PASSING BY RACHEL FRIES | Creative Nonfiction
From my ninth floor window, the streets seem made of rushing, a river of people all fast-paced, busy schedules, full agendas. They are the beating heart of the world with their never-ending competition to be the best at what they do. The cars, going and weaving and stopping and going, shine only in the sun-filled intersections between the skyscraper buildings. Unknown faces smile and laugh and cry, showing all emotions present only where life and death meet: the hospital. But through the tears and their joy their legs keep striding, some slow and some fast, moving on to something new. I used to be one of those people. I sit alone in the only chair the small, cramped room will allow, listening to the rhythmic clicks of the medicine pump that, as of late, is my best friend. June sun shines through the glass onto my naked head and I take in the warmth, dulled by the tinted barrier, letting it seep into my fragile body. Summer has always been my favorite season. For those three months of the year I can go about life with no cares in the world, a worriless child again. Friends come together for spontaneous movie nights and dinners, never worrying about what obligations lie ahead. It is the life any person would want to have, full of unexpected delights and much needed rest and endless warmth. I miss those days, no schedule and no plans, lying on the couch, dressed in pajamas, watching Willie Coyote fall from a cliff and smash himself under a rock. I now watch the senseless coyote from my motorized bed, surrounded by sanitary needles and distant family members, not sure which I hate more. Conversations about catheters and drugs and hemoglobin and neutrophils overpower the faint sound coming from the television remote, making me want to ask, to scream for quiet. This room has become a white-walled prison cell where my life is ruled by a strict schedule of checking weight, drawing blood, swallowing meds, starting chemo, drawing blood, stopping chemo, eating lunch, watching TV, starting chemo, drawing blood, stopping chemo, sleep. Fighting for health, for family, for life leaves no time, no energy, no desire to be the teenage kid I want to be. The window is my only escape from the vomiting, the headaches, the itching, the restlessness in my legs, my hands, my mind. I look out to see the colors, so vivid and intense. Green trees blend into blue sky, perfectly seamless, notably infinite. Whites and grays of sidewalks and buildings, shaded from the afternoon sun, bring balance to nature, a reminder that chaos can be tamed. My gaze falls to the gray metal framing the window, keeping my picture of life safe. The perfectly square shape fills half of the exterior wall, creating flawless symmetry between the shiny glass and the whiteness that surrounds it, giving me that sensation of balance, something I haven’t felt since before the day I was diagnosed. The nurses come in to check on me periodically and, for some reason, ask if I want the tan shades closed over the thick seamless glass. I refuse, polite yet firm, each time. The window is the only thing that shines in this place, death-ridden and dark. It is my only source of light. As the day goes on, I note the changing positions of the sun and how the colors in the sky fluctuate to match. The puffy white clouds, scattered amongst the pastel blues, pinks and purples, wisp themselves around the setting sun, trying to hold on to every minute, every second of orange light, slowly fading. I draw, in my head, the moment when the thin line of fire, spread across the horizon, drowns in thick blackness on each side, forced to give up until tomorrow. My mind imagines what tomorrow’s show will hold, hoping it is anything but pure black, imagining another world — one where all changes, no matter how hard they are to accept, evoke beauty. Will I be beautiful on the other side? The people below, now thinned and sparse, have no idea that I have been watching their every move. Men and women, dressed in the same blues, pinks and purples, scurry from one concrete building to another as the day grows old, fulfilling their final duties. Cars, still stopping and going, orchestrated by the mercy of the timed lights, empty the streets, carrying workers and patients and visitors home to loved ones. Tomorrow will bring another day, another river, but for now, quiet comes over the streets. Footsteps of the third-shift nurse echo off the cave of walls, summer rain drips from the rafters, settling in sidewalk cracks and dark dirt. The only light, shining out from the transparent doors and windows, guides the soul to where it is meant to be. I, surrounded by darkness, forego the switch of the artificial light, close my eyes, listen for the rhythms of life. Pump pumping: click click, click moan click. Lungs breathing: in, one two, out, one two. Heart beating: thump thump, thump thump.