Mary Beth Shaffer


Greta wondered if she could ever tell anyone. How illness had chosen her, much the same way she had chosen illness as a child. It was like repaying a dinner invitation. When you've asked someone over to dinner, he has to return the favor, and she'd asked sickness once too often. Only once had she tried to explain. The doctor had extended his neck, leaning into her face to lock his gaze onto hers, and asked why she couldn't just say that she was busy. There was something too friendly in his gaze, too intimate, as if he could see inside her. His gaze embarrassed her. She looked away.

"Illness isn't polite,” the doctor had said, returning to his chart. "It doesn't invite. It sponges off people." He'd fanned through the inch-thick file of papers. The papers crackled against his thumbnail.

Greta knew, then, that doctors never understood. They read way too many books. They should live with illness for a while. It's much friendlier than a person would ever guess. It's almost like a friend, or a lover. The kind who can never takes no for an answer.