Mornings were a struggle. Feed the cats, walk the dogs, get her up and dressed and out of the door in time for her appointment. Sometimes he skipped breakfast, too busy sorting pills and pouring vanilla Boost over ice. He was resolved. They would never be late for a treatment, never miss a pill. Five days a week for six weeks. They’d be perfect.
The afternoon drive home was the good time. Less rushed. Take your time. Stop along the way. The hard part was over, though she said the radiation didn’t hurt.
Sometimes the sun was out. Other days the weather was shit. They sat in the minivan in the parking lot off of the four-lane highway, she under layers of blanket, their own private picnic. Two beef tacos each and a Nacho Supreme between them.
They hadn’t had Taco Bell in years, not since the kids moved away. The chemo pills changed her senses. Nothing tasted right. Sweets were dirt. But Taco Bell was still Taco Bell and that was something.
She was losing weight from illness, he from work and worry. Cheese sauce would help. Heavy, hearty beans. Protein is appreciated. The crack and crumble of the shells was the messiness of life; an empty chip a reminder that it’s not fair. A common meal, eaten with hands. Intimate. Communal.
By the end, she could take only liquids. Then nothing. Not even air. But that was later. After trial and failure. After inevitability.
Until then, there were long drives, quiet companionship, and tacos. Hard days took weeks to fly by. Talk of the now. Never of the illness. Focus on the nachos. Another meal, another day. Extra sour cream this time. A few more packets of hot sauce. Really hits the spot. You have the last chip. A small, nice thing. Something to share. Comfort. Food.
Michele Feltman Strider stumbled into writing in an effort to monetize the time she spent talking to her imaginary friends. She currently lives in Oklahoma City, having moved from the California Bay Area in a rarely attempted Reverse Okie. Her hobbies include reading, eating, long-distance motorcycle touring, and cleaning the cat box. She began her foray into writing with the novel Homecoming, after a career in marketing and promotions for non-profit organizations. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram @hotgingermess.
image: Bryan Harvey