On the morning of the day her daughter graduated from high school, Marianne sat in the so familiar booth at the neighborhood breakfast grill and waited for the usual, the 2 eggs over easy, bacon and whole wheat toast, the French Roast please and a glass of fresh squeezed. Her husband was deep in gossip and shop talk with his old boss, who had joined them for a moment of friendship outside the office. Her son, eight now, had come here for his first ever out, and sat on a table in his car seat and been admired by the wait staff and the cook who had leaned out of the kitchen for a glimpse of a brand new destined to be regular. Now he pushed around toys from the bucket that was always deposited at the table, toys he knew he was too old for but that had the comfort of old friends that showed up without needing an invitation.
The girl was off choosing heels and decorating her cap with her chosen alma mater having foregone childish chocolate chip pancakes for her new found adulthood and extra time to put on makeup. The plates had hit the table, and she had just broken a yolk, letting the golden ooze spill out and touch the toast with its promise when her phone rang. She picked it up, with a mental frown at recognizing the number, and why was the clinic calling this early in the morning?
"Marianne, it's Lisa, from Dr. Yee's office?" She paused, took a breath and said "can you hold on just a sec?" then turned her eyes to the men at the table. "I'll just step outside to take this?" the June morning was warm and she walked to the edge of the parking lot overlooking the tumble of the rain swollen river. "Thanks. Yes?" She knew already what was coming. "The biopsy results are back, and I'm so sorry to tell you this, but it is cancer and it has metastasized." What is there to say to such a message, really? thank you?
"Ok. Well, it's good to know." It isn't at all good. But Lisa from Dr. Yee's office has done this before and is prepared with the quick list of what's next, the treatment team and the appointments and some follow up tests to determine extent of suspicious tissue. Very suspicious need. Downright criminal. Lisa asks urgently if she has people to be with, if there's someone with her right now. Marianne quickly moves into her own reassurance mode, thinking about the couple of thousand people she will be with in the borrowed university auditorium, people celebrating those four hundred or so young lives taking their next step. While she's taking her last, she thinks. She puts the phone in her pocket and thinks about the list of people she can't tell. she can't tell the man who loves her and whose fingers found the lump, high on the right breast, as he was playfully exploring one evening while watching some slightly erotic TV. can't tell him because he's talking to the old boss and the old boss can't be one of the first to know. Can't tell Nina, because this is her day and she's lost a step parent and her beloved music teacher to cancer this year and doesn't need to be thinking about losing a mother too as she takes her diploma and faces the future. Can't tell Max, sitting there with his toys and his cinnamon toast and the assurance of the familiar, safe pace, because that's the place that's about to disappear. But her eggs are getting cold and the boys will steal her bacon. Might as well go in for another cup of coffee. Might as well live.