False Footing

In a women's bathroom there will always be blood.

I watch as mine runs down the sides of the white porcelain sink. I grip the edge of the counter with both hands so I have something to hold on to, anything to keep me from slipping to the floor, a crumpled heap of a once-confident woman.

Lately the sight of blood makes me feel faint, but I think it's just my insecurities creeping out. They've been in hiding most of these years. But now, they range freely, rudely awakened. They are created by uncertainty. I never know when I might start to bleed, when the traitor in my body will show itself, show me for an impostor. My own body serves to implicate me.

I had given up trying to stop it and decided just to wait as the blood dripped from my nose into the sink. Hitting water droplets, it swirls, dilutes, and turns pink.

The blood is my weakness. It reminds me that there is something inside of me over which I have no control.

Funny, but in spite of this stranger in my body, I've become more aware of myself. When it's still, I can feel each breath that rises and falls within my chest. I can feel my heart, old before its time, beating, sometimes; pounding, more often.

I can put a hand to my cheek and feel the softness of my skin and the impossibly small hairs against my fingers. I can run my tongue along my teeth and feel each one. When I brush my hair in the morning I can feel each individual strand as it pulls on my scalp.

I can feel more, maybe because I'm looking to.

But with feeling more, comes a greater awareness of my illness and my limitations.

I've learned to taste the blood in the back of my throat and to feel the one cool drop as it runs down the inside of my nose. I've learned to carry a tissue in my pocket. I've learned where all the bathrooms are.

I've learned not to let that look of surprise creep onto my face when I realize it's happening again.

I've learned not to let Mulder know.

Once again I have to protect him, but this time I'm protecting him from me, protecting him from my fear and my weakness. I can't let him know I'm dying.


He knows. But I wish he didn't. It would be easier for him, easier for me.

I can't bear the thought of him knowing I'm going to be taken from him again.

I'm the only thing he has to anchor him to this world. It frightens me to think what will happen to him after I'm gone. Without me he'll drift away. He won't be entirely sane.

There will be no one to answer his calls at the insomniac hours of the night. There will be no one to share in the excitement of his passionate beliefs. No one to argue with him. No one to believe in him. For some unknown reason, I feel responsible for this.

Like it was my choice to leave him. My choice to die.

Along with this sickness have come feelings I have no control over. I don't even know how to deal with them.

I wonder where my God has gone off to. The God that took away my father and my sister. The God that will soon have me with him too. Where is he watching this from? It's blasphemy, but I have my suspicions. He's probably hanging out with the Cigarette Smoking Man, or Mulder's aliens and his sister.

I feel guilty for leaving Mulder behind. This is the part I have to walk alone, yet he's still standing next to me through this journey. He's standing with me, weighing me down.

I hate him for it, for not letting go...of me. I'm half-afraid that I already have let go under the false guise of acceptance -- the final stage of mourning.

I was told I would never die.

Mulder was told everything dies.

We're both working against what we knew to be true.

I've had the blur of youth, but now I find myself wondering what I could have had, what I would've.

I've noticed myself staring at women with their babies. Watching as young children tug on the pant legs of their fathers, who look down at them with expectation. I see couples. I see old age.

I will never have that.

I will have death instead.

It's an empty feeling knowing something you've never thought much about, never seriously considered, could be taken from you. I didn't have time to decide. My future was stolen out from under me before I could even take a step.

I will never have anyone reach out to me, confident that I could heal, comfort, console. I will not have a piece of me to pass on after my death. I will not have that kind of future.

My emotions are often as malignant and unwieldy as the thing that grows inside of me, as tender and fragile too. I can cry while watching television, reading books, or staring into the refrigerator, searching to feed a hunger that will not be satisfied by food.

I can't piece together this alien life. It once had so many parts, so many directions. Now my life is one-dimensional. Cancer is a one-dimensional word: time.

My future is soon approaching my present. I can't put it off forever. Each day comes and goes, and as much as I'd like them to stop, they step forward, toward me and then past me. I sometimes neglect to even get their names.

I become confused easily. I'd like to say it's caused by emotion and not cancer...but they've become indistinguishable.

My dreams are too familiar to be dreams but not real enough to affect my waking hours. I can never get enough sleep. I'm so very tired.

Tired of searching for truth and never finding the answers.

When I got dressed this morning, I couldn't find my shoes. I could not find my black heels. I searched. With a sick wrench, I finally realized that I did not own the pair of shoes that I was looking for. It was nearly enough to stop me from going on with my day, my life. All over again, I lost something I thought I controlled. I lost something I believed was mine.

I can no longer trust my own mind.

I yell at Mulder now, more than before.

It is not the yell of an argument or the yell of reason. It isn't a yell to be heard. I'm yelling because I don't know what else to do. I'm angry at him because he wants to fight, and this isn't his battle.

I yell at him because he isn't sick, because he isn't dying like I am dying.

He is in no way responsible for this, but he is getting blamed by my hostility and my guilt, guilt for having blamed him. He'll continue to be blamed because he'll continue to be there. Mulder's caught up in this circle too. He won't leave me. I don't know how I feel about that.

I know that when I leave this bathroom and return to the office, if he even looks at me with anything approaching concern, or tenderness, or sympathy, if he looks at me at all, I'm going to say things that will make him flush and duck his head.

Make him avoid my eyes.

Make him used to not having me around.

I'm trying to teach him how it will be without me. I'm trying to get him to accept this -- trying, and failing. This man who will believe in anything refuses to believe that I have terminal cancer. He refuses me my death.

Who would have thought that, when handed truth, Fox Mulder would push it away and look for another answer? An answer he liked better.

He thinks there is a cure. He believes I will not die. But his beliefs do nothing to convince me. I am a scientist. I know death. I know what it looks like; I know the odds.

I insist that there is nothing to be done.

He looks at me with strange eyes.

He doesn't argue with me anymore. He doesn't start fights or conversations. He's careful. He doesn't want to upset me.

I'm upset because he's changed. I've changed him. This disease has changed him too; it may even kill him along with me but in different ways.

I look at myself in the mirror: a thin trail of blood from one nostril to my upper lip, but my nose has stopped bleeding. I look at my pale face. Could everyone see this desperation in my eyes? Could they see the confusion? Could they see the victim?

And what about Dana Scully? Can anyone still see her? Doctor? Agent? Woman?

That's not who I am now.

There's no room for Dana Scully. No room for who I was...before.

No one sees me anymore. I've been lost inside my disease. I've been renamed and given a new identity by the disease and the onlookers both. It eats inside of me, waiting for me to surrender.

I'd like to end this, stop the waiting, pop the bubble I've been living inside of. I'd like to reach out and pull these people toward me. I'd like to show them that I'm still here for however long that will be. I would hold them to me and tell them not to be afraid.

The bubble is thick.

I'm stronger than this victim they see in me, but I do not have the strength to do this alone, to be this alone.

Because I am alone. I am the only one who knows the truth. I will leave this world as I entered it...blind...stumbling, and full of pain.

Dying slowly from the inside out, I give up and wait it out.