Sound, sight, movement. Everything seemed like it was slowing down, like time itself was grinding to a halt. Like everything was moving underwater. Dr. Haskell’s voice sounded distant and echoing, as he continued reading the results. And yet that voice in her head kept going.
Well Jules, there it is. Brain tumour…You know that’s a death sentence, don’t you? You know you’re going to die…You do know that, right?
‘…the scan revealed a very common and very aggressive type of tumour…’
Julia gulped for air. She felt like a pillow was being clasped over her mouth as she drew short shuddering breaths.
Yeah, that’s it Jules, suck it up. Accept it. You’re dying , for realsies. You’re gonna waste away slowly. That thing inside your head…
‘…called glioblastoma multiforme, located in your parietal lobe…’
…is gonna keep chewing away at your brain, wearing you down slowly, and you know it. Oh, they’ll try to treat it. They’ll do their best. Well, the best you and Liz can afford…
‘…and with your permission we would like to start you on chemotherapy treatment immediately…’
…But you know it won’t work. You’re too old gran, your frail little body can’t fight this. You know you can’t fight this.
‘Doctor,’ she croaked suddenly, cutting in on whatever it was he was saying. She swallowed, having trouble making herself say the words. ‘Doctor…h-how…’ She drew another shuddering breath, raising a shaking hand to her face. ‘H-how…long…h’m-much time…oh God…’ She drew another deep breath. ‘Doctor…how…h-how much time do I have?’
Dr. Haskell took off his glasses, laying them on the desk in front of her, and sighed. ‘If we start chemotherapy treatment immediately,’ he said simply. ‘Then you’re looking at two months. Three at the most….Unless it spreads of course, then you’re looking at weeks-’
She used one shaking hand to cover her mouth, the other she used to wave for him to stop. ‘Don’t…no, d-don’t…’ She shook her head.
What? You can’t bear it? You can’t take it?
‘Stop it,’ she whispered.
Of course you can’t take it, you’re dying and there’s nothing you can do-
‘Mrs. Macalister, I know this is devastating for you, perhaps you would like to call someone?’
Julia shook her head furiously, not even hearing the question. Dr. Haskell wasn’t what she was shaking it at.
Yes, a loved-one. Call Liz. Tell her the good news. Call her to the hospital, so she can watch you waste, just like you watched him…
‘No,’ she whimpered. ‘No…’
Yes him. You know who I’m talking about. Howard Macalister. Or Howie? That’s what you called him, wasn’t it?
‘No, don’t go there…please…’ she muttered, still shaking her head.
‘Mrs Macalister, I’m only trying to help you…’ Dr. Haskell said slowly, thinking he was the one she was muttering to.
Yes, Howie. That’s what you called him. You used it more and more as you watched him waste away. Boy, you sure weren’t kidding when you said ‘till death do us part’. You slowly lost him. Just like how Liz is going to slowly lose you too, now. Maybe she’ll whisper ‘Jules’ to you on your deathbed, just like you whispered ‘Howie’.
‘No…no…’ Julia whispered fervently.
Dr. Haskell stood up, his eyes wide as he made his way around the desk, kneeling down beside her, trying to console her.
Yes, that little voice continued to whisper. Yes, because Howie is the problem isn’t he? You watched him waste away, suffer, so so much. And when the day came that Howie passed away, you were inconsolable, remember? Of course you do, it was only two years ago. When he was being buried, all you saw was that wooden box being lowered into the ground. When Howie passed into what you began to think of as the black void. And that was when you lost your passion for life, wasn‘t it. That was when you stopped calling Liz, and the kids. That was when the panic attacks started. You became so afraid to enjoy life, because it was only when he died you realised it was so short. So temporary. And you hated Howie for leaving you, even though you knew it wasn’t really his fault. Remember you used to shout at that picture of him on the mantel? You used to shout, and ask him why he had to leave you so alone. And he just smiled back through that little window, from that holiday in Hawaii.
And now it’s the same big black empty void that you’re now looking into. It’s waiting for you Jules, nothingness is waiting. That’s what you believe, isn’t it? Hmmm?
‘STOP IT!’ Julia screamed and jumped up from the chair, and Dr. Haskell stepped back, bewildered.
Without thinking, Julia rushed out of the office, into the corridor. Dr. Haskell’s calls after her fell on deaf ears.