Excerpt from “The Liars Club” (by Mary Karr)

“Still, no matter how bland a gaze you try to put on remembering an ugly illness, to protect yourself from the sheer tedium of it, if you spend any time at all speaking about it to some nodding psychiatrist, you will eventually stumble into a deep silence.  And from that silence in your skull there will develop – almost chemically, like film paper doused in that magic solution – a snapshot of cold horror.  So just when I’d started to believe that the terse chronology of Grandma’s cancer that I’d prattled off all my life held all the truth, some windowshade in the experience flew up to show me what suffering really is.  It’s not the old man with arthritic fingers you glimpsed trying to open one of those little black, click-open purses for soda change at the Coke machine.  It isn’t even the toddler you once passed in a yard behind a chain-link fence, tethered to a clothesline like a dog in midday heat.  Those are only rumors of suffering.  Real suffering has a face and a smell.  It lasts in its most intense form no matter what you drape over it.  And it knows your name.”

(Karr, Mary. The Liars’ Club: a Memoir. New York: Penguin, 1995.)

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