Chapter 26


Helene sits with another doctor now, this one examining x-rays of her hip. “Everything looks like it’s going to heal perfectly fine,” he says. “Not common for a person of your age, but with a little rehabilitation, I think you could recover almost scotch-free.” Helene stares blankly at him; she has no words, and doesn’t look particularly excited. “Any, uh… any questions?” he asks. “Sorry,” Helene says, falling out of her mini trance. “This is a lot to think about, seeing as I’ve sort of been thinking about dying for a couple years.” // “Well, you’re not getting any younger.” // “Thank you.” // “I mean, you should still proceed with care. You’re fragile, you know. Healing, but fragile. Don’t hurry yourself anywhere. Give everything a little extra time. You could still live to be 90 or 100, especially if you keep off the cigarettes, and maybe cut back to one glass of wine per day.” Helene scowls. The doctor stands corrected: “I meant, one glass per meal… uh… including breakfast… and before bed.” // “Thank you. That’s great news.”


“I can’t live another thirty years, can I?” Helene says to Ward over lunch in Park Slope. “I’m going to have a heart attack just thinking about it. Surely the cancer can return, and consume me before then?” // “I couldn’t me more pleased,” Ward says. “Maybe if I get re-married, you can be the proxy grandma to my kids.” // “I was supposed to be the proxy aunt in the first place…” // “Well, I do apologize if Amanda’s untimely death negatively affected you.” He’s kidding, of course, and they both chuckle a little. Helene’s chuckle turns into a slow, steady, sob though. It’s mildly humorous, especially to Ward: “Oh please, Helene. Come on. Come ON! The world is still out there. We’ll travel. We’ll both find new love. We’ll be together.” // “I just… so romanticized worms eating me and becoming one with the earth and not having to… I dunno… THINK. Or FEEL. Or NOT FEEL. You know?” He half smiles, and she continues: “Aww, who am I even bickering to? Of course you know. I’m sorry, Ward.” // “I just want to return the favor to you, that’s all. You supported me, I’m supporting you.”


They ready to leave, and Ward starts pushing Helene’s chair as she changes the subject. She’s in search of some optimism: “Are you dating anyone?” // “I’m dating everyone.” // “Show me. All of them. I want to judge them.” // “On what merit, dare I ask?” // “On how badly I want to meet them for myself.” // “At which point they’d just lose interest in me. Precisely why I haven’t told any of them we’re friends.” Ward opens his phone to some of the photos, and shows Helene one woman’s picture: “This is Meredith. She’s 34. CTO of this startup that sells pet food. Recently broke up with her fiancée, lives in TriBeCa.” // “I’d sleep with her.” // “Thanks, Helene.” // “Well, I would. That’s a compliment.” // “I’m glad your head is finally in the right place.” // “Not yet it isn’t, but bring her by the house…” // “You don’t even have a house.” // “Oh so THAT’S how we’re gonna play this?” They both laugh.


Helene rolls herself into her studio one weekend afternoon. She goes to her desk, takes out some utensils, and then sets everything on a table, where she does some sketches. She draws a model wearing a blazer and high-waisted pants. The woman in the sketch has smart glasses, and Helene gives her long, black hair. We see now that she is sketching Alina. Helene goes to a large closet and opens it, revealing dozens of rolls of stunning fabric. She selects a few, then gets to work measuring, cutting, sewing, and testing it on a mannequin. It’s dark now, very late, and Helene finishes. She finds a wig that fits the role, and then goes to her desk and takes out a pair of cracked glasses. They’re Alina’s… recovered from the accident, most likely. She stretches herself up to put the glasses in place. Then, she rolls herself back, and marvels. She purses her hands up against her mouth, and can hardly contain the emotion. She’s recreated Alina, and beautifully.


Helene fights to get the newly designed clothes onto her own body. She struggles only because it’s cumbersome; she has a crafty way of slithering herself into the pant legs, and has no issues with the blazer. She snatches the wig and glasses from the mannequin’s head, and rolls herself to a nearby mirror. She fashions the wig just so, puts on some red lip, and musses the hair a bit. Then, she puts on the glasses and looks in the mirror. It’s blurry, of course, since Alina’s prescription is strong. Plus the lenses are cracked. She squints, but as her focus adjusts, Helene doesn’t see Alina anymore. It’s Tracey staring back at her in the mirror—like, actually Tracey—so Helene rips the glasses off and turns away. She shakes her head, mumbling “stupid waste of your day” as she packs everything up.


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