Once upon a November, a pecan tree shed the fruits of its spindly loins. Some nuts were rotten, some buttery, and one crunchy shell cradled a little girl. She cracked the hard womb in half and stepped out into autumn, shaking off gooey drops of amniotic fluid. She was a diminutive creature – only in the 5th percentile – and she loved reading about animated bears, altruistic trees, and saying goodnight to the moon. She feasted on bottom feeders from mud holes and swamps. She was born again in every thunderstorm in the summer. Her blood was so sweet it made mosquitoes drunk. She was home.
One day she noticed a lump on her heart. The doctors assured her it was benign. As long as she stayed and played beneath her pecan mothers and fathers, she was safe. True to form, the azaleas would burst forth in a mauve eruption every spring. The crickets and thunder and barking frogs engendered the daily euphony. She smiled at the little fires in the sky in the crepuscular hours.
It was safe, it was steady. Still, she thought often of her little heart lump. She thought it was making her heart beat more rapidly. What if it was swelling against her lungs? She breathed quicker. She thought faster. But she had so many dreams. She watched the woodpeckers soar and her heart ached for something more, for a different shore.
So she flew West to a place where rain never pattered and the sun blanketed every inch of parched ground. A place with many people, people who spoke more than they listened, and few trees, desiccated trees that groveled for a drop of water. A line of grey demarcation steadily separated smog from sky. Atlases and talk shows named it paradise.
The little girl noticed her chest becoming red and swollen. Her heart ached and itched and she could not seem to scratch it. The doctors did not meet her eyes when they said her heart tumor had metastasized. Inoperable, they said. Terminal.
She made a mourning nest with pillows and furs and lay paralyzed for a time. She cried, “I have to get rid of this ugly growth! It’s so heavy on my heart. It keeps me stagnant in my sick bed. I want to be kinetic.” She applied salves and balms to the affected area every night. She swallowed toxins that might draw swords with the angry cells. She took a dirk to her ribs and cut a crater. She pulled and pulled the carcinoma but it would not let go.
“It will not let go,” she stated plainly. “It will not let go. But I can let go.” She crawled out of her nest and traversed to the grocery store. She ignored the stares as best she could. It was uncomfortable, but she had so many dreams. The next day she went a little farther and a little longer. She still felt deep pain. But she had so many dreams. So she carried her cancer with her everywhere.
“I must marry my malignancy,” she decided. She said her “I do’s” upon an alter. She planted a kiss upon its lips and vowed to embrace her tumor as fundamental to her body, as important to her being as her heart. “Thank you, my little neoplasm. Thank you, foreign cells. Thank you for this lesson.”
Soon the deviant cells began to fuse with the pieces of her heart. They wed the ventricles and coupled with the atria. Rich burgundy blood enveloped and nourished the organ. All of the cells united to form one titanic heart, and with it her capacity to love and feel and empathize became her defining feature.
She went home to her trees and around the world again. Her heart still ached occasionally, and sometimes the size of it simply exhausted her. Still she said her thank you’s. Thank you, onerous heart muscle. Thank you, memories of disease. She lived so many dreams.