Shelly had recently turned 30. For the last few years, she had lived a relatively uneventful life, consisting mostly of work and then coming back home. There were just a few get-togethers with friends thrown in once in a while, whenever she had the time. Having lived by herself in Sydney since she was 21, she had found that there were always too many responsibilities that stood in her way, hardly giving her any time to have some pure, unadulterated fun.
There were many things she had wanted to have done by the time she would turn 30, like hike up a mountain, sing karaoke or go bungi jumping. But looking back now, she realized she had never really taken out the time to allow any of these things – and so they had simply never happened to her. It had been a long time since she had taken any risk, done something out of the ordinary or experimented with something different. It was always the fear or perhaps the trouble of making an effort that had constantly pulled her back, stopping her to step out into the world and challenge herself. After a while this had become second nature to her making her appear an uninteresting person drifting from one day to the next without any passion whatsoever. This deeply worried her friend Anya, who had tried talking to her about it several times. Anya was three years older than
Shelly, she was married and a doctor by profession.
“My dear, don’t throw away your life so easily. I can see that you have got caught up in too many mundane duties and rigmaroles of everyday life,” she had said. “You are still young! Enjoy your freewheeling days as a single girl, before it’s too late.”
But all this talk had never seemed to make any difference to Shelly. She had always heard Anya out, but had ultimately gone back to her own life as usual, without following any of her friend’s precious advice. In fact, she felt that she had now reached a point where she had yielded to some kind of a strange comfort zone in which none of these things ever even seemed to bother her.
Anya had given up. There was nothing she could do to rescue her friend from her
colourless life. “I give up,” she said one day, finally. “Go ahead and do what you want.”
Shelly met Anya the next day. She said she had wanted to get a medical check-up done since someone had mentioned that all women above 30 must have a regular examination.
Anya agreed and Shelly met her after the tests were over. She was surprised to see the grave expression on Anya’s face as they met.
“Shelly, I have some bad news to give to you,” she finally said after a long pause.
“What is it?” asked Shelly, worried.
“Well, after reading your reports, I was shocked and had to go through it once again to make doubly sure…I am very sorry to inform you, dear, that you have cancer”.
“What?” Shelly could barely believe her ears. ‘How is it possible? What went wrong?
When did this happen?’ Numerous thoughts filled her mind as the earth seemed to be moving under her feet. This was simply unbelievable! “But I’m still so young!” was all she managed to say.
“Yes dear, age doesn’t matter. Sometimes, it happens to young people like you and me too. Also, I want to add that this cancer has been slowly growing in your body undetected for the last three years and has now reached an advanced level. Unfortunately, there is not much we can do now. You have only about 8 months or a little more to live.”
“Oh my God! That’s terrible,” Shelly felt a little dizzy. “But there are still so many things
I have to do!”
“Well, the first three months are safe. You can physically exert yourself all you want. You can even live normally as you are now. But after that, you will need to rest. I will also prescribe you some medication after these three months,” said Anya.
Shelly went back home aghast at hearing the news. She found herself in a state of shock and depression. Just the other day she was feeling low about hitting the big 3-0, but this news was quite another thing altogether! Her life was already flashing by her. There were still so many things she had left to do in life, so many dreams and desires unfulfilled. All of a sudden, she felt that there were so many places to see, so much to do and so little time in which to do it all!
“How dull it is to pause, to make an end,
To rust unburnish’d, not to shine in use!
As tho’ to breathe were life. Life piled on life
Were all too little, and of one to me
The stanza from ‘Ulysses’ which she had read way back in school rang in her head and the depth of its meaning was almost appropriate to her current situation. She realized it was time for her to save every hour ‘from that eternal silence’ and ‘to follow knowledge, like a sinking star, beyond the utmost bound of human thought’. Shelly had always been afraid of the afterlife. Ever since she was a young girl, she would wonder what happens to a person after they have died. Where do they go? Do they come back into this world again? Or do they just start living in some other parallel universe? These were some of the questions that had perplexed her mind since childhood and she had often woken up panting in her sleep with fear and anxiety at the mere thought. Never having found any real answers to these questions, she had finally abandoned these thoughts some years ago and had simply got busy with other important commitments in her life, which made her forget all about it. But suddenly they were here to haunt her all over again.
