[Claire is really happy today; after such a long time she’s genuinely excited. She had been looking forward to this day. Today she’s going out with her girlfriends; they have planned to spend the whole day together. First a movie, then lunch followed by shopping and last but not the least dinner to end the hectic day. She woke up with a faint smile, “John has already left for work? Oh! These pills make me so tired, I can’t even think properly…but not today, today will be the best day of my life, I shall be cheerful, enough of being my cranky own self…Oh! Would you look at me? I look great”, she looks at her reflection on the mirror. She hums her favorite song as she gets ready for the day, “…to take the time. I, I saw that you couldn’t care less about what you do, you couldn’t care less about the time, and you couldn’t find the time to cry…”
After finishing the breakfast in a rush, she gets the car keys and goes out to the front yard, all ready and pumped up for the best day of her life.]
“Oh my God, you are so skinny, I’m jealous. You have got to tell me how did you manage to lose weight Claire?” Asked Laura (one of her friends). “Well that’s a secret”, Claire smiled politely. “Oh Come on tell us your secret, I want to try as well, jeez you look fabulous”, said Paige (another friend of Claire). “I highly doubt that.” Claire said in a low voice. “What was that? “ Laura asked curiously. “No, nothing, come on you guys, let’s get going”, Claire rushed them. “By the way your hair looks amazing, did you do something new to it? It looks too good, almost too good to be true” Laura made a slight remark. Claire looked a bit unhappy with the statement but she calmly confessed ‘it’ to be a ‘wig’. “A WIG?!!! Why a wig?” They asked. Claire remained calm and explained how she was losing her hair rapidly so she decided on getting a wig. “Well we should get one too because that thing is damn fine”, they all laughed.
Claire was perhaps right about the day being the best day of her life, she looked attractive; she behaved gracefully as she had always known how to be a lady but it only lasted till she reached her limit of keeping the whole act together. As they reached the diner, her strength gave up and she fainted a little which caught attention of a handsome young fella, most probably in his late-20’s who was having dinner perhaps with his colleagues. He held her in his arms and asked if she was alright; she nodded to give a positive answer. It was a scenario Claire was not familiar with, handsome young man holding her into his arms but soon she came to her senses, “What am I thinking? What about John? That man gave up everything for me, I shall be faithful to him; I do love him very much…” After the dinner Paige raised the obvious question “Is there something you are hiding from us Claire?” “Hiding from you two? No, not at all”
“Please tell us, we’ll help you in any way possible, I thought you looked great, you still do but now I have well it’s a bit of an intuition, you seem to be sickly, just remember we’re all with you”, Laura added.
“Huh! With me, you say? You two backstabbers ruined my entire life, even after knowing that I had feelings for Adam, Laura you went ahead and married the guy and Paige I know that you used to make fun of me behind my back with the whole group, but today is my day, I’m beautiful and you two are jealous, just jealous. You both are nothing but pathetic hypocrites who feed on misery, do you actually expect me to tell you guys the truth? So you guys can pity me, my situation; like I’ll ever make the same mistake again, I confessed about my love towards Adam and what did you two do huh? Never again. I’m fine, hell I’m DAMN FINE!…” Seeing her silent that way Paige placed her hand on Claire’s shoulder trying to sound more considerate “Are you all right Claire? You know the way you quit your job all so sudden that worried me.”
“Yes I’m fine, was a bit dizzy back then, it’s been a while, gals we’re getting old, whether we like it or not, ain’t we?” Claire replied politely. “Old? Who are you calling old? We’re still young, come on we’re in our mid-thirties; we can’t call ourselves old” Laura sounded cheerful.
Claire tries to gather the memories of the old days as she sat down on her bed “…Ah! The bed feels so good after a long tiring day, I feel relaxed”, she looks at the clock and murmured “John is not home yet”, as she lays back the flashbacks of the past come running to her head, the day when she met John for the very first time, it was a bit awkward at first; she was still getting used to her bold bald look and John just came out of nowhere in the supermarket saying “Hey, stop being so self-conscious, I think you look great, it’s kinda badass”, John’s happy face, his happy-go-lucky characteristic always kept Claire going, she believed in his words and he always said “Miracles happen you know…”, till the day Claire had been waiting on a miracle to happen. She came out of the trance as she heard the door. “It’s probably John”, she tried to get up but decided against it as she realized she was too tired. “How was the day with the girlfriends, did you all have fun?”
