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The Bounds of Friendship
By Lori Parks

(Page 2 of 2)

Beth spent the following year shuttling into Manhattan every Friday, alternating between radiation therapy and chemotherapy. We still were in touch, but rather than call her every day, I would phone a few days after her treatments, always aware on those intervening days that she was scared, alone. Those days she spent in agony –vomiting, her entire body aching – were as unfathomable to me as the size of the universe, as untouchable as the farthest star. I couldn’t imagine what those days were like for her, those hours of wondering whether she would ever celebrate her 25th birthday, bear children, see her sisters grow old. She spoke about those d a y s only afterwards: She slept a lot, read a lot, thought a lot.

Today, two years later, with Beth 95 percent certain that her cancer won’t return, there are things she has been through that I will never know. She lived at the threshold of her own death for a year, and I can only wonder what that was like. And, for all our wanting to intertwine our lives, for all our shared moments of laughter and anguish, she survived this ordeal – those moments flung up against her own mortality – with only herself to sustain her.

We still are close, still see each other every week for coffee, trying to unravel the meaning of our lives, lives growing more complicated as the years pass. Yet sometimes when I look at her, I remember the journeys through tunnels of darkness that each of us must make: alone, afraid, with only ourselves as our guides.

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