Insecurity fans erratic flames of fear until they become a ceaseless blaze of an inextinguishable wildfire. You’re broken. He is a man’s man; he will leave you for being broken.
Truth stabs at my heart like a million little scythes, but I know lies and deceptions can only shatter the shards of dignity I have left. So I take a deep breath and gaze into those bottomless cerulean eyes of his and slowly memorize their warmth, a voice within me telling me to savor it, because it would be the last time. And then I tell him.
I tell him about my problem. I tell him it’s common. Common among women age 65 or older, but rare for me, a 20-something woman with the promise of life ahead of her. I tell him that some women prevail within five years, but most succumb before then. It whispers, I tell him, but I didn’t listen. It is a thief of the night, one that skulks and robs you of the certainty of tomorrow.
I tell him I have cancer.
He sits there frozen, the cerulean of his eyes slowly fading into the abyss of a stormy, grey-specked sky. He says nothing—his face alabaster pale—so I fill in the silent gaps with truth. I tell him about chances and risks, knowing that he is a man who thrives on the adventure of the unknown. I tell him that there is a 90% chance that I may not be able to bear children without the aid of IVF or a surrogate mother. I tell him about cryogenics, about how they can save my chances of having biological children. I tell him about chemotherapy and radiation, and the difference between oral and intravenous chemotherapy, and why I can still hold on to my hair. I want to tell him that I love him, that I am fighting to live, but he speaks before I could.
Like cancer, he too, speaks in a whisper. He whispers that cancer is a death sentence, even with technological advances. He whispers of his desire to have real, normal children someday—not test tube babies or a war-torn Palestinian refugee. He whispers softly about his dream—one I knew as surely as my will to live—of becoming a high-ranking public servant. He whispers to me what I already know; that he is a man’s man, a strong man. And with his last whisper, he shatters my world. He whispers that even Heracles himself cannot carry the weight of the dead. He looks away, and I study him and begin to see him in a different light. I look past the colour of his eyes for the first time and see his soul. And then I hear. I see. All that he really wants to say. He is saying goodbye.
But I am still here, and I am still alive. I know I am weak, but I will still fight. These are the words I long to say, but I bite my lip to keep from weeping, knowing that this time around the truth has not just set free, but let go. So I say nothing, and feel everything.