by Sean Daly
Jack worried about dying for two reasons:
a) he hadn’t lived enough in his own mind
b) he couldn’t imagine the world without him.
He woke up, made coffee for himself, and drove to work. He kept everything the same, as normal as possible, before he:
a) received chemo
b) prepared for radiation.
Reluctant to tell his coworkers, he used all of his sick days and vacation time during his treatments before disclosing to a friend in the marketing department, on the QT, of course, that his predicament had changed and that:
a) the cancer had metastasized
b) it didn’t mean the end of him. Did it?
No wife, no kids, but he came close a couple of times. Most recently with a woman named Bertie, aka Roberta, who:
a) he bumped into at the high school reunion
b) tried to rekindle a relationship with.
Stemming from the fact that Bertie told Jack that she was unhappy in her marriage because:
a) her husband lost his job in the downturn and hadn’t bothered to get another one
b) her husband had succumbed to a form of anhedonia that gripped many a mid-lifer.
Jack convinced Bertie to get away for a weekend. She told her husband she was going on a “woman’s retreat.” They stayed at a beach resort in a yurt. They slept in the same bed, made love underneath a moonless sky to the sound of the surf, and afterwards took a small walk by the shore where they shared an awkward moment of quiet introspection. Leave him, Jack said, and come away with me. She said no, citing two reasons:
a) her Christian values
b) her kids.
Jack read a hospice brochure while at his oncologist’s office. He felt cheated. Stupid. The world owes him more! At first he attempted to dismember the memories of Bertie, or un-remember them, or remember them in a different way, because forgetting felt impossible. Futile. Ridiculous. You see, they dated all the way through college as well, and Bertie, at the time, dropped hints about marriage and family but Jack didn’t bite. Should I marry her? he asked himself many years ago … Naaah, for two reasons:
a) he wanted his freedom
b) he thought he’d never die.
Sean Daly lives in Ojai, California, with his wife and children. His work has appeared in a handful of literary journals and newspapers. He tutors reading and writing at Todd Road Jail in Ventura, California. His memoir, What We Talk About When We Talk About Cancer, was published in 2016.