DISCLAIMER: I do not own The L-Word, nor the lovely Alice and Dana. All credit goes to Ilene Chaiken and company. The title is taken from the Tori Amos song by the same name.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.

By Jessica


Part One:

Before you get sick, you take things for granted. Take coffee for instance. It's just one of those simple pleasures that you indulged in without thinking. You would just get up in the morning and brew a pot, gulping it down in between getting dressed and making phone calls. Or maybe you wouldn't have it at home at all; you'd grab a cup on your way to the office or even use your caffeine addiction as an excuse to go to a cafe and gossip with your friends.

It isn't until your taste buds are killed by chemo and the mere smell of the stuff is enough to send you to the bathroom and land you with your head in the toliet, that you realize that it wasn't that you didn't appreciate coffee before, you simply drank it without giving it a second thought. Suddenly, you long for it. Dream about it, even. And one day you can have it again without it being instantly rejected by your stomach and it is...heaven. Your mouth salivates at the aroma and man oh man, the taste. The silky smoothness of that richness sliding down the back of your throat. You doubt anything can be that good, that is, until you can have ice cream again. That's a entirely different ball park.

You realize you repeat this process with a lot of things. Flowers. Sunrises and sunsets. Babies. Animals. The list seems endless. You begin to question if you've spent your life with your head in the sand. Because it's as if you've never noticed how beautiful things were. Were they that way all along or were you just oblivious? You recall the play everyone is forced to read in high school, Our Town, The girl in that play didn't see the beauty in the simple things until she was dead and could not have them anymore. You couldn't possibly understand when you were a kid, because you were invincible, but now you think you do. Everything in your life is separated into two categories; life before cancer and life after cancer. And boy, life before cancer seems awfully shallow. All of what you considered to be vitally important are meaningless, given the situation thrust upon you. A career, physical beauty, money, relationships that were fun but emotionally unfulfilling...you want to smack yourself because you got it all wrong, When the chips were down, what did you have left when you couldn't have any of those things?

One day, you're sitting at the kitchen table, trying to make sense of the endless medical bills that don't seem to stop coming and you have a complete breakdown. Suddenly, you're sobbing into your bowl of chicken noodle soup and it hits you you haven't cried this hard since you'd been diagnosed. You can't stop crying over all the things you think that you've lost. This goes on for a good half an hour and when you've finished, there is a newfound clarity right along with that startlingly large pile of Kleenex. Sure, you've lost things, but look at all you do have. The best friends anyone could ever ask for, ones who would give you a kidney if you needed it. And parents who used to be at best, distant and at worst, cold, who now you could speak to freely without worry that you are being judged or resented. And you also have the best thing in the whole world, even if you were incredibly stupid in your old life and you threw it away only because you were a coward. You have love. Sometimes, you think the only reason you went into remission is because if you died without her knowing how you really felt, you would never forgive yourself.

There is so much to be grateful for and you know your life is at the very top of the list. You try and remind yourself of that fact when you begin to feel sorry for yourself, Because you are still here. One breast, a head only of stubble and skinny as a scarecrow, but there you are. And when she tells you are the most beautiful thing she's ever seen, you have to believe her.


Part Two:

Breathe. You have to remind yourself to breathe, because damn it, you feel like you've forgotten how. All you can see is the tubes sticking out of her from every end and how fragile she is. Like she could fly away right then and there. Her chest is barely moving up and down and you know, with a frightening sense of certainty that if her breathing stops, yours will too. The face against the pillow is foreign and yes, sick, and it is not really her. She is tanned and muscular and so very much alive. You are shivering with the reality of this, the weight of it. You are going to lose her, It is not a matter of if. Just when.

Your entire friendship plays over and over again in your mind. From the very first moment you met, when you both were young and still naive enough not to fear the future. Then inevitably, you think of your relationship. Of how happy she made you. And you know you made her happy too, at least in the beginning. You remember when you fell in love with her. There wasn't a single defining moment when you knew. It was a million and one little things; like when her hair would brush your arm, you'd get tingles up and down your spine. How her smile would leave you high for hours, the way she laughed, how her hand would rest casually on your shoulder and you wanted to kiss her so badly you began to shake. This what you choose to think about when your friends insist you leave the hospital to sleep in your own bed. Instead of sleeping, you stare at the ceiling and make yourself recall every moment. You don't want to forget anything, just in case.

You remember once you were finally a couple, how well you fit. Not just during love making, although you fit pretty well in that department too, but everywhere else. The kitchen. You would cook and she would stand over your shoulder, wrapping her long arms tightly around your waist, placing tiny kisses along your bare neck and collarbone. She'd laugh when you'd warn her if she didn't stop that you would swing her over her shoulder and dinner would burn. The sheer absurdity of that image would make you both laugh. You remember how gorgeous she looked first thing in the morning, especially when you would wake and turn over to find her hazel eyes fixed upon yours, dark and drunk with the sex you'd had the night before and how hot her voice was, still raspy with sleep. You remember how she'd tried to teach you to play tennis, knowing fully well what a klutz you were and her horror when you twisted your ankle. She'd waited on you hand and foot that weekend, camping out on the couch with you, armed with pints of Phish Food and DVDs.

This is the stuff that makes you smile. Your mind cannot help but go to darker places, though. The same scenes were on repeat in your head when she broke up with you. If you could only take back asking her to move in with you, if only you hadn't pushed her before she was ready. You know you smothered her and your break-up was your fault and your fault alone. You remember her expression when she told you it was over. How the devastation on her face must have mirrored your own. How her apology came out as barely a whisper, how when you tried to kiss her, she stepped away from you. Even thinking about it makes you ache, but you have to remember. It occurs to you one night, after you've finished having a good long cry, the kind that makes your throat close and your eyes feel raw and used, that you've pushed away one very important detail on what you thought had been the worst night of your life. She was crying too.

It has to mean something. Maybe you're grasping at straws now, simply because you need something, anything to hold on to her. You remember that she cried too, her beautiful features twisted with grief. Her hazel eyes were glazed over with sadness. That alone killed you inside; the fact that you had made her so sad.

You sit in a hot bath and let the warmth seep into your skin while the knowledge of the truth cuts into the fear and panic of the last few days. Before the infection invaded her body and sent her to a place where you could not follow, you had spent a great deal of time of time alone together. She allowed no one else to take care of her, something that did not surprise you since you were well aware how much she detested others perceiving her as weak. It was a honor that she had picked you over her parents and her lover, in spite of your history and you were not about to let her down. The friendship that had sustained the two of you in the beginning was repaired without words and a comfortable familiarity punctuated your days. And you can't remember exactly when it was, you can't pinpoint what day it was, but you saw something in her eyes that was not sadness, or gratefulness or even a friendly fondness. It was a spark of the deep love that you'd seen over and over again. You almost gasped with the intensity of it, nearly cried out in happiness at the sheer joy you felt when she'd looked at you that way again. You brushed it off as loneliness or what have you, but you realize it was real. You remember and suddenly the need to tell her you understand, oh god, do you understand, is so powerful and urgent that the reminder of the severity of her condition makes you fall to your knees.

You aren't at all religious. Praying is as foreign to you as Greek or family dinners on Sunday, but you try anyway, making ridiculous bargains with whomever is listening, promising you will do anything if she doesn't die. She needs to know. She needs to know that you remember.

The End

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