look back at me with something like pity. The doctor’s in there too. He’s holding those pads that send a shock through your whole body, like that time in the ambulance a few weeks ago when your heart stopped because of the cancer, when it spread. There’s a little boy in the bed, nightgown ripped open to expose his bare chest where two red rectangles are fading in. But you’re not here anymore because you’re in heaven now, where you belong.





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