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.