Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Cancer: flowers

Carla didn't come to the door and the house was eerily quiet: no babble from the television, no shrieks or cries from children, no voices on the other side speaking sharply at one another.

Silent and worry.

I was a couple of minutes early and already I'd made up my mind I was buying the lady flowers before I brought her home. Valentine's Day was coming up. It seemed like something nice to do for someone who could use it.

I waited then knocked again.


On the dead grass to the bottom step of the paint-chipped and battered front porch, a dark, rusty stain spread out in a disturbing pattern. It bled out onto the pebbled sidewalk.

The house was awfully quiet and I imagined Carla stepping down onto the walk and bleeding out suddenly, an awful hemorrhage brought on by a tumor bursting.

Then I heard children inside the house and I tried the door again.

"I'm coming," Carla called. "Just a second."

I smiled when she opened the door. Me and my fucking imagination.

"I had to change shirts three times," she said and shook her head.

She was in a pretty good mood. We drove on the interstate, which unnerved her some. Carla's vision isn't so great and each passing vehicle made her feel claustrophobic. She clutched the side of her seat and kept looking down at the floor, but we talked about the new place. She doesn't like it.

"There ain't no closets," she complained. "At least none you can do more than just turnaround in."

I got her to the doctor's office. They were waiting for her and ready to go, which was nice.

"We'll call you when she's ready to go home," the technician told me.

I went to the grocery store and bought flowers. I debated what to get. I didn't want to get something that suggested either romance or a funeral. I just wanted something to put a little color into her day --and I got the impression that it had been a long time since anyone had bought her flowers just because.

Two hours later, I got the call to come back. Carla was weak and dizzy when I picked her up. The doctor had given her two, liter containers of fruit flavored barium (yum), which wouldn't fit in her purse.

"You drink this stuff with a little coke and it just about ruins your day," Carla said. "The oily taste just sticks in the back of your throat. You don't want nothing to eat."

She hated it and also hated what it meant.

"They want to take some more pictures," she said. "I'm not doing too good." She managed to smile. "But you've got to stay positive, right? That's what they tell you: stay positive."

With the barium in her hands, whatever optimism she had was fading fast.

"I don't know if I'm going to make it to the spring," she told me.

As I let her out at the curb in front of her house, Carla stuffed the canisters in her pocket. I reached into the backseat then handed her the purple carnations: four bucks plus tax. The bundle, formerly wrapped in cellophane seemed pathetic and cheap. It was cheap.

Without smiling, she put the flowers to her face and told me they were beautiful.

"It's just nothing," I said, awkwardly. "Valentine's Day is next week and I thought..."

"I appreciate this." She didn't look at me. "I really appreciate what you do."

She started to leave.

"See you next month?"

She nodded quickly and scurried toward her door. It wasn't a promise.


eclectic guy said...

I believe the war on cancer was declared during the Nixon administration. Why the hell can't we cure this fucking blight?

Mike Spain said...

A kind gesture with the flowers. It was not cheap at all, not every thing is measured in dollars and cents.