The fine linen tablecloth is cool and rough against my cheek. A glass filled with ice water has one small drop rolling down the side.
Things seem to be moving in stop motion. Forks ring against plates, a dark-haired woman at the next table stands, pushes her chair back. Her pants swish rhythmically as she passes by.
Bathroom. Yes, I think.
My mother’s almond eyes follow me as I pull my head up from the table and walk toward the back of the restaurant.
It is my soon to be husband’s birthday.
My parents have flown to New York. We know I have cancer but not what type. My prospective in-laws make small talk over many impossibly small plates of gravlax, pickled herring, sweet shrimp crudo.
The white pill my mom tucked into my hand earlier that evening has settled over me and I’m moving as if through liquid. I am not tranquil but rather a storm that has been blown slightly off trajectory, weakened.
It is several minutes before I realize I’ve been standing in the bathroom staring in the mirror as hot water runs over my hands. It is the rip of paper against a jagged edge that sets me in motion.
We go home. Sleep.
My parents are in the office the next morning awaiting our arrival. My mother is dressed up. I feel like she might take my picture. Give me a spray of flowers for my wrist. Compliment my cap and gown. I am commencing into an after.
We are taken back to a small, light filled office. The computer screen is dark. There are no sharp implements. No hand drawn pictures of stick figure children.
My father pulls a tiny plastic bottle of Scotch out of his jacket pocket. He has saved it from the airplane. We each take a sip and my father presents it to the oncologist as she walks in the office.
How the hell did you end up here? she asks.
I love her immediately and with a strange ferocity. I want to climb into her lap and smell her hair.
Do you want the good news or the bad news first?
My fingers and stomach are tingling. I want to take off running until my legs burn.
You have Ewing’s Sarcoma.
The thought occurs to me that I might be floating above the room.
It is an aggressive type of cancer that rarely occurs in adults.
I hear the tips of a tree’s branches scratching the windowpane.
Good news is it responds well to chemotherapy.
I hear seconds being snipped off by the second-hand of the wall clock.
When I’m through with you, you are going to feel like you’ve been hit by a truck.
Two taxis are laying on their horns. Someone on the street is yelling.
It is likely that you will be infertile after treatment.
The floor rushes up at me and I am suddenly grounded.
I can’t. I won’t. We want children. We’re getting married next month.
The doctor looks at me then pulls forward a Rolodex, takes out a card and leaves the room.
My soon to be husband’s hand is cold. I look at him and we both shake our heads.
The door opens.
Call this number tomorrow. You have one month to do IVF and then you must start treatment immediately.
Our wedding is six weeks away.