Dr. Hashigawa says her numbers are up. She’s not really sure what that means, except that it’s something to do with the cancer. The doctor hasn’t been vague. She can’t make sense of the letters and numbers and precise confusion of it all.
“—so you need to make an appointment with the hospital. They’ll run a scan like last time.”
Finally, some words she can understand. Appointment. Hospital. Scan. Last time.
The rest of the appointment floats by in a delirium.
She assures the doctor she’s fine—at least, she thinks she has. Sounds mold themselves into something resembling sentences, and he nods, so she must have said something coherent and reassuring.
The doctor types notes into his computer. She tries to peek without being obvious about it, then puzzles over why she shouldn’t look if he’s writing about her.
She stops peeking.
White paper crinkles as she careens off the examination table when it’s all done. She wonders why the paper is necessary. Dr. Hashigawa didn’t examine her. He only told her that the cancer might be spreading. There’s no need for the paper. Cancer isn’t contagious.
Cold air assaults her nostrils when she leaves the building. The sky doesn’t have the common decency to allow sunlight through the clouds. If the day were less grey, maybe the sun could have fought off the cold or maybe the doctor could have made a mistake, but the day is grey and her nostrils ache.
That’s just the way it is. She shrugs.
There’s no one to call with the news except Binky and Mr. Fidget, but cats don’t answer phones. She recalls a meme of a cat staring at a phone: THEY CAN. THEY JUST DON’T WANT TO TALK TO YOU. Binky and Mr. Fidget won’t answer. There’s no one she can call.
She opens her car door and tosses her purse towards the passenger side like she has done a million times before. The car groans as she plunks herself down into the driver’s seat.
The key turns. The car rumbles to a familiar cadence and leaves the parking lot. It’s making its way along McGill Street.
“Who’s driving?” she asks herself.
Somehow, the car pulls into a parking lot and hasn’t hit any pedestrians along the way. That’s good. It’d be a shame for anyone to die unnecessarily.
The Pie Emporium.
She hasn’t been here in years. The restaurant looks like she feels—dirty cinder blocks and chipped green paint on the ironwork. Old. Faded pictures in the window promise pie with ice cream. The pie has turned a strange shade of jade green with the bleaching effects of the sun.
She opens her car door anyway.
She remembers a slice of Marionberry à la mode from long ago. If she’s going to die alone in the near future, she feels like she has to do something special. She’s not particularly hungry, but it seems like something she should want. A final meal.
She finds herself seated at a table on a squeaky vinyl bench. Her purse is there on the bench next to her. Her purse can’t help her—the bills from the last round of radiation made sure of that. She shouldn’t be here buying pie. Maybe she could make some at home.
She shifts her weight with a squeak but remains seated.
A young woman with dark hair and a name tag reading EMMA comes to hand her a menu. The menu is cracked and looks unclean.
“I want a slice of Marionberry à la mode.”
She doesn’t feel like talking. She doesn’t need a menu.
Emma smiles and tries to hand her the menu anyway. “We’re out of Marionberry. Can I get you something else?”
“I don’t want anything else. I don’t want apple or peach or lemon merengue. I don’t want to change my mind and get a burger. I want a slice of Marionberry pie with a stupid scoop of vanilla ice cream. I want crust so warm the vanilla can’t decide if it wants to be ice cream or soup. I want the ice cream to obliterate the crust into mush. I’ll eat it anyway! I want the berries to settle in my mouth and surprise me with how solid they are! I want them to burst in my teeth when I bite them! I want to be bothered by the seeds that get stuck in the crevices of my molars. I want Marionberry à la mode! I think a piece of pie is a reasonable request when I’m not even hungry, and it’s just a slice of pie, and I can’t afford it anyway. I want my pie! A slice of Marionberry will make the world stop turning, and it’s the only thing that means anything right now because the world makes no sense. It makes no sense! If it made sense, I could have my pie right now, and another if I wanted it and—again and again until I didn’t want it anymore! And it would be my choice to stop eating the pie. Not yours. Not yours!” she thinks.
“Okay,” she says.
And she feels herself weep while Emma frantically hands her napkins from a silver dispenser.