The Cancer Woman's Beautiful Daughters
Long ago and far away, we believed in magic. We believed in spells, totems, prayer, positive thinking and wheat grass. We believed the force of our will and sunny smiles could light the dark corners, banish evil spirits, bend enemies to our will and defeat death. We danced the special dance around her bed and nothing our mother said or did dissuaded us from our belief--and as long as a smidgeon of this came true, the smallest iota, we believed in the magic we wrought.
In the Andes, the mummies of child sacrifices sleep on mountain peaks where they have rested through the centuries. Millennia ago, children hiked up the mountain to honorable deaths in a drugged haze. My sister gave me a handful of Valium, because I didn't want to offer my childhood on the altar of Mother's cancer.
In Australia, the aboriginal people explore the dreamtime, disappearing into the bush for weeks and months and years. After delivering the child sacrifice to our mother's bedside, my sister disappeared into the wilds of Europe and Asia, emerging now and again without warning to tell us of macrobiotics, coffee enemas and juicing--wonders to behold--and say, here I bought a juicer and two thousand dollars worth of vitamins you are to give her these five times a day with the wheatgrass juice.
Then she disappeared. I tended the mummy of my childhood, packing it in bitter salts. As it dried up, I resented my sister, though the sacrifice of her sanity was just as devastating. My days passed in darkness while I tried to see through my shrunken eyes, lids sewn shut. The sounds of parties and foreign men murmuring were room tone for my sister's phone calls. She came, she left, she came, she left, and she came--each time being less of what she had been…
The beautiful cancer doctor with his blue eyes and Sloan-Kettering tresses attended our mother, weaving in and out of our lives, the tails of his white lab coat flying behind him as he ran. My sister and I sat in his office hanging on his every word, flirting with him, offering ourselves to him. We both slept with him, our mother's cancer doctor. His hands were so clean they smelled of chemotherapy.
He left Mother's room one day and our hungry eyes followed him, certain he was our hero, undressing him, devouring him. Mother cranked the hospital bed to a sitting position. Her bedroom eyes, even more hooded by morphine, pierced us weakly.
"I wish you two girls wouldn't be so promiscuous," she said.
With enough drugs, we could smile and my sister and I would dance around our mother, The Cancer Woman, singing and performing the ritual of daughters begging their mother to not die.