Rendered Fat Content


Matsubara Naoko:
Harvard Yard in Spring (Shōwa era, 1926-1989)

"Success seems to end with concerted continuing. …"

We might be trained to parse our lives in Edwardian fashion, as if experiences had discrete beginnings and endings as if stories came with morals firmly attached. We more likely live in a quantum universe, where experiences can seem either more like waves or like particles, depending upon how we filter them. My expectations seem most calibrated to anticipate cleaner plot lines than usually emerge. In practice, my life seems to need a decent copyeditor to insert the boundaries my experiences tend to ignore. I've reached an end to a story, only to find that particular plot line continuing into one additional unwanted chapter after another. Even this writer understands that a story needs to bring a cleaner ending than living usually provides. The unmistakable hallmark of fiction might be discrete plot lines.

My experiences must be real because they would never make believable fiction.
After finishing initial treatment for her throat cancer, the Muse rang the courtyard gong of true accomplishment a month ago. We left the Regional Cancer Center teary-eyed and grateful. Cue the orchestra and the sunset, for we felt like we were certainly riding into the end of that terrifying part of that story. However, the oncologists refused to provide tangible punctuation. They predicted additional healing, which might visit without warning and even prove alarming. While the primary treatment could only be judged a success, additional chapters were undoubtedly possible. That overall story had very likely not quite finished, not yet. We nonetheless exited oblivious, as any decent protagonists must.

It was a few weeks before the fresh side effects began showing, first as mild discomfort, later more insistent. Nothing downright terrifying, but enough twinges to catch and hold The Muse's attention. These fresh waves proved terribly troubling for me, the prospectively retiring Emotional Support Animal of the operation. Since primary treatment had ended, there were no eyes on these developments. Aside from future scans and tests, little in the way of ongoing assessment had been scheduled. The Muse took to taking her pain medication daily again and mildly complaining about transient discomfort. Myalgia might be a real thing after all. I, of course, felt freshly powerless. I took to waiting.

I had been prepared to celebrate the great Success primary treatment had delivered. By all available measures, the beast had been conquered. I mentioned then that it would take time, and considerable, to properly conclude that the cancer was gone, but it had shrunken without apparent collateral damage. Imagine how fortunate we felt! There's always a "What then?", though, a question about in what form the show might continue, for we live in a quantum world rather than an Edwardian one. We remain prey to invisible nano-particles and equally insignificant-seeming forces, each capable of continuing any story long after the Edwardian would have closed the book with impatience.

Her clinical trial had scheduled a CAT scan which took us back to the Regional Cancer Center again. We re-entered that Valley Of The Shadow Of with deep trepidation. I could barely move. The Muse, too, switched to autopilot. I watched the posters passing by me as we walked down that overly-familiar corridor, feeling as if I was trapped within an endless loop, as if entering a continuing story I'd sworn had ended. There's more to come, additional scenes, and continuing dreams; there might never be a clean ending to this or any story. We speak of Success as if we might possess it when it most often serves only as a WayStation, a point between rather than a genuine terminus. These stories seem more never-ending, twisting and turning, re-beginning when unexpected, though we probably should have grown always to expect this pattern.

Take whatever time you care to reserve to gloat over your good fortune. We live in flux. This universe does not alter its course for any of us. It always pursues another WhatNext?, an eternally additional WhatThen?, and answers those questions with more questions, never a properly copyedited conclusion. It's not a long, strange trip, but an over-long one. It seems to have no proper ending. Success ends with concerted continuing. …

©2023 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

blog comments powered by Disqus

Made in RapidWeaver