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Cancer Marriage

It starts with a grimace of pain, in the morning, and the father of your child pressing on his stomach at an odd lump. You don't notice it, of course-you never do. You don't love him, and you never did, but you thought you'd try to make this fling turned pregnancy-serious in a moment work. Still, he's the father of your child, and looking at the rosebud mouth and sleeping eyelids makes you a bit generous. Turning from the crib, you ask, "You alright?"

That's how it starts. You ask, and he answers. He talks about agony, constant, that he's never told you. He talks about health care in America, and why he can't afford any. He talks about a lot of things, but somehow all you can manage to think is, 'I owe him.' You owe him for the child curled in your arms, the miracle baby you never thought you could have. You owe him for some drops of semen that he never gave a second thought to until it all turned real. You owe him for things he could never understand and no one else will, but all the same, your personal sense of honor says it. You owe him.

You owe him, and so you marry him when he talks about his fear of cancer. It's that simple. You have good healthcare, and he doesn't. It's a marriage that you don't believe in, but you don't care. You have your child, and you've never wanted anything else. You don't want a real husband-you're content with the small thing counting her fingers and throwing food around. You tell him, days before the papers are signed, "You know I wouldn't be doing this, if you weren't sick." He agrees. Sympathetic, caring, he agrees. You're so good. You revel in your goodness. It's good, the unwed mother of a bastard child, the bitch that's clawing out a living despite all odds, to be good. To be nice. To be kind.

It's good. Until you marry, and he goes to the doctor, after much pushing, and he turns out not to be sick. Not really, not cancer. He doesn't need the healthcare. Maybe he never did. You ask him why he married you, and he tells you that this way, you would never leave.

You do, of course. You're not the kind of woman who can stand that role. You tell him, honest, straightforward, that you plan to file for divorce. You don't want a thing, and you're willing to give him all the things you purchased. You don't want a thing, including him, and it shows.

So of course, he tries for the one thing you do want.

Your child.

This is the hell of a cancer marriage. Years later, someone, laughing at the story, will press on his arm where a lump rests. "I have cancer." he says with an impish smile. "Marry me?"

He will never understand why you cannot laugh. Can only stand there, frozen, with hammering, raging hate boiling in your heart, before you turn and walk away.

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