Birthday in the Desert
"I can hear the sounds of the Gemzar dripping from Mom’s IV bag. When Margie inserted the wicked inch long needle into Mom’s portacath on her chest, it sounded like a fingernail puncturing ripe fruit. I make myself watch, unblinking - it’s almost a relief. I can’t bear her pain, I can’t take it from her, the closest I can come is to remind her to take her medication. So I force myself to be an active observer of that which hurts her, to be present.

I get up to get Mom more ice water, and I have to walk through a room of other patients receiving chemo near the nurse’s station. A new patient has arrived since I last filled the glass at the ice machine - a young man, younger than me perhaps. Handsome. Afraid, as the nurse wraps the tourniquet around his arm. I know this, because he looks me in the eye as I walk by and his eyes are wide and focused. It occurs to me that he is the first person I have made eye contact with all day. I force myself to look, unblinking, but the needle doesn’t hurt him any less."

From "Chemo"
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