remember two things

I wondered where I'd be. I got the answer tonight; an answer that was nearly four years in coming. As usual, the answer wasn't what I expected.

It was less.

It was more.

I don't write much in the realm of 'cancer diary' these days. Those stories are ones I occasionally allude to in late-night conversations with trusted friends. Years later, they still hurt. I don't mean hurt as in 'put a bandage on your finger and get back to typing.' I mean hurt, as in 'four years later it's the closed fist inside my chest that rarely opens but when it does it still shreds me from the inside out.'

I come back to two things: the color purple, and the sharp bite of snow in the air.

By the time the first part of this story ended, all those years ago, I had driven a Plymouth Sundance for nine years. Nine years; I seriously doubt those cars were truly intended to last that long, but when Jeff and I married, mine was the better car of the two and, thus, Jeff's got replaced first.

Jeff bought a truck. The Sundance was the one that took us back and forth, from Alabama to Arkansas and back again. The same car that saw all my infamous collegiate road trips now took us as a married couple back to visit my parents, and masqueraded as a car of someone older, more stable.

Months, as they are wont to do, slid from one to another. As the years incremented, we began to research what car would replace my little two-door Purple People Eater (PPE for short). We liked the reliability of German cars, and I'd liked a friend's Jetta, so we focused on it.

Somewhere around that time, my father was diagnosed with cancer.

Sometime shortly thereafter, we became aware that his cancer was terminal.

In the realm of the days in which he was still conscious and talking, I visited. We had ordered the car, and some memories locked inside that razor-tipped fist in my chest come flooding back in no particular order when i let myself think back that far.

There had been multiple recliners. They had always been green. I had stood by the right-hand side of that recliner for more 'discussions' than I cared to remember, but this was different. We flipped through the pages of the brochure, talking about the car options we'd chosen, the colors we liked, and the engine we were likely to pick, and I remember two things.

One: that he was having trouble following the thread of our conversation, and that something inside of him was starting to fade away.

Two: that I would be nearly thirty years old when we paid off this not-yet-purchased car, and that there was no way he was going to be alive to see that day.

I wondered where I would be. It was so incredibly difficult at that time to see past the day-to-day decisions of cancer fighting and pain management that this day seemed almost ludicrous to imagine.

So here's your answer, Amy of twenty-five:

You were sitting at Chris' computer, in a barely-unpacked apartment in northern Colorado, when you got an email from your husband (whom you hadn't gotten to talk to much during your vacation due to tiredness and timezones) telling you that the tax refund had come in and giving you the exact payoff amount, asking you to make the payment online so that it could be over and done with.

You would be in your favorite sweatshirt and comfortable jeans, waiting on Jake to finish getting ready so you could go out for sushi. You would be on the tail end of a nasty case of bronchitis. Later that evening you would unclip your hair in the mirror, noting that pulling it back was the only way to straighten out the curls you'd inherited from your father, and how you didn't really quite look like him but you didn't really not look like him, either.

You would have fantastic sushi in a nearly-deserted restaurant and come back to the apartment, walking carefully in your snazzy new shoes so as not to slip on the snow and ice. Then, after everyone else in the house had gone to bed, you would come to the computer because you couldn't not write and the words would come out in a rush, and when you leaned against the glass of the patio the tears on your face would feel so cold that you'd think they might freeze.

But they didn't.

Then you'd find yourself thinking about the seventy thousand miles you've put on that car since that time and have a damn hard time thinking of a reason to regret any of them, and hoping that such a realization maybe meant that you're on the right track.

Then you'll remember the name.

Ghost, you called it, even though you chose not to tell anyone; a silver-gray ghost was what you thought of that car, because you got it right around the time your father died and that's all that filled your mind at the time.

You didn't tell anyone because you hoped it wasn't true, and you hoped that if you didn't tell anyone, maybe they'd go away on their own.

They did. Your little blue planet kept circling and people kept cycling in and out of your life, and eventually the sharp little fist in your chest learned to play charades and quit making your breath catch with the ache it could cause.

…and, whether or not you believed it possible at the time, you had healed up about as much as humans ever heal up.

The car is in Atlanta, sitting safely in front of a friend's house until Monday night, when I will fly back and pick it up. I'll have dinner with friends I didn't know four years ago and then drive home.

Soon, there will be a little piece of paper that says we own the car free and clear.

It'll have to do.