After my appointment with Dr. S., the oncologist, my sister Mara and I walked the narrow streets off Charles, off the Boston Common, and in that moment I wanted to live my whole life right there, I didn't want to be anywhere else, I didn't want any other day. I wanted it all, and I had it. Do you know what I mean? I was the empress of ice cream, of chocolate, the empress of a beach of sea glass and exotic shells. I said to Mara, what if we lived in a little apartment above the Starbucks or down the alley in one of those old brownstones? October's clear air in my lungs and on my face, the sharp-angled light on the brick facades, our bodies weaving between all the walkers in boots and sweaters, I wanted it all, I had it all. A small wad of bills in my wallet, and I wanted to spend it, waste the currency, the dirty greenish paper, imprudently, without caution, without hesitation. Spend it all now, every ounce of happiness, of relief, save nothing for later. I wanted to wander the aisles of the 1950's-era narrow-hipped, chock-a-block hardware store, examining the Dutch Boy cleansers, the Murphy's oil soap, the over-my-head shelves of paints, the walls of tools. I wanted to buy gifts for everyone I knew in the trendy hipster gift shop, each object displayed on its own small boxy shelf, each over-priced object with its own story to tell, and I wanted to hear it. Each object a joy, a delight, a puzzlement, sitting there, unbought on its perch. I recall suddenly a line from an Elizabeth Bishop poem called "North Haven." It's about the death of her deeply sad poet-friend Robert Lowell. "Fun" -- it always seemed to leave you at a loss . . . )." Not me. Not that day. Fun materialized: the Tin-Tin playing cards, the Weirdopedia, the yellow cloth bananagram pouches, the balsa-wood airplanes. We walked on brick sidewalks past shop after shop like that. Closet-sized pizzerias, a French patisserie, a long narrow dry-cleaners with the proprietors leaning on the counter, the rows of plastic-covered suit jackets and sherbert-colored dresses as painterly backdrop to their dark hair. The laundromat empty, the machines still and black-eyed. A below-ground floor level shoe repair, dusty and ancient. A store selling only fancy writing papers. And I wanted it all. And I had it all, because it was there, and I was there, with my sister. I was there. Look, gelato. Look, pastries. Let's go into the chocolate shop. We stood staring into the glass case, commiserating, as though our choices were critical: the salted caramel, the creme de menthe, the ginger green tea dark, the dark with lemon center, the honeycomb crunch. Walking on toward the commons, we reached into the crinkly plastic bag, nibbled, stopped to close our eyes, let the sweets melt on our tongues, described their flavors to one another, passed the diminishing squares back and forth. Was it real, the sensation of bland buttery creaminess giving way miraculously to the barest hint of ice-green? Was the salted caramel really the best thing I've ever tasted in my life? Everything on those streets in high-res, even now. Everything autumn-lit, super-saturated. Things of this world, I love you so, my mad-dash hell-bent heart said, and I said, watch this Mara, and ran down the sidewalk and kicked my heels to one side, to the other, and she laughed. But I meant it.
There is no guaranteed cure for breast cancer, they say, but perhaps there is something better, even if it lasts just an hour. There is no cure for death, no cure for our failing, ailing mortal bodies and selves, there is only this: the immediacy, the things of this world, the wasteful, terrible beauty, the gorgeous triviality, the dirt and grit, the danger, the wanting and wanting more of it. The knowing what's at stake. The knowing what there is to lose and leave. And loving it all anyway. I don't know why this appointment with Dr. S. spilled me onto the Boston streets high and reckless and dumbfounded by luck. It wasn't that much different than any other appointment, except that at the end of that hour, he said, "You're the picture of health. All I can say is go with God ... or whomever it is you believe in." I threw my arms around him. And I went. And I believed in everything, including my only once-in-a-lifetime alive self.