By Abby Mims

October 15, 2018


Dr. A, my mother's handsome Bolivian neurosurgeon, lost his father on Everest. I pictured whorls of snow, a crumpled map and a man, stepping into thin air. I was slightly in love with Dr. A, and so was my mother.

Her first appointment, she said, “I know you’re married, but this is serious. We need to find my daughter a husband.”

He smiled, saying, “Well, don’t date a surgeon.”

He mapped my mother’s brain before he opened up her skull and took what he could of the tumor. He was good, but he wasn’t a magician: tracers of cancer cells stayed behind like so much stardust. After her surgery, I saw him at a bar with a nurse I recognized from the ICU. I wasn’t surprised, because we had heard he was leaving his second wife. Watching them, I thought of the way his hands might map bodies—wives, nurses, mine. He came over to our table, unstable on his feet, and talked of issues at home, a separation. He wanted us to know he was good, he was kind, cheating was relative, he knew what it was to have a parent die. My mother was still alive then, but she was in the process of losing everything. As he walked away, I closed my eyes and pictured her dancing on that mountaintop in Nepal, taking one last breath of rarefied air before her body turned to ashes and she was released, left to land somewhere along the Milky Way.

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