Rendered Fat Content


Odilon Redon: Profile of Shadow (c. 1895)

"I'm left wondering who either of us might end up being …"

It might be that Tuesday mornings become the times when I set aside my SetTheory stories to visit the infinitely more significant background saga presently accompanying The Muse and my days. Consistent readers might recall last Tuesday's story, titled
Consequential, wherein I introduced The Muse's cancer diagnosis and her acceptance into a clinical trial which allowed her to forego the typical poisonous Chemo treatment. This plot twist in the cancer diagnosis that she'd already labeled her Plot Twist, left the both of us feeling extremely fortunate, as if she'd dodged an otherwise inevitable bullet, but the plot twist within this plot twist brought terms and conditions with it. She would still have to submit to radiation therapy, six times each week, for thirty iterations. Yesterday, one week after receiving her first infusion of immunotherapy magic, with no evident side effects, she was scheduled to submit to her first radiation treatment.

I was struggling with side effects from my latest Covid booster, which left me feeling clogged and groggy, but I managed to put myself together so that I could at least chauffeur her to her first radiation therapy appointment.
We were in synch for once, her natural urge to arrive at the last possible second meshed with mine to arrive with leeway, left us walking in the door with a couple of minutes to spare as if we didn't have a care in this world. The cancer center is a bright and superficially cheery place, all sunlight without shadow and filled exclusively with fresh, smiling faces. Positive affirmations framed on every wall. Volunteers wear those little cloth vests with patches like a boy or girl scout might sport. No discouraging words are spoken, at least not out in the open in the common room. Behind there lies a warren of small offices and cubicles offering a variety of services all focused upon treating patients with cancers.

The receptionist escorted us back to the Oncology waiting room, where two puzzles sat in the process of being reassembled. The Muse, a puzzle person by definition, sat for almost a full minute before gravitating over to one of the puzzles and half-heartedly organizing pieces. She said that she felt like she was working on somebody else's puzzle because she was. Erin—or is it Aaron?—our transgender research associate, entered to announce that s/he had no surveys to administer this day. We're all nice-nice, still struggling to get to know-each-other comfortable in this place; not yet familiars.

No one ever dreams of becoming a familiar in this place, for despite its sunny and shadowless appearance, this very building and this otherwise nondescript waiting room sits square in the center of a ValleyOfShadow. The sun shines from a distance. Warmth's dispensed via warm blankets which everyone on staff seems compelled to ask if The Muse would care for one. She's declined those offers so far, but I can imagine a future, perhaps not that far removed, where she might insist upon just such a blanket to use as a cloak of defense when passing through that ValleyOfShadow again.

I'm just her emotional support animal and on a short leash. I have no latitude other than to witness and ask questions. I patiently wait while she's escorted deeper into that Valley for her treatment. She returns quickly, reporting only that it felt creepy. Her treatment's infusions are life-giving, but the radiation, that's something different, something more like harnessing evil in the service of good. She reported that she could feel an eeriness passing through her, ricocheting off a tooth. She later reported that she had only twenty-nine more radiation treatments to go, but she declined my offer to post a check-off list on the refrigerator front. She didn't want to be reminded of it, as if she could forget. I can imagine us feeling increasingly less motivated to go, for entering that ValleyOfShadow was first merely disconcerting. Later, once we've both learned what's actually in store there, once she gets more familiar with evil in the service of good, the anticipation might well become more challenging to manage.

Naivety and courage seem required to revisit any ValleyOfShadow, well, those and prayers. Though she repeatedly walks through a ValleyOfShadow, she might fear no evil, but not because she'll have her emotional support animal in tow. I'm no defense. The Muse knows where she's going. I suspect that she'd walk through worse than a ValleyOfShadow to get there, too. I follow, astounded by her character, proud witness to another of her transformations. I'm left wondering who either of us might end up being by the time she arrives on the other side of this valley.

©2022 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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