Being over-organized about everything, Shelly had a habit of making long lists everyday – from what she was going to buy to what she was going to cook and to whom she was going to meet. In a light moment eight years ago, when she was in college in Sydney, Shelly had even made herself a ‘bucket-list’: all the things she would do before she died.
She opened her list. ‘When was the last time you did something for the first time?’ it was titled followed by about 30 items listed in random order. Number one on it was written in her handwriting: ‘Visit Paris’. ‘Gosh I have so much to do in such short time,’ she thought, suddenly anxious. She had wanted to go and see it for as long as she could remember but some other ‘important’ obligation had always come in the way, making her put it off for ‘some other time’. That ‘some other time’ had never really come. But everything could wait now, she thought; nothing was more important to her now than the little time she had remaining on earth.
Shelly decided she was going to follow her bucket list and strike off as many things she could from it in the coming months. She wanted to make the most of this time and she wanted to forget all about her impending illness and enjoy all that she could. She also decided that she would do all the things that she was afraid of or had not done before – she would need to start living soon! All her suppressed desires started to disquiet her. Her mind was very turbulent. Her wish list was like a volcano about to erupt. First things first, she said to herself. To begin with, she must plan her trip to France as soon as possible. And so with that spirit firmly in mind, Shelly decided that this was exactly what she was going to do.
“Don’t think so much!” Anya’s words echoed in her head. “When you feel like doing something, don’t stop yourself. Just do it!” And for the first time in her life, Shelly decided to follow her advice and be spontaneous. On an impulse, she called up Anya to find the contact number of a reliable travel agent. It was the middle of the night and Anya was a little taken aback. Shelly told her about her decision. The next day, she applied for long leave from her office and applied for a VISA to France on priority. As soon as that was through, she reserved a flight to Paris and booked herself to stay in a hotel located in the heart of the city.
Shelly arrived at the Charles de Gaulle in Paris early in the morning and headed straight for the train station. Her first glimpse of the airport was that of huge movie posters that seemed to welcome her amidst a rush of people belonging to different nationalities. Shelly was hungry and so she stopped for a short breakfast at a little café where a unique sight awaited her. A flock of fat pigeons kept flying in and out of the café and some even came and sat right on her table, trying to peck at her food! Shelly observed the movements of the pigeons – they were fearless and free – they had no agenda whatsoever about what they were going to do in the very next minute and that was how they lived their whole life. Shelly felt the urge to follow the model of their existence from now on – at least throughout her trip to Paris. She went to her hotel and took a shower.
She then got onto the metro to go to the city. On the metro, she pulled out a shawl as the weather noticeably dipped at La Chapelle.
Back home in Sydney, Shelly had not really used the public transport much due to her own concerns of safety. But going with the flow here in Paris, she decided to give it a go and was pleasantly surprised by its efficiency. She watched the passengers seated next to her: most remained quiet and impersonal, reading, listening to music or working on their laptops. No one disturbed anyone; in fact, there seemed to be hardly anyone talking, except in silent whispers once in a while. Only once or twice, she heard someone say
‘pardonne’ or ‘excusez moi’ if they wanted to pass and another person was in their way. On the whole, Parisians seemed mostly polite and helpful people, she gathered.
She looked outside the window. At one of the stations, she saw an old woman getting onto the train with her dog – she had heard before that the French loved their pets even more than their people! Once she got off at her stop, she also saw some people skating and cycling on the streets. ‘How free and unrestricted they look,’ she thought.
Shelly’s travel agent had advised her that for an essential taste of Paris, a must-do, at the very outset is a visit to a bustling marché or supermarket between 7 am and 2 pm every Wednesday and Saturday. Since it was a Saturday that day, she left immediately. The visit was an absolute gastronomic feast! Shelly learned a lot of traditional nuances of the custom, like the fact that the French always keep their bread on the table at mealtimes and not on the plate. On the way back, she also decided to try some typically French Brioche or sweet bread that she had never tasted before which she bought.
