Radiation Day 24
The waiting room is crowded today,
all of us boxed into these little chairs
in our gowns
and then out of nowhere
Anna, the old Italian
shouts over the television
You hear about da girla she dieda.
Everything Anna says sounds like
a cartoon version of Italian.
She hada brain tumor
It go everywhere.
Betty, in the corner seat
which is where Betty always sits, gasps.
Her cane clatters to the floor.
She died, Betty asks.
Anna nods enthusiastically.
If The Angel were here
he would be talking about Jesus
but he finished up radiation last week
so instead there is just blank space.
So young, Anna says.
For a second our eyes meet
and I realize what a mistake that was.
She hada brain tumor, Anna says again,
and she dida wanna live.
The doctors they told her that she was gonna die anyway.
The new guy shakes his head from the corner,
My god, I couldn’t imagine.
I don’t want die. I couldn’t imagine.
I glance around the room but no one else
seems to have noticed what he said.
She gonna die anyway
so she took her own life.
There was a much clicking of tongues.
I don’t want to die, the new guy says.
If they told me I had two weeks,
he holds his hand to his chest,
I’d start running
and just keep running.
that isn’t agoing to save you, she says.
and then they all start laughing
so that when the little Russian tech
and stands next to my chair
and says my name correctly
I nearly weep
and say outloud
Oh thank god
as if I’ve been called up
to some sort of liberation.
Radiation Day 26
Today is Anna’s last day.
She and I sit alone in the waiting room
after I’ve turned down the blaring television.
I in my gown
and she in her clothes.
A line drawn,
a world of difference.
You’re finished today? I ask
Yeah, she nods, my last day.
That’s great, I say, Congrats.
10 more, I tell her
though saying it now it seems
and still too many
as if I have lived a year of my life
here, in the chairs of this sad waiting room
and yet I’m not ready to be done.
Not ready for what done means.
I want to tell her she’s going to be fine
but Maria comes in
and sees Anna
Oh baby, we’re going to miss you so much
this place won’t be the same without you
They hug and I realize that’s all it takes
to love someone,
to be shoved in a room
with individual containers
of apple juice
and graham crackers.
Radiation Day 30
The waiting room is empty today
so I turn down the television
and put some David Bowie
on my ipod
and close my eyes
for just a second
when I hear her,
her face hovering in
front of mine
a wide smile
dyed blonde hair
I turn off Bowie
and she asks me if this is the radiation area
and I explain
about the two waiting rooms
and she asks about
if this side is for treatment
and I look down at my
blue hospital gown and say yes.
She’s looking for a friend
she tells me as she goes into the bathroom
and leaves the door open
as she fixes her hair
and then comes back out
with a frown
Wait, are you here for treatment
and I look back down at my gown
again and say
and she frowns
and I can see it coming
the thing that I have been
for 30 long treatments
someone to say something
about how young I am
and how this shouldn’t be happening
to me and how it doesn’t make any sense
and I can see that she’s about to
as she shakes her head
and I beg her not to
because I know
if she says it out loud
that somehow it will be true
and I will die.
Ally Malinenko is the author of the poetry collection The Wanting Bone (Six Gallery Press) and the novel This is Sarah (Bookfish Books). She lives in the part of Brooklyn the tour buses don’t come to.