Luc & Dalia 1: A Suitcase Remains

Almost silently the last night train left the station. The platform was empty, except for a single man. He had lit a cigarette and stared at the train; red taillights quickly getting smaller. There it went. His last chance. He should have caught that train but as he was supposed to get on, his legs failed him. He couldn’t bring himself to get on, to start a therapy he might not survive.

The cigarette smoke expanded in his lungs. It didn’t hurt. That was the most astounding part of the story; it really didn’t hurt. He bent down to pick up his suitcase. How light it was now. On the way up to the platform, it had seemed to weigh a ton. Slowly he went back. His black coat was unbuttoned, as always. He seemed too old for a 35-year-old man. It never bothered him much to be thought of as 10 years older. On the contrary, professionally he had always benefited from it. Only now he desperately wished for more time, to be younger, to have everything ahead of him still. Casually he took the last draw of his cigarette and threw it away. It felt good because it was a self-determined act.

His thoughts wandered back to the day of the sentencing. The professor had sounded sober when he informed him of diagnosis. “Bronchial carcinoma at an advanced stage. Don’t worry Mr. Lazarovsky, it will be over very quickly and you will be mostly pain free.”

His heart, however, was racing and he felt out of breath. The compassionately placed hand on his shoulder didn’t help. While the despair ate through his intestines, from a distance he heard a helpless: “I’m sorry.” With the phrase, the hand disappeared and the least trace of condolence with it.

“What is going to happen now? Is there a chance?” — he had asked. His eyes had drilled into the doctor’s eyes, looking for a pleasing answer. “Without therapy 6 months, with therapy maybe 12. We suggest chemotherapy with a possibility of successive radiation. Then we’ll have to see.” Then he talked about a cancer specialist in Freiburg. He said that there are more possibilities today than there were a few years ago and that, despite the fulminant stage, he should not give up because spontaneous remissions sometimes occur.

“What are spontaneous remissions?

“Unexpected self-healings that make me believe in miracles every once in a while, even though they’re not compatible with my profession.

Tiredly, the doctor stroked his dark, full head of hair. He felt safe for a short moment. At least the man was honest. That’s something he could deal with. So he would take the next train and undergo the treatment. At least that had been his plan. But now he found himself at the train station in the middle of the night and a short moment had completely changed his plans. A snippet of protest had caused him to give up all securities. “It would’ve all been fake anyway,” he mumbled to himself. What should he do now? He strolled through the night. The moon was shining and satellites sparkled among the stars. The world faked peacefulness. Only the cancer cells in his body were at war. They fought a war against him and they would win.

The clock struck 12 times — midnight. He had walked for a long time, longer than he thought, and exhaustedly he set down the suitcase at the bus stop. When he got on the bus, he waved at the suitcase one last time. He wouldn’t need it anymore — it was packed full of things he would’ve needed at the clinic. For a moment he wished he could leave behind his life, like the suitcase, and start all over. This wish accompanied him on his way home.

The next morning he woke up and waited for a pain in his chest. It seemed incredible that something so dangerous could not be felt. His eyes traced the patterns of the wallpaper. For a short moment he wondered whether it might be better not to get up and to just wait for death. While he realized how boring it would be to just wait, his nose started tingling.

A ray of sunshine had made its way to his face. It felt warm. He had always lacked warmth in his life. Curiously, he followed the little ray that had tickled his face. It reminded him of Dalia, who had entered his life with the same intensity. Although she was only three years older than him, she made allusions to the meaning of life in every other sentence. He saw her smile in front of him while she said her favorite sentence: “Today the rest of your life begins”.

Then, he always found it exaggerated, now, the sentence had taken on a terrifying meaning.

“Why did I banish this wonderful woman from my life? No reason, maybe my strong fear of commitment?”, he mumbled quietly Then he lost himself in the bottomless pit of his fear of the end. This time he couldn’t escape. A rendezvous with death was absolutely binding. He wondered what Dalia would do in his place. 

In front of his inner eye appeared the green lawn where they had played the “Game of Truth”. Every question began with: “What would you do if…”. Her answer had been: “If I were terminally ill, I would sell everything, travel around the world and use the remaining time to do whatever I truly want.”

They had both laughed — giddy about the imagination of what all they would see and experience. At the same time, neither one had thought to possibly face this situation. “Why wait this long?” she had asked him? He couldn’t remember his answer — probably something trivial. 

For a split second he found himself back in that moment. Suddenly, the memory grew into something powerful. He reached for the phone and his fingers naturally dialed her number. It rang and then his call was answered. 

“Dalia Esparanza”. Her familiar voice made his heart beat faster. Unexpectedly, tears filled his eyes. He swallowed. 

“Hello Dalia, this is Luc. It’s time. I will go on a trip around the world. Are you coming with me?”

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For decades I have owned notebooks in which I write my thoughts and ideas, a few lines every day, sometimes more. I want to share the creation process and the resulting stories with you.

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