"I get so many people who come in because they start the chemo shave and then they just can't finish it," Jackie says, and they nod; when he asks, Paul tells him it's melanoma, noting to his wife how easily it trips off the tongue. "That feels really good to just say," he says, taking her place in his drama that is hers.
"That's a tricky one. My partner's cousin had melanoma..." Paul asks about coffee enemas, and Jackie responds with apricots. Twenty a day, he swears, is a bona fide cure. She's tired of them both, so she rolls her eyes. "For what, pooping?" They look at her like a murderer and she just shakes her head. Her life has never been a story about Paul but Paul's life has always been a story about Paul that included her. He's never breathed enough to know the difference.
"They gave her six months, it's been three years, and she's still hanging on." Thanks to apricots. Not cold desperate cruel chance, not medicine, not Dr. Mauer, not Paul's unending enthusiasm for life, life, life: Apricots. Bona fide. "I'm gonna go get my special snippers, and I'll be right back," says Jackie, with a gentle pat. When he's gone, Paul half wishes he were married to Jackie instead.
"With our attitude and ideas, might actually be able to beat this thing." Cathy offers to fire her oncologist and just act on Jackie's advice. Paul wonders whether her oncologist wears a long black robe, no face, maybe carries a scythe. Like the one Paul's grandfather used to have, he says, illustrating her life by use of his own. "Apparently yours uses it to poke holes in people, so all their hope drains out."
No, she thinks. Mine cuts problems out of everybody's lives, so that I'm not a burden. So they can never call me that. And her oncologist is more attractive, and loving, than a thousand death's heads. Just because she's not trying chemotherapy doesn't mean she's not trying, but Paul can't understand that. Quantity, over quality, is the essence of Paul's life. Everything loud and very exciting. Nothing too quiet, or too small. If she's not following Paul's medical advice, she's following no advice at all.
She swears her husband Paul is crazy and he agrees: Crazy with cancer. He begs her to try things, apricots and coffee enemas and breastmilk, anything. "If not for yourself, at least for me and Adam." Not to prolong it, her life or her pain, necessarily; not for any reason beyond those he just named. Because they need to see her doing it, because watching her doing it means the nothing they can do is actually helping. Because in the absence of things to do he will be more alone than ever. Because Emily Dickinson lied: Hope demands everything to stay alive.