Just Prey

Artist E.b. Fromkes Www.erinfromkes.com

“You have good veins” my doctor says in the way you might tell someone she is witty, a skilled scuba diver, or queen of Scrabble. The sandpaper scratch of his genuinity, coupled with an aura of unadulterated compassion wafts over me. In my supine stupor of befuddled surrender, bulbous pathways of blood springing erect cackle with irony. Somebody else may interpret the vivacious webs of green spidering down my arm amidst a pasty palette of poison to be some kind of symbol. Somebody else may cling to a symbolic omen of tenacity, of the determination that even my blood sustains again and again, poke after poke. But that somebody was about two decades, three armies of doctors, swaths of yellowing files worth of erroneous diagnoses and one very different woman-child ago.

Despite all this I take the compliment. I take the words in, willing them to buoy me against the sinking capitulation anchoring me. Whatever prowess they may wield, though, is ethereal and any remnants of a life raft sift away under the muted lighting above. The cognizant crafting of this room as a cozy counterpart to mainstream IV rooms dawns on me. But it does not penetrate.

Because my everything, each smitherine crammed into the cookie cutter outline of a woman’s perimeter I occupy, is hunted. I belong to an endangered species poached relentlessly. Like a cub cornered by a cadre of killers, I lie belly up, heart racing, paws waving smoke signals to the drifting clouds beyond. Nothing, not the hazel twinkle of my tiger eyes nor the heaving determination of my adrenaline sparking like acid along my spine, infuse doubt into my predators. And so the swish of my tail stills, the tufts peaking my ears resign, and my paws wide with promise of promise, sink to my sides.

I am on the bulls-eye of an easy target. Inperceptible goons have infiltrated my person deep into my bones. Like sardines squished against a tin, I swell past the confines of myself, lulling in a noxious marinade of all that should never been. All that should not be, but is. Upon a table sheathed in cream cotton I lie, exhausted into oblivion by a survival instinct gone haywire, even my fatigue titters with doom. Beneath the palpating tips of fingers my doctor selects a vein. Left? Middle? Right? They are all supple; seemingly ripe for fortification.

Out from under the gleam of the needle my vein relinquishes. My blood huddles collapsing in on itself, toward my core. And we all fall down.


The Other Kind of Gone

Art by Jordan Landerman
There is no repellant quite like chronic illness. Acute crises may reel in those seeking heroism cloaked as compassion, but true efforts to deposit karmic pennies in the piggy bank will surface. When a decade of hospitals doesn’t yield magical cures and you continue to break, those who cushion your existence fade. Not unlike the lingering sticky footprint surrounding your IV, people leave you gradually. They fade away particle by particle until all traces of their adhesion to you are gone.

Then there’s the other kind of gone. The string you up on a flagpole by your PICC line, skip country as you wilt away to jagged angles kind of gone. If it’s not already apparent, I speak from experience. Being abandoned as you die is, well, intangibly visceral. I’ve collected troves of diction on said topic, most of which are of the four-letter variety; you know, the kind of language your mother eschews, but my mom blooms by. (Okay, so maybe her cornflower blue irises don’t exactly replenish beneath the rays of my f-bombs as they did the first fifty times I owned it.) But she still glitters by my passion, in all of its forms. I digress.

A reproachful harangue about those who have ditched me this is not. (Only.) In addition, I propose an inquiry to all of you reading this; at what point does chronic illness replace the human who has it? It has been my experience that being reduced to a medical enigma, a perpetual failure to heal, sucks. Conveniently side-stepping the topic of chronic cruelty churning inside of me, others focus instead on how my illness burdens them.

I am not alone in this; others I’ve connected with echo similar sentiments. The take away message playing through our heads is this: I am not lovable. I am disposable. My illness is all that I am. This is a fairly simplified excerpt of the dialogue me, myself and I exchange. Instead of blaming someone, my aim is to unearth beliefs that put those living with chronic illness in the wrong. Because we exist.

Betrayal by body may be inevitable with Lyme disease. Betrayal by those I love doesn’t have to be. Stay.