So in my biology class we’re learning about things like gene therapy and RNA interference, and since we have a group quiz tomorrow and I already finished everything else tonight I opened the book to the assigned reading for once, and surprise! It’s all about cancer.

And that’s fine and good. I mean, it’s a biology textbook, for fuck’s sake, of course it talks about things like cancer and trisomy and all sorts of stuff. But the chapter started out with this awful story about this college girl who gets a cyst in one ovary and has to have it removed and then a few months later she gets cancer in the other ovary. And for some reason it made me remember my Not-My-Father and my Person-Who-I-Don’t-Call-My-Sister-Anymore, and how My Not Father got brain cancer when I was fifteen and just sort of collapsed in on himself until his skull was the only thing normally sized about him and his legs were only as big around as my wrists. I remember that the last conversation I ever had with him was after my sister paid someone to follow me to the clinic where I went to make sure that I wasn’t going to have my rapist’s baby after all and that the places he had torn me were healing. My Not Sister had called screaming at me, all these things Slut Can’t Believe You You’re Awful Lied To Me Too Young and I never said the word rape because I couldn’t and I knew she wouldn’t believe me anyway. And then her telling my Not Father and him looking up from the frail little nest of blankets on the couch and asking my mother and my Actually My Father how they felt about their daughter being sexually active and me sobbing and denying it and how my mother never believed that lie and for years after she made jokes Ha Ha You Probably Have Genital Warts Slut Ha Ha That Fever You Have Is Probably Syphilis Ha Ha Dress Like That And Men Can’t Help Themselves You’ll Get Into Trouble.

And I never talked to my Not Father about it and he still said he loved me and was proud of me but then he died anyway. He choked and gurgled on his own lungs through buckets of morphine while I held my Not Sister on my lap even though she was so much taller than me and rocked her and sang Blue Wing in her ear so that she wouldn’t hear him trying to suck in air.

 

And then somehow I’m throwing the book down on my bed and fumbling for something to take my nervous energy, but since I promised myself I wouldn’t relapse and self-injure again all I can think of is the pack of Marlboro Reds. And then I start laughing, even though it’s not really funny, because for a second there I was seriously considering a cigarette to make me forget that cancer had upset me.

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