My sister fears she has lung cancer. I dig up weeds behind the house. The female judges on the Supreme Court see what is there and what is not there. My sister is scheduled for a PET scan tomorrow. That is as far as I can see. The shovel is pointed, like a spade. I step on the edge to cut into the hard soil. I imagined it would be easier. It is soil, after all. I do not think the women of the world can save the world from what is happening to the world, but the women of the world describe it differently. My sister blames smoking for her lungs. She has two heart ailments as well. I remember looking at her body with awe. It made hope impossible, yet I loved her. A spot on one lung has grown since the last scan. In many parts of the world women are cordoned off in separate clothing and separate spaces. If women tasted good, there would be a different understanding of death. I say to my sister, “You don’t have cancer,” the way the women of the Supreme Court argue law. In both cases we are not speaking our whole minds.
It is easier to catch flies with honey than vinegar, the saying goes. Why would anyone want to catch flies? In the dream, death looks like a friend I am trying to avoid. The friend is walking a small, yapping dog with matted fur. I thought I could change the world when I was too inexperienced to know how the world worked. Certain women are smart enough to be themselves without worrying they will end up alone.
Let’s see where we are after men stop saying things for 200 years. If you are a woman who has become a man for whatever reasons, this includes you. Some people think men should stop saying things for 100 years. I doubled it. Men will lie back on beds with their skin glowing and look beautiful. Beautiful and silent. They will adopt rescue animals and become brilliant by listening and observing.
I ended a long friendship, and now I don’t have to feign interest in her person. I went to a dermatologist. He had a beautiful face and did not want me to address him by his first name. He may have thought I found his last name difficult to pronounce. It was an Indian name and easy to pronounce. I wanted to be informal. He looked at a spot behind my ear that was dark. A friend had thought it concerning. The doctor took a piece of gauze, dabbed on alcohol, and rubbed the spot. It came off, a flake from where my sunglasses rested. Cancer was in the air.
On the TV show House of Cards, we do not know why Francis and Claire Underwood are driven to power. They do not wonder, and it makes them dull. In 1972 Sammy Davis Jr. kissed Richard Nixon. He embraced Nixon and kissed him. It was one of the first kisses between a black person and a white person on TV and one of the most awkward embraces ever televised. Sammy of the pegged trousers, nightclub jackets, and slicked down hair could sing, dance, and act. He generated love. His face showed pleasure and pain. The era of the Kennedys had ended in violence, and Nixon was ascendant. His smile looked like a rock had come down hard on his hand. Sammy did not need to kiss Nixon. He was used to playing the jester inside the Rat Pack’s racist jokes. Begging makes you float over your body.
“All the judges of the Supreme Court will be women for the next 200 years,” I remarked casually at dinner last night to the man seated across from me. “And most will be women of color.” The man’s head was large. He had a kind face and a custom of meeting aggression with amusement. There are things we can change. We can change our minds. There is probably nothing my sister can do about her cancer. In the dreams of early female hominids, they let grease drip down their front paws. They are afraid of things inside them, not outside them. They are hairy. They smell of earth, and they don’t have mirrors. What I remember is not necessarily true.
Laurie Stone is author most recently of My Life as an Animal, Stories. She was a longtime writer for the Village Voice, theater critic for The Nation, and critic-at-large on Fresh Air. She won the Nona Balakian prize in excellence in criticism from the National Book Critics Circle and has published numerous stories in such publications as Evergreen Review, Fence, Open City, Anderbo, The Collagist, New Letters, TriQuarterly, Threepenny Review, and Creative Nonfiction. In 2005, she participated in “Novel: An Installation,” writing a book and living in a house designed by architects Salazar/Davis in the Flux Factory’s gallery space. She has frequently collaborated with composer Gordon Beeferman in text/music works. The world premier of their piece “You, the Weather, a Wolf” was presented in the 2016 season of the St. Urbans concerts. She is at work on The Love of Strangers, a collage of hybrid narratives.