“You were okay?”
“Well I kind of fainted a little; by the way did you have dinner?”
“Fainted? We need to talk about that tomorrow, is the appointment still on schedule? And yes I had dinner at the office.”
“You should get some sleep now, good night”
“Good night…hey John, you know that I love you right?”
As he came by the bed, tears came rolling down her cheeks, he slightly placed his hand on her forehead “Of course I do”, he wiped off the tears with his hand. Claire held his hand in hers as tightly as possible and started to kiss it franticly, she couldn’t control her tears “Just know that I’ll always love you John, even when I’m not here”.
“Don’t say that, I tell you every time, miracles happen, everything will be alright”
“No John, miracles might happen but I’m probably not worth it. I lived my whole life being scared; I’ve chickened out from every good opportunity that I came across. I could not stand up for myself, to my bullies, to the abusive professor at college. They made fun of me and I let them, I didn’t do anything even at the workplace, Oh! How hard it was to be me, myself. My two childhood friends ended up betraying me; elementary, middle, high school and even college; being fat was a curse…”
“You can’t blame yourself like that Claire, you always helped people regardless how they treated you, you saw the daughter, that miss goody good at the medical center, she had an abortion, no one but you in the world knew that but you decided not to tell that jackass bloody braggy abusive piece of shit whom you refer to as ‘professor’ who was so proud to be her father and because of you, only you that dumbass Paige even has a job, getting kicked out of her own house that meth-head, she came to you and you gave her a new life. You always treated everyone kindly Claire, you’re a good person.”
“But being good isn’t always enough John, I should have been tough, I should have been outspoken…but now all my life is about shoulda, woulda, coulda as I’m going to die soon…”
“We are all going to die eventually, you can’t say things like that Claire, remember last night? When you were talking about how happy you were that you were going to meet your friends and have a great time?”
“Yes because now, well now look at me, I’m skinny as hell, I feel like a Victoria’s Secret model in disguise except I’m bald and ugly but this is beautiful, my body is beautiful, I look fabulous as Paige said. I’m attractive, for the first time in my life I feel ‘wanted’, it’s a great feeling”
“What do you mean by that? Did I not ever make you feel that way?”
“I didn’t mean it that way, I meant being wanted by the world is a different feeling you see.”
“I can’t believe you can be that immature Claire, you do understand that being wanted in that form is all about what you look on the outside, not the inside right? I loved you for who you are, bald or fat or skinny or long-haired, you are you Claire, you are my Claire who inspired people to come forward to help people who have Cancer, you and me and all the members of the ‘Cancer-free World’ are trying to gather funds and it’s doing great. We are progressing in a healthy rate. You quit your job to make the organization bigger. You should be proud of yourself. After your diagnosis you are not that same Claire who chickened out, you are much stronger, you are more brave and you inspire us.”
“What’s the point John? My good days are behind me, I’ll never be a teenager again, I’ll never enter college again, I’ll never get a chance to go to the prom and dance with the guy I like, I’ll never get my childhood back; it’s all bitter, bad memories…”, she broke down crying out loud.
“Stop it Claire, don’t do this, I have been with you, to this day, I’m worth nothing to you?” John said angrily “Claire be strong, you’ll live to see another day, make the rest of your life, the best of your life.”
After 7 Months
“…This is absolutely heartbreaking to inform you that Brain-cancer survivor for 2 years, the chief-associate of ‘Cancer-free World’ local, our very own Claire Hoffman has passed away today at 13:34 eastern time. She was the founder of the organization ‘Cancer-free World’ which helped various cancer patients and continues to do so; she was also one of my colleagues as she worked for TV7 for 6 years. Her long-time boyfriend John H. Underwood has confirmed the time and the place of death. We have also gathered information that Ms. Hoffman’s daily journal which she kept along the years will be published by ‘Cherry-tree Publishing House’ as said by Mr. Underwood. We pay our respect, ‘Today In Memorial”, thank you for joining us, this is Paige Watson reporting from front-desk for TV7”
“Some people live gloriously, some glorify Death” – Extracted from Claire Ruby Hoffman; a Memoir
By Anamika Dutta©