39. In the Bathroom

At age 10, I saw my mother,

putting on makeup in the bathroom.


I blurted, “At least you didn’t have cancer.”

And she said, “But I did.”


But she couldn’t have.

Because even at 10, I knew


I knew that cancer killed people.

So how could she be standing in her bra

with the squishy thingies,

putting on makeup like cancer

was no big deal? Like the flu?

The next year Dad got cancer,

and he didn’t die.

Mom got cancer again,

and she didn’t die (again).

But Cile did. And Llera. And Fannie.

Abbey didn’t die of cancer.

Neither did Fayma or Dixie or

Mom when cancer showed up again.

Then Vanita got it and almost died,

and Don did die.

And I knew I was right.


Cancer does kill people.

Sometimes it just takes awhile.