It’s time I give away my Jane Austen novels. I know I’ll never read them again.
Every day for five weeks I drove myself to hospital and in the waiting room buried my head in one of those novels. They were volumes from a Folio Society set, all in identical bindings so the staff thought I was a slow reader. I read them all.
“Still reading Jane Austen?” they’d ask, not waiting for an answer. They disappeared as soon as they can after positioning the machine more or less where the beams were to hit where part of my breast had been. It was a hit and miss affair, it seems. The purple lines they drew all over my torso didn’t seem to help them hit their mark. Over the weeks I received a burnt nipple, a “spontaneous fracture’ to a rib and sore throats. Fatigue. Later, lymphedema. Much later, thyroid cancer.
Those novels took me to another time, another world during a period when reality was hard to bear. Fixing my eyes on those pages helped me avoid the looks of despair around the waiting room and particularly, those children with haunting eyes and no hair on their heads.
It’s time for Jane to go. Someone else may be needing an escape.