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Inferno's Embrace; Humanity Fight For Survival In Burning World

Ah! This Evolving Evolving World Is Typically Insane.

By oscar mulwaPublished 30 days ago 7 min read

My head rocks back, long hair sticks to sweaty shoulders and my tank barely holds my jiggling A-cups as I pound it out, dancing. I’m that “Girl on Fire,” a single mom gyrating to Mrs. Oscar. Flinging out one arm, hips swing and dip, fingers snap, eyes close, and my rock and roll fantasy, straight from a music video: my apartment’s clutter, with the snap of my fingers, flies to order. I burn, more than a flickering flame, my heart thumps, my shoulders shimmy, and sweat drips into my pierced belly button. The fuchsia, sun-yellow and neon-blue strobe at fun-house speeds, accentuating the movements of my current crush. Her slim hips bounce as her rear wiggles with arms like Mother’s mix-master beaters. Her gaze swings, her eyes glitter, and my heart beats a rhythm of music and desire. Our mouths open wide to laugh as our tongues lick the hot air.

The final beats vibrate as one song slides to the next, and we stumble high on music, our hips smack the rim of the bar.

“Whatcha girls want to keep those smiles shinin’?” The bartender is not my type, blustery and rough with thick hips; I’m done with the heavy-handed, dominus sort. But this lady’s got a come-and-get-me smile whenever she sets a drink down.

“Brooklyn Lager,”— holding up two fingers, — “and a glass of ice cubes; hot girls here.” I lean, raising on tiptoes to ensure she hears.

My current interest, Celia, dating steady forty-seven days, is an honest-to-God self-effacing surgical nurse with to-die-for toned hips. Celia, and I take turns stroking, more like melting ice cubes, drawing them ‘’around our clavicles and down to our wrist pulse points, then we chug our beers and giggle. I just turned thirty-five the other month but feel as if I’m working through my twenties again, a 180-degree turn, and my eyes see females with a fresh perspective— the life I was destined for. A gentle, generous love, no more jockeying for position with the other sex! Celia’s sensitive, with that innate female understanding; there’s room for us both on top. And her honied voice simply melts me. I’ve been twice roasted and burnt by men. Celia can sit cross-legged and always has time to play; she likes Kelse. My six-year-old daughter is asleep, I’m sure, it’s after eleven, and her babysitter is cruising her phone like a typical teenager!

Celia says, “You’re a stunning, blue-eyed mamma!” As she runs the ice cube around my neck. It feels delicious, and I am drunk on beer, music, and perhaps, love. She holds the last bit of ice and traces the humps of my breasts.

“Hey babe, the top of my tank is catching all the run-off!” I chuckle and move my shoulders forward to press into her disintegrating cube as it dips near my sweaty pit. Her fingers graze and indent the skin where the fatty part of my breast meets my underarms. She frowns and a quizzical gaze.

“What’s the look? Let’s drink these down and hit the dance floor! ‘If it doesn’t kill us, we’ll be stronger!’” I sing as I chug the last sip and waltz out into the throng of dancing bodies.

I grab Celia’s hand, the tempo drops and the DJ announces with a raw, breaking voice, “Y’all slow it down now with Bruno Mars, “It Will Rain” and looking for some languid booty action. Here we go.”

Celia and I stand a hand distance apart with breaths, full, deep, emotional. Palms clasp shoulder level and our chests brush. The song intensifies and my brain’s cells absorb the beer and wire it to my limbs. I feel the power in our closeness. We sway and whisper our interpretation of Bruno. “There’d be no sun shining if I lost you, girl!” And Celia’s right hand presses against my heart and I almost cry with joy, when, on a quick downbeat, she pulls me off the floor. Deaf to my queries, she drags me into the restroom and into a stall, where, with the door latched, we stand in silence.

Is this it? She’s breaking up with me. Rethinking the stress of dating a single mom? Something so good can’t be real. My brain swims with insecurities and fear, not beer, and my knees shake. I croak, “What Celia, what?”

Her lips press tight, and then a tooth sneaks and catches her lower lip. She frowns. Her left hand still holds my right. She lifts it up so gently, all slow motion and bathroom blacklights. Her thumb and palm slip to the top of my hand, and she presses my fingers flat against my own chest, high where the crease of my arm starts. I feel my heartbeat.

The bathroom door swings open, music streams, hypnotic Celia, on cue with the lyrics, moves closer and flashes a pained smile. The door thumps closed and muffles the music. A female exclaims, “Ah! Missing Jeremih, the girl.” Another chants, “No, missing Usher for your lipstick redo and a pee!” Celia holds fast to my hand. My eyebrows peak, eyes beam with royal confusion.

