Alison Clement

observations from a novelist who sometimes wants to say something small and see it published immediately

unless it’s cancer, or something


I just lay in bed and think about my body. All the ways it hurts.

I dream about words.

When you are sick with the flu, it isn’t the time to watch a documentary on HIV.

In my dream I am writing my thesis, but I’m not sure what my thesis is and anyway I thought I already got my degree.

When you are sick with the flu, it’s a good time to watch Amelie all over again. Also Chocolat although it’s hard to understand why everyone speaks English.

A woman I know told me that as her mother lay dying of cancer she remarked that she’d finally reached the weight she’d always wanted to be.

My daughter said, I wonder how much weight you’ve lost and I said: six pounds!

I was hoping for dramatic dreams, even a real nightmare, but my dreams are merely neurotic.

What happens when someone is sick and alone?

What if they’re old, too?

What if they’re homeless?

What if they’re in a refugee camp or in a war?

Think of the Irish with typhoid or cholera crammed below deck for months– And Chuck said okay let’s think about something else now.

When you’re not sick, it’s impossible to imagine sickness. When people feel bad for you, you know they can’t really understand because of that, that amnesia we have about pain.

The thing that’s good about being sick is that you can say no to everything.

I’m supposed to be teaching summaries this week. I dream the words I need to say are in little plastic baggies. I dream they are tethered to fence posts.

When I’m sick I remember how impatient I am about the sickness of others.

I was putting genealogical facts into my computer when I had a coughing- and- not –being- able- to breath fit. I went to Immediate Care and they told me I had pneumonia. I was happy I had pneumonia because I knew something was wrong and now there was proof. And there was a drug. I came home and continued filling in the facts for Mary Abigail Foushee Dunavan. Cause of death: pneumonia. I feel for you, over time and space, you’ve got my sympathy, Mary.

Categories: films, memoir

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4 replies

  1. I can relate. It is good to be sick sometimes, much more empathy for others. I also had pneumonia recently, cancer scare, CAT scans, the works. I did not watch a documentary on HIV, just looked at x-rays with little white spots that might kill me. But I gained six pounds almost and watching Chocolat did not seem like a good idea either. Strange things happen when you are sick. I think Chuck is right, better to think about something else!

    • I remember the first time I met Marie, Dick. It was at a dinner party, and we sat next to each other. Lucky me. I thought: this is a woman I’ve known forever. But I didn’t say that. I told her how much my shoulder hurt – it was the first time I’d had a serious injury and I was astonished and a little outraged by the idea of being hurt – and she said hers also hurt and wasn’t it awful not be able to pick things up. And later I found out hers was because of cancer and then she kept getting sicker and then she died. I wish I would have told her the other thing, instead of the part about the shoulder.

  2. Whew, Alison, that was scary. I thought you really might have cancer. And that you were sending out a ‘goodbye message.’

    I’m glad to hear you are not headed out the final door. You’re ‘good people,’ as they say in the hollers where I grew up. You’re required to live forever.


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