The scientist on the radio says the heat of chili peppers
is rated on a scale of Scoville units:
from a pimento with 0 to a habanero with 200,000-300,000
tiny molecules of heat, each one exploding in your mouth —
you loved a good pepper. You loved saying its name
in your impeccable Spanish.
Did you know that stress and disease increase a pepper’s heat?
Did you know that you would become fire?
“Most people thought Merry Nell would never die of cancer,
and quite a few thought she just might never die.”
If one pepper could turn into another (the scientist says
they can’t), but if, then
I imagine you as an anaheim (1,000 units) at your first diagnosis.
Age 35. Mastectomy and reconstruction yielded a peppy poblano (2,500-3,000).
When it came back with a vengeance, you became a full-fledged
jalapeño (up to 4,500). Radiation upgraded you to a spicy serrano (7,000).
The hysterectomy that followed—well before menopause—left you
a chipotle (10,000).You could ignore that death sentence
all you wanted, but you still ended up an arbol (25,000).
You stayed there for twenty-three years until they found
the same-old-same-old in your liver: thus, cayenne (35,000). Chemo
made you jump to tabasco (50,000), and all the other hormone treatments and scans and meds and metastises never got you
past a perfect pequin (75,000).
Until you died. Then, your Scoville rating soared,
producing one red hot chili mama.