Being a lucky day for her, Shelly caught a wedding procession on the way back and realized that it was the only time when cars were allowed to honk while driving on the roads! Further, she also noticed that there were no school buses around, as the metro system which was more than 100 years old was the most effective way to commute. Like everything else, Shelly would always make a list of what she had to see and do in a city and would usually always follow it religiously. But this time, she decided to see Paris differently. Because in no time, she had realized that the best way to see Paris was by walking through the city. And sure enough, she found it was a real pleasure to stroll up to the nearest boulangerie for a pastry or to the closest brasserie for a steaming hot cup of coffee!
Walking Through Paris
Shelly thought it was best not to lose another minute and so she started her walking tour around Paris. First, she headed straight for the Cathedral of the Sacred Heart. Built in 1850, the church was relatively new to Paris and was made of white mosaic and glass paintings. She learnt that this 150 year old Paris Commune was destroyed during the war. While there was pin-drop silence as people quietly prayed inside, Shelly saw several painters sitting and making silhouettes and portraits of tourists in the artist’s gallery.
Shelly decided to get herself sketched. It was the first time she had ‘modeled’ for something like this and she felt a little embarrassed standing as if in pose while the artist drew her! She was delighted to see the end result though, which looked beautiful, bearing a direct resemblance to herself. Just as she was collecting her sketch, all of a sudden, she saw a bright red tourist train pull up and vanish into the distance. Shelly couldn’t help but marvel at the tradition, art, culture, history and music that surrounded her!
Just a short walk away from here was the Stat de France, the famous stadium where France won the historic World Cup in 1998. She then reached the Musée de Montmartre, the oldest building in Montmartre and the place where Renoir lived. It was here that she crossed a famous Montmartre cabaret called the Au Lapin Agile’, which literally translated meant ‘the agile rabbit’. On the same road, she came across Paris’ only vineyard. Walking on, Shelly discovered that some of the unknown parts of the city were fascinating and had their own little stories. For instance, there was the statue of Dalida, an actress-cum-singer who had committed suicide at the age of 54. Shelly stared at the statue and felt sorry for Dalida who had thrown away her precious life so easily. Next, she crossed a house with the statue of St Denise, the man who held his head and walked after it had been cut near the windmills at Le Moulin de la Galette. ‘How queer!’ she thought. Thoughts of the afterlife kept returning to her mind, but she kept brushing them away. ‘There is too much to see here than worry about death’, she thought.
Shelly found that walking along Paris’ symmetrical streets felt surreal. The countryside was enchanting, complete with its caravans, jersey cows and villages. It was pleasant to smell the flowers drooping down from the windows above. Somewhere down the alleys, she spotted a pair of lovers kiss each other passionately in an idyllic street – and that’s when she realized why Paris was called the quintessential city of lovers. She also realized that she suddenly felt a little alone…But as if all this wasn’t already charming enough, Shelly was still yet to see some of the more cosmopolitan and fashionable side of this city that was full of surprises.
At the end of that day, Shelly jotted down all the out of ordinary things she had done. ‘Reasons to love Paris’ she wrote. And under that, she made herself a new list:
1. Ate breakfast with some pigeons
2. Used the city’s public transport
3. Followed no sightseeing list, just walked
4. Tasted something I’d never had before: some French Brioche
5. Got myself sketched!
Shelly then slept, filled with a sense of happy exhaustion.
‘Living life the Parisian way’
The next day she went to see the Arc de Triomphe, one of the city’s major landmarks – a symbol of Napoleon’s achievements with an exceptional panorama of the Champs-Élysées and much of Paris. The Arc de Triomphe was joined by the Charles de Gaulle Étoile, called so because of its star shape. The Eiffel Tower, which she did not find extremely pretty, was nevertheless a very spectacular and imposing mass of iron and steel, according to Shelly. Even though she was afraid of heights, she decided to climb up the stairs of the Tower from where she could see the whole city. Once she reached the top, she finally looked down, shivering with nervousness. She couldn’t believe her eyes at the beauty below her!
