NOEL GATSBY HAD THE same dream every night. She saw herself floating above her body, strangely weightless, just before she drifted into a group of misty clouds. She never remembered the ensuing journey or the return, but she knew she came back replenished. The awakening was a hopeful endeavor, her body teeming with a new energy that seemed to fill every pore and blood vessel. It was only when she moved her muscles that she realized it was just a fanciful dream. Within a few seconds her reality came crashing back down to earth with resolute misery, once again riddled with pain and insidious disease.
Heaving a great sigh, she moved slowly to get out of bed. Nature was calling, yet another unsavory body function she could not ignore for long. Taking a deep breath, she forced herself into a sitting position. She felt the mechanical screw in her left hip grinding and popping, in turn pulling on the muscles in her lower back. She gritted her teeth together, causing another juncture of pain by virtue of her swollen gums and their caverns of decay.
"Please make it stop," she whispered into the room.
Even in the worst depths of pain, she never considered saying "Please God, make it stop." Her belief in the almighty was shaky at best, and for a myriad of reasons. If there was a God, she reasoned, why didn't he give her a break? She long ago dismissed the pious adage that "God only gives you as much as you can handle." As far as she was concerned, she had endured more than her fair share of suffering, so God must be on hiatus or maybe not exist at all. It was the reason she stopped attending mass at St. Theresa's Parish Church years ago. God didn't seem to have the time to listen to prayers made by the poor and suffering, so why bother anymore?
Noel shifted her legs sideways, an ugly grimace creating deep lines across her features. She rested her feet on the floor, giving herself a momentary respite before inviting another wave of pain.
The room was cold, like a block of ice underneath her bare feet. Her legs and back ached with a familiar surge, travelling up her spine and into her shoulders. She moved her head back and forth, feeling the pinch of awry nerves. She grabbed her robe from the end of bed, shrugging into the shabby blue cotton. There was no point in starting the day with a self-pity party, she decided. "Upward and onward," she intoned silently, refusing to give way to her plight. At least, not today. Tomorrow would likely be another story, despite her wishful-thinking dreams.