As I believe I’ve said already, and probably more than once, we are of every stripe here in the People’s Republic of Cancer, because the authorities who plot our abductions seem to want (like the alien spaceships in tabloid accounts) several samples each of every possible kind of human. This means, awful to say, that there are infants here too, and children, though we who are full-grown don’t see much of them, since they are off in Pediatric Province, where (I can only hope) there are balloons and stuffed animals and really good clowns and as many cheerful faces as can possibly be gathered together in one place, though the grief of those walking among the cribs and cots must be something awful.
At least the rest of us had our childhoods.
Presumably even Mrs Paris there had her childhood.
I know her name because the nurse who looks up periodically to see her disappearing down the hall calls out after her, Mrs Paris, Mrs Paris, where are you going?
She looks to be ninety (of course, I may look to be ninety by now too) and probably actually is. Which is to say that by the time of her abduction to Cancerland, she had suffered who knows how many indignities already. Widowhood, I’m guessing (she seems to alone), perhaps the out-of-order deaths of some offspring, who knows how many ailments and hospital stays. And now she is in Cancerland, too confused to know how confused she is. Whether that indignity is a result of Alzheimer’s, old-school senility, Pick’s Disease, or something else, I have no way of knowing. There wouldn’t be any point in asking her.
She is supposed to be sitting quietly in a treatment room, waiting for her doctor (who happens to be my doctor too) to come talk to her about her latest test results. Perhaps when that was first explained to her, it made sense. But now she clearly thinks she is here not to wait for the doctor but to find him. That is her mission.
So she keeps popping up and heading down the hall, putting her head in at every door, saying He’s not in here, as if someone had assured her he would be. The nurse is busy, of course, but tries also to keep track of Mrs Paris — Mrs Paris, Mrs Paris, where are you going? — by trotting off after her, to calm her down and bring her back.
This results in my being privy to several of the conversations they have, if these exchanges can properly be called conversations.
-Mrs Paris, where are you going?
-Where is the doctor?
-He’s waiting for your test results.
-Does he have the test results yet?
-No, Mrs Paris, he’s waiting for them, so he can come discuss them with you.
-What am I waiting for?
-For the doctor to get your test results.
-Are the test results good?
-The doctor hasn’t gotten them yet. I’m sure he will soon and then he’ll come talk to you.
-Should I go home?
-You may as well give it a little while longer, Mrs Paris. I’m sure he’ll get them soon.
-I should have gone home this morning.
-Well but now you’re here, Mrs Paris. May as well stay a bit longer, don’t you think?
Mrs Paris is skeletal, in pants the legs of which hang straight down, as if empty. They are of some beige curtain-fabric sort of stuff, more like window drapes than pants. And her arms are the thickness of a middle gauge of wire-rope, which is good for wire-rope but not so good for arms. Surmounting this sad construction is something like the head of a bulldog in an ash-blond page-boy wig.
-Should I go home? she asks again.
Finally the doctor (who is, as I say, my doctor too) shows up.
-How are you doing, Mrs Paris? he says.
-Not so good. I fell down and broke my hip.
-That was a few years ago, Mrs Paris. I remember. Just got your latest test results. They show that things have not changed, which is good.
-Did you get my test results?
-Yes, just got them. They show no change, which is what we want.
-Shall I go home or do I have to keep waiting?
-No, Mrs Paris. You can go home now.
-Did you get my test results?
She has been waiting all morning perhaps to see her doctor (my doctor too) for five minutes, and this is no one’s fault or failing. The doctor has done his best, the nurse has done her best, Mrs Paris too has done her best.
It is just another Cancerland scene.