I gently place my hands on her small shoulders, guiding Rebecca to walk in front of me in an attempt to give the approaching elderly couple some extra space on the sidewalk. They slowly make their way past us, coming a bit closer than is normally socially comfortable. I catch a whiff of too-sweet perfume, stale bread, and hair pomade. I can’t exactly tell which one of them is helping the other, bolstered by arms and time. They seem to know one another as well as two people can. Both painful and beautiful to take in, I refocus on my own task of getting us in the door of the clinic. But I am drawn to them once more, momentarily as I hear his nearly inaudible statement, “I’m ready to go.”
We enter the cool dark of the red brick building, which is always a relief from the blistering New Mexico sun. But once inside, it’s all bad here. A toxic mix of bleach, rubbing alcohol, and old carpet hits me like ton of bricks. I’ve got my ibuprofen just in case a headache seeps in. People of all ages clog the waiting room. Most of them are older. My guess is sixty-five and up. Walkers, electric power chairs, and a few regular wheelchairs hold geriatrics lining the far wall of the waiting room. With the frail and hunched are their upright, adult children who push, wipe, fill out forms, and play on their phones. All there to assist their parents and loved ones more comfortably maneuver toward death.
I sign us in at the desk and we take our seats. Rebecca is dwarfed among them. I see a few folks who have noticed us pull their lips in toward their teeth and look down with an I’m-so-sorry face. Most look away except one who frowns as she shamelessly examines Becca’s soupy brown patch of hair, the rest of her head now nearly baby-bald where falls of once-glistening, penny-tinted locks framed her peachy cheeks. Only the sun truly knew the depth of that red. But my Becca does not care if people stare. She says she is a duck as she lets it roll off her back. She smiles at them. Always on the high road, that girl, making me proud.
It’s our turn now. The young aide makes a grand gesture that we should follow her. She’s new, but we’re not. We know the way to the infusion room where twice already this month the nurses have celebrated two patients’ last chemotherapy treatment with bells and clappers. Becca loves it when that happens. She thinks it’s a good omen. It might be my imagination, but it seems like it’s been happening more often. It’s happening again as we enter the room.
“Mommy! They are going to do that for me one day!” I force a smile, a nod, and a “Yes.” I do this because I have to, not because I believe it. There goes another patient set free. Becca runs up and hugs the elderly gentleman who’s surprised but is genuinely grateful. He smiles and pats her on the back with the side of his arthritically bent hand.
Shelly, one of Becca’s favorite nurses, is on duty. We are escorted to the large, sand-colored, reclining medical chair that my little girl will spend the next four hours in. Shelly and Becca chatter about fun, normal things, kid things. Shelly works while she talks and removes the small piece of plastic wrap where Becca smeared on the lidocaine cream more than an hour ago. Running smoothly and on time, as things always do when Shelly administers what could be life or death, the clear poison begins to drip.
Juice box on the side, blankets tucked in tightly, remote in hand, my only child fully reclines and turns her full attention to the wall-mounted TV that she takes complete control of. Flipping through a few soaps, a special on Egypt, and Judge Judy, she deftly lands on the cartoon channel where Spongebob and Patrick are singing something silly in front of The Krusty Krab. She’s already laughing and I can’t help but smile with her. I watch the underwater shenanigans for a few minutes. I’m pulling a book I’ve brought out of my bag as I hear her mumble something. I look at my baby. I am surprised to find that she has fallen asleep so quickly. It usually takes her at least a half hour to doze off. As I study her small features she stirs again. The dull patch of brown so proudly displayed a mere fifteen minutes ago fails to follow as she moves her head. I freeze, witnessing the last little patch lose its hold and slide down the pillow to her shoulder. Heart in my throat, eyes glued to her, she moves her dry lips just enough to eek out an early inaudible statement, “I’m ready to go.”
Bleuzette La Feir was born in Albuquerque, New Mexico, She is a graduate of the University of New Mexico with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in theater. Her work has appeared in Blood Lotus, Blue Lake Review, decomP, Descant, Diverse Voices Quarterly, Forge, Lindenwood Review and Storyscape. Her flash fiction piece, “Bangs,” was nominated for the Best of the Net 2012 anthology.
What motivates her to create:
“Putting words on the page is magical. Remembering the childhood books I read such as The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C. S. Lewis, gave me my first taste of the bittersweet world of storytelling. Bittersweet because once I began reading a wonderful new story I knew that it would end. I never wanted the story to end.
“I lose myself as I let rise then begin to knead a new story. I press and fold words together that create rich environments that paint luminous images and birth multi-dimensional, relatable characters. It is the way for the story to live on. Now that I create the stories they have lost the bitter and are just sweet. I am stuffed full and satisfied.”