by Nicole Callihan
For a short time, I was in a coffee klatsch, a group of Brooklyn mothers, all of P.S. 29 second grade girls who palled around with their braids and their girl scout uniforms and, on Fridays, went to gymnastics in Manhattan. Manhattan! These girls and their mothers and I and my girl would take the A-train to Chambers Street, the girls playing souped-up versions of pattycake, the mothers complaining about the girls or the husbands or the jobs they had left for the husbands and the girls. Quite religiously we’d meet at the little coffee shop on the corner of Warren & Court, and Sarah, the very rich one might already be a little high, and Mandy, the really broke one with the videographer ex would probably be crying a little, and Jami would have her paper calendar and be very on top of things, and Leah would be a little under the weather, and every time we’d meet, I’d empty two packets of Sweet & Low into my matcha green tea, and I’d have this nearly imperceptible fantasy while stirring the Sweet & Low into the matcha that I would cause an explosion, that our little corner of Brooklyn would suddenly burst into flames, that I’d have to watch, first, the invisible make-up melt off, then the skin of the faces, the skin around neck, the clavicle, the bones of the arms, and one day, I said, Sometimes, I worry my Sweet & Low Matcha will cause an explosion. Someone laughed, said, no, but it will give you cancer, which is why I bring it up now. One of the lesser discussed aspects of having cancer is imagining all the poor choices you made which contributed to it: there are the cigarettes, of course, cliché!, all that wine, also cliché!, but then there is the Tab my mother fed me from a straw, the vats of French onion dip that held me over during the first one hundred days of isolation, the huge bites of orange mac & cheese I still take from my daughters plates, the fish sticks, the lettuce unwashed, pears absently devoured without even cleaning the skin on my blue jeans, even the air, just walking around breathing the air, sucking it in, and the stress, how people say, you’ve always been quite hard on yourself, the very Virgo-ness, the every little packet you have ever ripped open anticipating the end of the world and finding, well, finding what you find.
Last updated November 23, 2022