“You come into this life alone, and you go out alone, kid.”
Marcelle’s mother’s words hung over her life like a dismal cloud as she sat in the waiting room looking at all the other patients. It seemed that the entire Baby Boom generation was in the giant clinic. She was thinking of what Carver would say, or how he’d silently take it all in.
“The same thing that is killing me is going to kill you,” she’d said, sinking under the morphine trance five years ago.
The words had stuck. They’d been like a poisoned dart aimed straight into Marcelle’s heart. They were the last words her mother had uttered before she passed, days later, from a melanoma. She’d been all smiles for Marcelle’s brother, though. You know how sons are the favorites. Never mind he’d left home at seventeen only to return for the occasional Christmas dinner.
“She tried to extinguish you your whole life,” Marcelle’s oldest friend said. “She tried that with me once but I didn’t let her get away with it.”
* * *
Skin was the question at hand. Whether it was possible now to attain that francophile notion of comfort just being oneself in one’s skin now that everyone older who had loved her once had died.
Maybe life was supposed to be a matter of having fun after all. Not slaving away for some corporation in a cubicle. Not being servile to anyone, ever again, including her husband.
I’d like the horse my grandparents promised me once if I left my mother, she thought.
I’d like to ride free, and feel the wind lash my cheeks cantering down the beach, bareback. Or maybe go to Tennessee and save one of the starving ones I’ve read about in the paper.
I’m not sure I know how to stay alive anymore, she thought. Unless something beautiful happens soon.
“Take care of number one,” Marcelle’s mother had told her over and over again. And in the next breath she’d say, “It’s always I, I, I, me, me, me, with you.”
Years of therapy had helped Marcelle to sort out the kind of double binds sentences like these caused.
I’d like a Palomino, or maybe an Arabian, she thought, as the doctor’s hands swept over her skin looking for traces the sun had possibly etched once that were going to activate one day like predictable…
“Let’s not jump the gun just yet,” he smiled cheerfully at Marcelle. “These results will be back in a week. I want you to make another appointment with me in three months. I’ll need to get to know your skin, intimately.”
“Thank you, Doctor,” she said.
“Maybe I can change my life,” she thought.