Next, she took a picturesque boat ride along the Tower after which she bought some souvenirs in the shops close by. At night, the Tower had hourly sparkling lights that lit up the entire city! She took several pictures of the sight and later went onwards from the Rome station, where she was amazed to notice how quickly the class of passengers commuting to the Champs-Élysées changed to becoming more bourgeois. Finally, she arrived at Champs-Élysées! ‘The busiest, widest, most beautiful and famous thoroughfare in the world,’ she thought. And needless to say, Shelly was blown away!
On this famous avenue, Shelly stopped for lunch at a quaint little restaurant called the Ladurée. She sat and looked outside the window of the restaurant. Like all of Paris, she found that the Champs-Élysées was equally multicultural. Apart from all the ancient architecture and classy eateries, she couldn’t help but notice the huge McDonald’s that stared at her all of a sudden, or then the Restaurant Quick! For the glam quotient, there was Crazy Horse, a famous cabaret. There was also Lido, known most of all for its oriental shows that sometimes even had performances by elephants. ‘O so much to do!’ she said to herself.
As she was paying her bill and walking out of the restaurant, someone came hurriedly towards her. It was then that she realized that while she had been busy getting lost in the sights and sounds of the city, she had accidentally left her hat and sun glasses on the table. A gentleman seated on the next table had noticed and had kindly come running up to her with her belongings. Ordinarily, she would never have gone up and started talking to a stranger, but she decided to do just that. Shelly thanked André, who was jovial and good-natured. André suggested that if she wanted to capture all of the French action in a single place, she should visit the Moulin Rouge and that was exactly what she did later that evening.
Accompanied by André, Shelly went to the world’s most famous cabaret since 1889. Thanks to its French cancan and painter Toulouse-Lautrec, the Moulin Rouge was a menagerie of feathers, rhinestones and sequins, fabulous settings, original music, and beautiful girls! Many international stars had performed here, like Frank Sinatra, Elton John and Ella Fitzgerald… For the last 120 years, the most legendary cabaret in the world had welcomed millions of spectators who had come to admire its famous shows! It was all too exciting for Shelly! She ordered herself a drink and found that in a matter of minutes, she was thoroughly laughing and enjoying herself, feeling cheerful and lightheaded.
Later that evening, André and Shelly walked by the Flamme de la Liberté on W. Wilson Avenue, a statue taken from the Statue of Liberty. Under it lay the infamous tunnel where Lady Diana had died tragically in a car crash in 1997. For the same reason, the area had become somewhat of a memorial, where people left flowers. Shelly too stopped in silence for a few minutes and closed her eyes, folding her hands in prayer. She then turned to the bridge of Alexander on river Seine – another lovely sight near by, before she finally called it a day. Shelly had spent such a wonderful day in Paris. She thanked André for everything and while saying goodbye, kissed him. So caught up in the moment had she been, that she could barely believe it was all happening.
She returned to her room that night and scribbled down her notes for the day:
1. Climbed the top of the Eiffel Tower
2. Had lunch at the Champs-Élysées
3. Went on a date to a cabaret
4. Drank myself silly at the Moulin Rouge
5. Kissed a complete stranger!
‘Wow, is this really the same drab old me?’ she thought reading out her list. But she was exhausted after the long day and there was no time to think.
‘Fashion capital’ of the rich and the famous
The next day, Shelly headed to the Avenue Montaigne to get a peek of the fashion capital status that Paris enjoyed. It was a street full of designer wear with all the big brands: Prada, Valentino, Malo, Rubina Rubens, Joseph, Giorgio Armani, Honda, Harley Davidson, Smart Car, Dior, Nina Ricci, Pouquet, Parfums Caron, Jimmy Choo, CelinE, Bvlgari, Coco Chanel, Eres, Akris, Chloe, Loewe, Krizia, Jil Sander, Voyage, S T Dupont, Gucci…You name it! Also close by, stood a pretty hotel with red geraniums called the Plaze Athénée. Shelly walked by several other places close by like the Café de la Paix, the Amphitheatre, the Orchestre and the Baignoires.
