THE EXTREMES

The following is an excerpt from my upcoming novel BEAUTY SCARS.

I still wasn’t feeling much different. Physically I mean. Mentally I was a wreck. I floated through my shifts, automated my smiles with new customers, and asked just enough questions so regulars wouldn’t try to ask me any.

Those are my evenings. The threat of death planted in the back of my mind while I serve customers with nothing on their mind but the menu or drink specials. At least for those moments, anyways. Who knows what problems they were having. What kind of life or death decisions they had to face while they sat sipping caesars.

In those moments my customers were fine. They ate and drank and laughed with their friend or friends and just had a good time. It was admirable. They didn’t wear any concern on their faces. And although the chances they were facing a fatal disease were slim, I recognized how relative the word fatal could be, and how any problem large enough in your own mind can damage an entire life.

Where were those moments for me? Where my living preoccupied my life. Samantha had given me that. She made me present, and for however brief she centred my thoughts, prevented them from shifting dangerously left or right.

But I needed more. Or maybe I needed her more often. I still hadn’t decided who I was in this fight. Justin would tell me every morning how strong I was.

“Just the fact that you’re not crying everyday is a victory, baby. You’re being so strong.”

If we were texting I’d find the most sarcastic emoji. Or maybe the one that’s laughing so hard tears are popping out of its face. Maybe Justin would catch the irony in that one. Even if it were true, even if I wasn’t crying everyday, I’m not sure what that would have to do with me being strong or not.

But it doesn’t even matter because it’s not true. I cried every single day. First in bed usually right after Justin left for work. At my own workplace I’d run to the bathroom for a bit to get out a good cry. No runny mascara. I stopped wearing that the day my dad called me from Valleyfield.

But if I’m not strong then what am I? Instantly I think I must be weak. The extremes. That makes the most sense.

  • Strong
  • Weak

Check one. Then live there. Whichever I choose would be my path, would determine how people speak to me, determine my mood when I wake up everyday. Strong or weak. Choose one, Treasure.

In the mirror I said these words out loud. Naked before I stepped into the shower, no mist interrupting my view. I saw myself.

“Strong or weak, Treasure? Strong or fucking weak?”

I waited. Waited for some kind of sign, a feeling, some spur of emotion. Nothing. Just me staring back at myself. Where’s the power now…

****

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BEAUTY SCARS will be out sometime in the spring. You can sign up to get more regular updates about BEAUTY SCARS on my website kerncarter.com.

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