There’s a certain kind of emotional upheaval that has absolutely no sense of scale. It’s incoherent, both random and hardwired. I have no idea what to do with it except write about it.
My daughter’s heading down to the Eaton Centre this weekend with a friend, who’ll come and sleep over at our place afterward. When I was almost 14, I used to head down to the Eaton Centre with my best friend Alison. Alison died of cancer when we were 30. I just read an article in the Toronto Star about a 14-year-old named Katelyn who’s dying of cancer and wanted to experience a prom. Katelyn’s prom came to her, in her hospital bed.
I met my first love for dinner last week. I went to my first prom (or, in Canadian parlance, “formal”) with him. It was almost unbearably good to see him, last week. It made me feel old and young, as strong and vulnerable as I ever was, at 18.
Katelyn’s skin looks like yellow paper. She’s bald, and there’s an oxygen mask covering her nose and mouth. Her date bends over her hospital bed, holding a corsage.
There are pictures of my first love and me in my parents’ backyard, posing dramatically in front of the hostas. There’s a corsage on my wrist. My hair is braided and coiled and pinned, strung with baby’s breath. Alison acted as advisor, re: the hair.
My daughter doubles over laughing, as we watch Freaks & Geeks. She pushes her own thick dirty blonde hair out of her face with a hand all sticky with kiwi juice. The cat in her lap stretches hugely but does not wake.
Alison’s skin looked like yellow paper too, in the end. I washed it, moments after she died. I smoothed her dark cap of post-chemo hair. I kissed her forehead.
My first love’s hair is thinning, but his smile is exactly the same.
Katelyn has a spectacular smile. I can tell that someone’s employed the anti-red-eye function in this photo, because her pupils are so incredibly black. She’s gorgeous. This picture was taken before the others in the prom series. Her arms, here, aren’t so thin. Her skin is perfect, from forehead to cheeks to upraised knee. She looks brave. I can’t tell what her expression is in the other photos, because of the oxygen mask.
My daughter bends over the cat and rubs his belly. She’s going to the Eaton Centre in a couple of days. It’ll be her first such foray without me. I know I’ll be relieved when she and her friend walk in the door, dropping coats and boots and bags all over the hallway.
Alison and I made popcorn in a big yellow bowl. We always swore we’d stay up late, but she always fell asleep before midnight.
I don’t know what to do with all this. Even writing isn’t enough.