"Do you remember when I was beautiful?"

I nod my head up and down. A few months ago I would have told her that she is still beautiful. Now I just agree with whatever she says. She knows no truth except her own.

"Those were the days, huh? We were so cool back then. So pretty."

I nod. I sigh. I yawn. I laugh. I shut my eyes. I sink down into the hard leather chair. She expects me to sleep here, so I am trying. The heater beside me kicks on, even though it is only September and still warm. She gets cold a lot easier now, so I do not complain.

Her head is shaved and she is sporting a new dress and a new bracelet. If I hadn't caught up with her in the last year I would not recognize her. She has changed so much since college. Back then she used to be so full of energy, bubbly. She had long, gorgeous, straight, brown hair without a single split end in sight. She wore light blue eye shadow with a hint of purple. These days she prefers not to wear make up. She says "Be natural, dayflower."

"Tell me, um, tell me one thing you remember about me."

There is not one thing I can remember. There are millions of things. Like when she stole my date to the homecoming dance, junior year of high school. It's funny now. Or the way she would flirt with the swim team guys after practice. I refresh her memory about the time she found the "Booby Poem" by Chad Durdin in her locker.

She laughs. "Your breasts like Candyland. I want to fall down your shoots and ladders. You have a monopoly over me," she recites.

Chad tried to be a poet. Instead he misspelled monopoly and forgot to punctuate.

She looks down at her chest. "I wonder where those poem inspirations are now."

In a jar. In a zip lock. Toxic waste.

She sighs. "It's not gone you know. The doctors say it spread before they got to it. Radiation isn't strong enough." She smiles a fake smile.

I pretend to get something out of my overnight bag so that maybe she won't see the tear on my cheek.

This is my best friend. My best friend with breast cancer. My best friend who will not walk in another Relay For Life. My best friend who is dying. This is my best friend.

Her words "one thing you remember about me" keep replaying over and over in my head. Wouldn't it be nice if I could remember her as a firework? The truth is I'll probably remember her bald and breastless. I'll see mental pictures of her in that blue-grey gown, too weak to get out of bed. I'll see myself, standing over her, holding her to keep her from falling over as she vomits in the hospital commode. I will remember the flame she had that fizzled.

God, please, let me remember her as a firework.
see: sunset. Coca-Cola, cookie crumbs, just waking up.

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