She stopped at my desk one day, an hour before lunch. “Walk with me.” She didn’t ask. She knew I would. I remember so clearly the tone of her voice. The tension in it. The fear. The confusion. I took a good look into her eyes. The pretty blue that I normally saw was gone. Replaced by an intense, panic-stricken blue.
I got up, and took a walk with her. Would have gone anywhere she asked. My heart told me too. Told me something was horribly wrong. We walked through the halls of the building. A path we’d walked before. No one watching us would have thought anything was wrong. Somehow, I knew that’s what she wanted.
I opened the door to the stairs, and let her through. Then followed. As we walked down the stairs, she told me what was wrong. “That doctor’s appointment, Friday? That was a mammogram. I got the results last night.” She stopped walking and held on to the stair rail. She closed her eyes, briefly, and took a breath. “It’s breast cancer.”
I stood there, next to her. On the stairs. “I knew something was wrong. When you told me you were going to the doctor’s on Friday, everything went black.”
“I’m scared,” She resumed our descent down the stairs. “Really scared.”
I didn’t say anything. She knew how I felt. Knew I considered her to be my friend. I understood she was trusting me with information she didn’t want others to know. As we reached the foot of the stairs, she paused again. “I need you here. I need you to be here. For me. Can you be here? For me?”
If I were a knight on a horse, I would have drawn my sword, and fought any dragon she asked me to. If she was surrounded by a fire, I would have burned in the flames, trying to rescue her. If she were the captain of a sinking ship, I would have put her on the last lifeboat, in my place.
I was none of those things. I was just me. Another person she worked with five days a week. A friend who took pictures of flowers and shared them with her. Someone that tried to write poetry every now and then. She always asked to read everything I wrote.
There was nothing else I could have said.
I wish I could tell you how things ended. I wish I could tell you how she’s doing. That it all worked out OK. That I walked through hell with her. But I can’t. The simple truth is 12 weeks after her first surgery, I was sent out on medical leave. All contact between myself, and the people I worked with was banned. That was two years ago. And in that two years, I have never heard from any of the people that I used to know.