On an Emergent Awareness of Impending Death (#fiction #prose #essay)

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Sometimes life just smacks you in the face. You’re just minding your own business and out of nowhere comes a big punch to the gut, or, yeah, a slap to the face or whatever. This mostly happens when you’re young. By the time you reach a certain age, if you are so lucky to live that long, you’ll be punch drunk enough, trust me.

Anyway, that’s why she couldn’t believe her rabbit was dying. No, she wasn’t pregnant or anything—her pet rabbit was riddled with tumors and needed to be put down. She’d never lost anyone that close before, and the tears came in waves. She was inconsolable, as you are when you lose something precious.

So she called her mother for comfort, which is a pretty reasonable thing to do, even for someone who is technically grown up and fully adult. Relying on mothers for comfort is a habit many of us never break until fate forces our hand on the matter. She called her mother and told her the devastating news, but her mother wasn’t really as sympathetic as she had expected, so she was a little crestfallen for a minute.

Her mother listened for a minute or two to the tears and lamentations before saying, “You go on like this for your rabbit when you know I have cancer, too?”

It was true that her mother had cancer and she definitely knew about it, but she was still naïve enough to believe doctors could save lives. She had heard of people surviving cancer, so she assumed her mother would be one of those, not one of the unlucky people you hear about in other families. We’re always pretty sure the worst things won’t happen to us, aren’t we?

She would be sadder and wiser soon enough, and maybe the rabbit served as a kind of omen or preparation for what was to come. Maybe it would help her get through the days, months, and years ahead. When you look back on things, it’s hard to say what helped or didn’t as you can’t imagine how bad things might have been otherwise. Trauma and grief can be pretty all consuming, you know, and your imagination for other possible worlds disappears.

You’re just sort of stuck, boxed in, and frozen.

Anyway, that’s how it all started. Tests, promising results, surgeries, promising outcomes, more tests, different doctors, different hospitals, different promises, and different prognoses were all to follow. Sure, the best of us indulge in magical thinking or just wishful thinking, anything to not indulge in despair, even when despair is rationally the correct choice. You pretend that rabbit cancer is categorically different from human cancer. You pretend doctors are magicians. You just get on with it.

Or sometimes you don’t. You decompensate. You look for comfort in anonymous sex, “mood altering” substances, or purely defiant denial. And you’re done for. Death keeps coming, and you find out you’re strong enough to face it down. I know, some people aren’t strong enough to face it down, but anyone reading this has been strong enough so far, so you’ve been strong for a long time.

Keep it up.

Podiatry’s Failure to Uplift Soles (#poem)

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Photo by Gratisography on Pexels.com

“Feet don’t fail me now”
Is a mildly amusing witticism
Until your actual feet begin
To fail in the most literal way.

Maybe it’s nerve damage,
An old injury flaring up,
Or the onset of degenerative
Disease. One thing is certain,
Though. You’ll soon join
The ranks of the aged and
Vulnerable. You’ll soon be
Reliant, dependent, despondent.

Your vanishing vitality is fuel
For the fortunate who have
Not realized mortality stalks
Them in the shadows. Their
Optimism will carry you a bit
Further.

A Belabored Gardening Metaphor (#poem)

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Photo by Suzy Hazelwood on Pexels.com

Fertility varies from place to place.
In my hometown, cilantro would take over
The yard if you weren’t careful. Some
People don’t like the smell, but I loved
The fragrant flood of mulch and pollen
Whenever I mowed. (It was the only joy
I found in mowing.) A cilantro haze
Always encircled by volunteer chilis
Standing as spicy sentinels guarding
The perimeter of the lawn with indifference.

In other places, the peppers and coriander
Do not volunteer but must be coaxed
From the soil with care and determination.
You must remember to bring them inside
During the cold months (and most are).
A grow light helps, too, one would think,
But the natural growth and abundance
Of abandoned plants has left me.

And could anything be more appropriate?
My own vitality, once uncontrolled and
Forever stretching to new patches of
Fertile soil must now be coaxed awake
Each day and issues a constant threat
Of “failure to thrive.” My arthritic hands
And semi-repaired bones strain to put
New seeds in fecund ground and wait for
Life to emerge each spring. But still
The light, the air, the soil trigger some
Urge, some will to unfurl once more.