So, you might recall that I am participating in NaNoWriMo this month (feel free to go here if you have no idea what I am talking about). Here’s another excerpt from the draft (and the main character has a name– Camille, Cami for short):
In the yard, the hot June air suffocates me. I fall into a loose jog, feeling my muscles and joints creek into place. I hate the first five minutes of every run. My body aches, my mind is unwilling, all the forces within and without conspire against me. But then something happens at the five minute mark, my breathing smoothes, my mind surrenders, and my body flows into its form. If I can run five minutes, I can run fifty. I remind myself of this fact as I plod down the driveway to the winding street that will take me away from my ego and hopefully lead me back into myself.
The shade on the street is welcome. I fall into my rhythm, my stride stretching just a bit wider, and my arms moving front and back beside my chest, making me faster. I think about yesterday’s run, how I worked out the details of my departure and reviewed my packing list in my head. A day later, and my run is instead crowded with the panic of crisis. I force myself to think about something else. My mother’s face flashes into my mind’s eye, and my nostrils flair with the sting of tears.
My mother died of breast cancer when I was fourteen, leaving a family that did not know how to exist without her.
Breast cancer is often fatal among Latinas who are usually diagnosed too late and lack the health insurance coverage to be aggressive in their treatment. My working class mother’s odds were no different, and we said goodbye to her less than six months after she was diagnosed. The math rings through my head. Ten years. Almost ten years exactly since Mami had died. And, now, I can’t stop the tears from coming. The sobs well up in my throat, stalling my run. I slow to a walk, recalling that last week with her. She had died at home, the Hospice workers almost a part of our family by then. The last thing she had said to me was, “Take care of yourself first, m’ija.” It had made me sob then though I did not have a full sense of the irony of her message at the time. Later, I would remember this scene and recall how she never placed herself before her four children. How it was almost as if the four of us, combined with a machista husband who wandered and a country that was hard on its immigrants, especially if they were brown and had the nerve to speak another language amongst themselves at malls or on the MARTA, had sucked the life out of her and the cancer was just an after thought.
Walking is too much, and I bend over, neck folded into my chest, hands resting on my knees, and the sobs keep coming. There have been times when I thought that loving kids who did not want to be loved was the hardest thing I had ever done, when I thought going into a hospital to see a gun shot-riddled kid was the worst thing that had ever happened to me, but those are just the lies I told myself to forget this other thing. Losing Mami was the worst thing that had ever happened to me. Living a day without her was the hardest thing.