when we took her out, first day after the
endoscopy, where, under Valium, she
giggled, “I’ll leave the malignancy alone
if it leaves me alone,” before she became
the color of untinted sheets. Maybe she
felt the sound was that of something inside her,
blocking her, or the groans were too close
to her own. “They sounded sad,” she
said, as I pretended the day out wasn’t strained.
“Look,” my mother said, “I’ve hardly had
to sit down. I think I’m getting stronger.” I
must have cringed, thinking of the doctor’s
face, but we slid through malls, or tried to. My
mother played with her soup in the Chinese restaurant.
When her hair was being done, her head looked
already skeletal. I could not believe my mother,
who called me five times a day sometimes,
wouldn’t always be there, on the phone, ready to
come and take care of me when I had the flu,
as she had a day before she found she couldn’t
swallow; felt I was in some horror show I
couldn’t find the OFF button for. I gulped
sticky cinnamon buns, let the sugar frosting
coat my fingers and wrists, wanting to go back to
when she would tell me to take my fingers
out of my mouth, starved to have her
tell me what to do, as if even that
was sweet.