The children I write with die, no matter how much I love them, no matter how creative they are, no matter how many poems they have written, or how much they want to live. They die of diseases with unpronounceable names, of rhabdomyosarcoma or pilocytic astrocytoma, of cancers rarely heard of in the world at large, of cancers that are often cured once, but then turn up again somewhere else: in their lungs, their stomachs, their sinuses, their bones, their brains. While undergoing their own treatments, my students watch one friend after another lose legs, cough up blood, and enter a hospital room they never come out of again.
There’s no disputing that I’m a tightly wound person. Once, I was so nervous about serving beer at a party I threw in my parents’ basement, that I numbered the beer cans and made people sign them out. Years later, in the middle of a Mardi Gras Crawfish Boil in New Orleans, I snuck into the host’s house to check my email for updates about a class project.