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  • It seems like just a moment ago that we were all gathered in her livingroom, assuring her that everything would be fine. We were so full of compassionate words; they clattered about in our hollow mouths like bones, a unanimous chorus of ghostly voices telling her the operation wasn’t going to change anything, even though we all knew that it would, it would change everything.

    She looked straight at me when she asked, and I tried not to look away. She stared intently at me, as if I was some kind of soothsayer, as if I have ever been able to handle the truth. “Am I going to die?” she asked. The voices fell silent, one by one, and everyone looked at me, a breathless choir of gazes, embroidering a safety net around her question, waiting for my voice to set foot on the tightrope. I opened my mouth, sliding out a miserably frail 'of course not,' quivering with fear, balancing in the air while they all held their breath in suspense, far below.

    I wanted my response to be a firm NO, I wanted my voice to be a fanfare of joy and confidence, I wanted it to balance gracefully across the rope, climb down the ladder and kiss her pale cheeks back to colour, juggle rippling laughter out of her. But the drop height was intimidating, and I froze. I couldn’t balance the lie.
  • She chose me.

    "I want you there when I wake up," she said; "I want you there because you’re strong and honest." She needs me to be a solid and sheltering rock, protecting her fragile hope, enabling it to grow strong and tall. "I trust you to interpret the medical bullshit and give it to me straight," she said; "I need you to help me make sense of it all." But how can I, when none of this makes sense to me at all? Still, I’m here, by the bed, waiting for her to slowly come back. There’s less of her now, and she’s prepared for that, but it will still come as a shock, I know. And it will hurt. Even the parts of her body that have been removed will hurt, and there’s no way to prepare yourself for that, or for the fear that follows.

    She starts to flinch, and I lean forward. "Are you there?" she asks. Her voice sounds brittle, like old paper. I squeeze her hand. "I’m right here," I say. "What's going to happen now?" she asks, and although her voice crumbles toward the end of the sentence, the scope of her question is easy to decipher. I know she doesn’t mean today.

    I want to say something profound, but this is not the time for cheerfulness. She’s in a dark alley, she’s in a labyrinth of dark alleys, and I can’t tell her where the road ends, I don’t know. I can’t tell her where to go. So I lie, and this time my balance is better. My voice is steady when I tell her she is going to get through this. I tell her I will be here every step of the way, and she breathes out, she trusts me, she believes, and her hope grows in the shelter of my words.
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