He’s a photojournalist; I am sucking mist
from my nebulizer.  We are on a train from
New York City to home, and he seems an

easy way to spend two hours.  He wants
to know about the fog surrounding us
in our double seat, and I explain about

cystic fibrosis, and the medicines I take
for my lungs.  He asks all the right
questions, even braving “What’s

the outlook?” and I am soothed to be
honest, soothed not to wear
the toothy smile I show my friends.  I can

say that I’m not likely to live long — maybe
thirty years old — and he is a stranger,
and he can care for two hours and then

let me go.  He talks about some children
with leukemia that he met for a newspaper
piece, and then, as if he is asking me

only what book I am holding, slack,
on my lap, “Have you thought about the

afterlife?”  I go still, although a siren
seems to be whining in my head.  I disembark,

gifted with a brochure ominously called,
“Would You Like To Know God Personally?”

and a resolve that my friends could, perhaps,
brave the truth of my life.

Eliza Callard was born, raised, and now lives in Philadelphia with her family. Forty years of managing — and occasionally mismanaging — her cystic fibrosis have given her perspective on loss and endurance. A product of the Philly public schools and Skidmore College, she enjoys family time, hiking and camping, and playing the piano. Her website is


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