The Big C
Happy Birthday, Cancer!

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Jacob Clifton: A+ | Grade It Now!
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The Suitcase Kid

Cathy Jamison wants to take her whole life, and try to tell it as a story: The shortest story, the most meaningful passages highlighted, so that it will mean something they will understand. This is your life. Any college roommate means it's your duty to do the same. The highlights. Rebecca is still in Chicago; she isn't in town by chance but was brought here by Paul: "She's your birthday present!"

A relic, a forgotten piece of the past Cathy's outrunning. A strange gift but one that highlights Paul's favorite parts of their history, when everything was romantic and nothing was really real. The place where he lives. Rebecca is a bucket of sand and an umbrella.

"I was thinking about how much I'd gotten out of the hours I spent talking to Angela -- my therapist -- and it made me think about the hours that you two used to spend gabbing away." Cathy tries to imagine Paul and Angela, gabbing. It's not hard. Angela could never speak a word and he'd still come away convinced that he was growing.

The words fall away to nothing -- "Wow," they say, and "It's great to see you," and "It's surreal" -- before they realize they must come to account. Those years that passed. Cathy's story is about capturing the future, not recapturing the past; she's nearly outrun them all. It's nice to see Rebecca but not essential: Another gift that becomes a burden. Surprise!

Rebecca accounts for herself, asks for acquittal, assumes their falling out was her fault, assumes that a few white lies are par for the course, because they are. Painting over the tape without leaving a mess behind. Cathy reminds her: "You didn't come to my wedding. You met that guy three days before, and went camping."

A statement of fact, Cathy thinks. Certainly not a nasty thing to say, after all this time. It wouldn't have been so bad, Cathy says, if Rebecca hadn't been the maid of honor. Maybe too far. "It's been fifteen years," she finishes up. "It doesn't sting anymore."

Rebecca and men, huh? Rebecca shrugs; the transaction is complete. It doesn't sting anymore and so it never happened. They can meet again. "Tell me everything! I want to know everything about you, and what's going on with you. What is going on with you? What is the biggest thing happening in your life, right now?"

Right now? Right this second? The Bahamas. Lenny. The taste of wedding cake, my new scarf. My trial separation. A new car, hidden away in the shadows under a sunny rainy day. A giant hole in the yard, with a couch down inside it. Certainly not Stage IV melanoma.

"Nothing!" she says brightly, of course, and asks Rebecca for a moment. "You look so great!" Rebecca calls to her, up the stairs. Wan but vibrant, like a blue-eyed iris with that scarf around her neck.

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The Big C

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