The Slow-Cooked Sentence

Cancer cracked me open and I weep

Rachael Conlin Levy
One Basket
Courtesy of Kent Landerholm.

I drive through the intersection of an emergency.

I hear sirens. I see the red flash of a fire truck, a policeman directing traffic, people looking up. So I slow down and I look up, too. From the roof of a tall building is a woman balanced on her belly, legs dangle, waiting.

I drive past a man praying next to man taking a picture on his smart phone. I drive through two lights then join a crowd of cars on a freeway where no one knows that blocks away a woman is deciding whether to live or die.


I cry as as I wash dishes, as I run, as I write. Two months ago, my father was healthy; now he fights for his life. Life is painful, resentful, but also, strangely enough, beautiful. The discovery of cancer reminds me how fragile and gorgeous and fleeting is my life, my dad’s life, my children’s.

Cancer cracked me open and I weep.

Until I laugh.

At the absurdity of life because it wraps a suicide in a good sky day. Because on the way home, my 2-year-old pukes all over himself and his car seat. Because I go to the grocery store and buy things I don’t need and forget things I do. Because two months ago, my father was healthy and now he fights for his life.

At home, I pull the soiled clothes off my son and he walks, naked, into the house. We rock in the sun until my eyes close and my head drops, jerks. I wake. Then nod off again.

Courtesy of Deja Photo.

I don’t know what to  make for dinner. I never know what to make for dinner anymore. Yesterday I came home with leeks and a pound of dried currants. I forgot bread. Four days ago, I bought five pounds of spinach. I forgot milk. Now I stand before the refrigerator and am uninspired. I pour cans of chicken broth into a pot. I saute spinach with garlic. I boil water and begin poaching eggs. In bowls I ladle broth over spinach and egg and hand it to my children. 

I’ve never had this before.

Not eggs. Please, Mom, not eggs.

I sing.

I do not like the way they slide. 
I do not like their soft insides. 
I do not like them many way,
and I could do for many days 
without eggs.

It’s a song they know from the many hours spent listening to the story of a young badger named Frances who refuses to eat anything but bread and jam. They take their bowls. Ten minutes later, one son is halfway through his bowl and looks up stunned. 

What’s wrong?

Nothing. I just realized this was dinner.

I smile ruefully and finish my own bowl of soup, salty, garlicky, thickened with the sweet yolk. I get up from the table, walk into the bedroom. It’s 7:30 p.m. and I’m so tired. I pull off my clothes, crawl into bed and sleep.

3 responses to “Cancer cracked me open and I weep”

  1. Well, I'll have that for dinner Rachael. It sounds really good….You are on my mind. I sent you a package today. You should get it Monday or so. Love, Kyndale

  2. Andrea says:

    Oh, my this is so sad, so sweet. Hang in there.

  3. Keep writing it all down.

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