Out of Body

                                 For what is this life
                                 But the beauty of improvisation?
                                 Scenes of amazement
                                 And constant surprise to us all!
                                 We live each moment
                                 As if we were children
                                 Discov’ring creation,
                                 We rise or we fall
                                 But it’s always glorious . . .

                                          —Lyrics from the off-Broadway musical
                                          The Glorious Ones

As I speed down Ninth Avenue in a cab, the late-afternoon sun over the Hudson River flares and then vanishes behind the buildings, flares and vanishes again. I have the sensation of being inside a giant zoetrope, spinning wildly while the rest of the world stands still. I’ve felt this way ever since being diagnosed.

“Don’t worry, basal cell is very curable,” my friend Sandy had said reassuringly, when I told her about the tiny lesion on my forehead. “Still, you might want to hedge your bets.”

At several times in my life, friends have suggested I resort to things I can’t quite bring myself to believe in, even though I try. Sandy is a very spiritual person. She also knows her astrology. Now, on her recommendation, although feeling silly and skeptical, I’m on my way to an appointment with a healer, in advance of surgery.

The healer is also a child psychologist. Her airy office on lower Fifth Avenue is filled with therapeutic toys—brightly colored balls, a plastic tricycle, an easel with crayons. She and I have been sitting silently for more than half an hour. I’m supposed to be meditating with her, thinking calm and healing thoughts, but instead I’ve been remembering growing up on the Jersey Shore—the smell of baby oil and iodine, the tinfoil tanning reflectors held under the chin, the sound of the sea, the glare of white sand, and the feeling of intense, battering heat on my body. Here I am with skin cancer.

The healer opens her eyes. I want her to push me backward by the forehead, fling her arms in the air, and shout, “Hallelujah, you’re cured!”

Instead, she smiles gently. “I see you surrounded by angels, all of them singing.”

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