Janet Reed

I Am Not the Same

I know we cannot know what we don’t. I am marked by what I thought I knew and didn’t. Go and for keeps made no sense then. The Reaper had rapped on her door often enough and been rebuked: “I’m not home today,” she’d say. “You go visit someone else.” Once, on the gurney, prepped for surgery, hair netted, IV dripping, a smile lurking, she’d crooned: “Maybe we better hold off and think this through.” Her hip was in pieces. Frustrated by obstinacy, then and before, surrounded with obligations unsympathetic to foolish drama, I stamped my foot with the immediacy of now. “I’m not dying today,” she countered. And she didn’t. Another time, months earlier, I watched her body so deeply asleep only the irregular rasp of a caught breath proved she hadn’t skipped town with her black-clad visitor. I had burned myself, and the wicked blister wept, a continuous drip down my arm while I kept time and waited. I was scared. For myself. You understand, don’t you, orphans are born at 52? I was a fossil in that time of crisis, a petrified relic. I was present when the Reaper knocked the last time, and I am not the same. The blistered scar on my arm is a Mark of Cain, a rune of remembrance. There was before. There was after. I am not the same.

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Janet Reed teaches writing, literature, and theater at Crowder College, a small community college in the midwest. She lives with her cats and a rescue dog and spends her free time contemplating lessons she has or should have learned. Her work has been published in several journals.

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