She then went to the Galeries Lafayette, a well-known place for buying wedding gowns. She looked wistfully at some of the most beautiful gowns that were displayed there. She was tempted to buy one for herself, but the idea was absurd. Just as she was about to walk away, she stopped herself. And so she decided to give into another one of her temptations and bought herself the most stunning gown on display! Feeling very pleased with herself, she went across to Boucheron next where she bought some exquisite jewelry.
Undoubtedly, her favourite stop was the Godiva Chocolatier. Always wanting to stay in shape, Shelly had avoided eating desserts. But this time there was nothing holding her back. She had only a few months left in which to taste all of life’s many wonders. And with that thought, she picked up three large boxes of some of the most heavenly chocolates. She then went to the Rue Saint-Honoré, another high fashion street, where she spotted several signs that read ‘A Louer’, meaning ‘To let’. Shelly felt the urge to talk to an immobilier or property agent even though she was not planning to buy any property. So just for a lark, she did so, pretending to be a rich lady visiting who might be interested to invest money in Paris. Shelly had a good laugh about it and understood what Anya had always told her about doing something ‘just for the heck of it’!
That evening, she returned and wrote in her notebook:
1. Saw the world’s biggest brands – altogether in one place!
2. Bought myself a wedding gown
3. Gorged on some heavenly chocolates
4. Indulged in some more valuables – a brand new jewelry set!
5. Pretended to be interested in buying property – what fun!
Shelly glanced over her list and for a second thought that she just might be losing her mind. ‘But it’s every bit worth it!’ she thought giddily and went off to sleep.
‘Paris donne le ton’
After a hedonistic jaunt, flirting with designer wear, Shelly decided to immerse herself in the Parisian history. So the next day she visited the Grand Palais, the Petit Palais and Les Invalide. Shelly had studied about these monuments while growing up, but of course had never had the chance to actually see them. The Grand Palais was an outstanding building that combined the architectural styles of classicism and Art nouveau. Its sister palace, the Petit Palais was similar but also housed a Museum of Fine Arts. Finally, Les Invalide showcased military history from the prehistoric times to the present and had earlier been used as a military hospital.
A pleasant drive away from these was the residence of the French President – the Élysée Palace. ‘What a magnificent building!’ thought Shelly. A little distance away from here stood the statue of Charles de Gaulle, which signified the liberation of France. There was also the Rue de Rivoli and the Ritz hotel where trade took place. The Ritz had belonged to Dodi Fayed who was staying there when he bought an engagement ring for Princess Diana from the jewelry store opposite. Once again, she took a few minutes to remember the tragedy of the famous lovers.
The National Monument came up next. It was historically famous for being the spot where the guillotine took place during the French Revolution. Once again, Shelly remembered all the infamous stories that she had read about the Revolution. In the early 1800s, this was the place where Marie Antoinette lost her head. At the museum, Shelly went across and saw the beautiful exhibition of Monet’s Water lilies. She couldn’t believe she was seeing original work by such a great artist! She also passed by the French Parliament and the Madeleine Church. The former functioned as the country’s lower house, while the latter had interiors inspired by the Roman baths. Close by, was the Place de l’Opera and the Académie Nationale de Musique as well as Berlitz, an English-French language school. A little further down, she saw Rolex, the Commerzbank, U C Benetton and YSL. ‘The fashion smatters amidst history and politics,’ she mused.
Shelly then went to the Townhall, the residence of the Mayor, which interestingly, also doubled up as a skating rink in the winter. At the Obelisk in the Place de la Concorde she learnt that one could find Cleopatra’s needle. On learning that government schools were the best ones in France and that the public hospitals in Paris were free, Shelly was much impressed with Paris’s civil society and state policies.
She further went and saw the Société Générale, the La Terrasse and the Ministère de la Justice: locations that had mostly concrete buildings and no greenery. The Mairie de Paris was also interesting as was the Place de la Bastille. The Bastille prison was a place of great historic interest and it seemed to her that it still resounded with chants of ‘Liberté, égalité, fraternité.’
For some typical Parisian shopping, Shelly went to the Latin Quarter, the Île Saint-Louis, the Saint-Germain-des-Prés and the Île de la Cité. At the Place Louis Lépine, a flower market took place between Monday and Saturday from 8am-7pm and a bird market on Sundays between 9am-7pm. Since it was a weekday, she went and saw the flower market and was once again blown away by the joie de vivre so marvelously exhibited by the Parisian humdrum. Walking amidst colourful blooming flowers surely made for quite an animated experience.
