These Small Things

I’m up at 7 this grey November morning, making muffins. I’ve got a latte at my side, early morning radio turned on. The determinedly cheery CBC hosts are prattlling on about football, weather and our country’s newer, more-racist-than-ever refugee laws.

My roommate comes downstairs and sniffs the air warily. Hmmm. You baking? She never knows what’s going to happen next in this kitchen of mine. Weeks of no cooking while I’m in weeds with marking, and then, a sudden dawn baking binge. She shakes her head.

Meals. On. Wheels. I say. For my friend who has cancer. The Roommate looks thoughtful. How. Does. It. Work. she asks. How. Many. People. Are. Involved.

I fold the pureed pumpkin into the batter and tell her I have no idea. I get emails from someone who updates me on my friend’s culinary needs, how she’s handling the latest round of radiation, whether she can eat salt, that kind of thing. My friend gets 3 or 4 meals a week delivered to her. There could be a dozen, or two dozen, or fifty people involved. Once a month, I make the tastiest healthiest meal I can think of, and M.E., a woman I don’t know at all, comes to deliver it.

It’s a small thing. It makes me happy to help in some way. I wish there was more I could do.

M.E. arrives promptly at 9 a.m. She’s in her 60’s, pale, no-nonsense, kind, with a gravelly voice that has done its share of living. I’m just finishing packing the food. I hand her a muffin to try. She holds it like it’s some rare treasure. It’s still warm from the oven. Oh. Wow. she says.

Cancer. It is the plague of our time. I have five people in my life with this horrible disease, this environmental scourge. Fuck the pink ribbons, we should be storming parliaments and legislatures and corporations. A study published last week in the journal Environmental Health, showed that women in certain jobs – mainly agricultural and industrial – have double the risk of cancer. (And, with the stats as high as 1 in 2 Canadians getting cancer, the risk is already sky-high).

“Nobody is paying attention to this,” said James Brophy, one of the leaders of the study, in an interview with the Vancouver Sun.

In the meantime, we do these small things: a network of queers and women and friends across the city, passing food on, like a bucket brigade, hand to hand to hand.

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