Then my hand and fingers start the search and stumble across something hard under my skin, a spider bite, infected? My fingertips move cautiously over damp skin, up, down, around, and ever more tentative, back near my sweaty pit. The first thought was, Whatever, nothing! My pointer and middle finger push then retreat, then, ever tentative, push till the pebble slides away. I see my Mother’s face and think, Hell no! Not me! I whisper, but maybe I’m already hysterical, maybe I even shout. “I feel it”

Celia’s hands hold either side of my head, she kisses my forehead, and whispers, “It’s all right girl, I’m here. It’ll be all right.”


Celia and I speed through another three months on a roller-coaster. Agonizing slow on the inclines, dizzyingly fast on the back sides, and then repeating like something torturous and never-ending. Hyper-aware times, fierce group hugs with Kelse, mountains of tears, and tender caresses, between biopsies and clanging MRIs. Celia’s fingers massage slowly, always curious. Her eyes ask Does this soothe? Is this all right? It’s my journey, but she’s taking it with me. I cropped my hair with the diagnosis. Why wait for it to fall out?

We play music, loud to drown out the voices in my head. Our gotta-blast-it favorite is Kelly Clarkson. Our fists are microphones, as we jump and belt, “Stronger,” and flex biceps. Then we yell, “Much taller,” and reach high on tiptoes, then wiggle, and throw our bodies around my tiny living room. We fall like ring-around-the-rosie. Kelse laughs from her belly, rubs my shorn head, and it’s all wonderful. Celia laughs and hiccups at the same time, hugging us both, however my laugh sounds like a stuck pig, pitiful. I tremble inside and hope Kelse can’t see, hope my forehead isn’t wrinkled down and my eyes aren’t creased with sadness. That’s my mother’s face; that’s her eyes.

Julie, my mother, those piercing green eyes, and her one breast. She’s far from shy, wants me strong, but the lines on her face speak of a mother’s worry. A survivor, Julie calls herself; she’s made it five years.

Celia has moved into my disorganized apartment, giving me love and doting on Kelse, on the floor with drawing projects or braiding her hair. Celia tells me daily, “You are a survivor too! We got this!” I don’t tell Celia, at least not yet, that Mother’s cancer could roar back one day. She and I got “tested.” We don’t share eye color, nor politics, but we do share a disposition for cancer, the BRCA gene.

Mother still wears a shag of silver-streaked blond. A three-way secret, Dad, Mother, and me, it’s a decent wig. My mother’s hair never recovered to full and lustrous. But a wig? I wonder if I die, who will take care of Kelse? Her dad’s a cocaine bastard and sees his sole responsibility stoking the company’s fire. He’s forgotten his child, like, ‘did I miss another birthday?’, like he’s on some other planet. In my second month of chemo, I feel like I’m another planet too, but Kelse is never, ever far from my mind, and it’s too damn hot to wear a wig.

In the morning Celia concocts and I try to drink power-shakes with ginger, and when I’m too overwhelmed, nauseous, or have doctor’s appointments, she packs Kelse’s lunch and takes her to school. That ‘perhaps’ love is surer these days, feels stronger, even that I am weaker. Doctors who know best have scheduled my double mastectomy and are blunt. We will see what else, as chemo did what it could do — for now.


The universal expression “bald as a bat” isn’t all correct – brown bats have furry heads, or so Celia says as she wraps and flaps around our living room in a brown towel. Kelse and I laugh, and it feels good. Her small hands rub the microscopic fuzz on my head, and she hugs me tight and says, I love you Mommie. Tomorrow is the day, a seven in the morning hospital check-in. And Celia turns up the music and sings her own words to me, “Babe if you’re feeling weak like you’re falling, I’m always here and will carry you home.” My daughter joins in with her arms waving overhead, “We’ll be so bright, Mommie! We’re gonna light the world on fire!” They keep me laughing.

I pad in sterile blue booties, and a chilly gown that front ties, into my own surgery room. The heavy door closes. Hospital staff in green scrubs and masks look me up and down; one could have been Celia. My doctors in white, nod. I shuffle towards the narrow bed, sit, lay, and feel that familiar slide of a needle, followed by the burn of drugs. A speaker suddenly crackles as the IV’s liquid flows. Seems everyone’s eyes light up. It’s my lady, Ms. Keys, an echo against the green walls. I’m that girl on fire.


About the Creator

oscar mulwa

Hi, Oscar is a writer with a deep love for storytelling and a keen interest in creative writing. I write content ranging from articles, blogs, poems, and scientific research, my goal is to entertain, educate, and inform my readers. welcome

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    oscar mulwaWritten by oscar mulwa

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