Other places of delight were the Jardin du Luxembourg, the Saint-Sulpice or the Rose line, the Moulin de la Galette, the Musée de l’Orangerie, the Notre Dame and the Sainte-Chapelle. The Jardin du Luxembourg was Paris’ second largest public park. The Saint-Sulpice was a Roman Catholic church, the second largest in the city. The Moulin de la Galette was a windmill that had been made famous by artists such as Renoir and Picasso. The Musée de l’Orangerie was an art gallery of impressionist and post-impressionist paintings. The Notre Dame was the largest Cathedral in Paris, popularly known as Our Lady of Paris. The Sainte-Chapelle was a jewel of 13th century architecture with one of the most comprehensive collections of stained-glass of the period. ‘Such imposing buildings and so much art’, Shelly was finding it difficult to digest it all!
For some more history, she checked out the Maison de Victor Hugo, Place des Vosges and of course, the Palace of Versailles. The Maison de Victor Hugo was a museum that preserved the house that Victor Hugo lived in for 16 years. The Place des Vosges was the oldest planned square in Paris, located in the Marais district. The Estate and the garden of Versailles counted amongst the most prestigious of the world’s heritage sites and represented the finest and most accomplished achievement of the 17th century French art. Shelly could see why, given the architectural feat that was accomplished 400 years ago. Shelly learnt that King Louis XIII’s former hunting lodge had been transformed and enlarged by his son Louis XIV, who had installed his court and government there. The estate also included two Trianon Palaces as well as the Queen’s Hamlet. Shelly took a tram to the Hamlet and was enchanted by Marie Antionette’s private little rustic retreat.
The town and palace still resonated with this rich period of French history.
After soaking in all that history and architecture, Shelly could feel a renewed sense of energy and a zest for life that she seemed to be deriving from all these unique sights and sounds. ‘I feel quite fit!’ she thought as she slept that night.
‘Fleur-de-lis’: French art
Shelly realized that an extremely crucial aspect of the character of Paris which she certainly couldn’t miss was art. So she decided to dedicate an entire day just to its world-famous art museums. The Musée d’Orsay, she was told was a must-do: it was essentially an abandoned Railway station with a real station clock. The museum had works of art with different techniques, including paintings, pastels, sculptures, photographs, objects of art and architecture. The historical period ranged broadly from 1848 to 1914.
Another must-see was of course, the Louvre which had two wings – each more than 1.5 kms long. Some of its most famous exhibits included: Oriental Antiquities; Egyptian
Antiquities; Greek, Etruscan and Roman Antiquities; Paintings; Sculptures; Objects d’art; Arts of Islam; Prints and Drawings; History of the Louvre and Medieval Louvre; Arts of Africa, Asia, Oceania and the Americas. Of course, she couldn’t do justice to all these different wings. That would have taken forever. So, she breezed through them all, fascinated by the paintings, sculptures, and artifacts, each more intriguing and enchanting than the previous one. Of course, she spent the longest time gaping like a gold fish at the Mona Lisa! “I can’t believe I’ve finally seen it,” she heard herself saying aloud. After that overwhelming experience, Shelly went across to the Pompidou museum of modern art; albeit an ugly blue tube building, it was a great place for art lovers to learn about intricacies like the difference between the Occidental and Oriental styles of painting. It was here that she also learnt about the eccentricities of several famous artists, most of whose genius were recognized only after their death.
The Rodin museum, where Shelly went next, had some famous work by the artist, including: The Thinker, Adam, Eve, The Gates of Hell, Orpheus, Balzac. The works and the collections of Auguste Rodin had been presented in a private 18th century residence, in a featured sculpture garden. Rodin was one such exception who was fortunate to have become famous during his lifetime. She clicked a comical picture with ‘The Thinker’ copying his pose and expression. Shelly also went to visit the Museum of Picasso. The museum had works of Picasso displayed in a 17th century townhouse. Like Rodin, Picasso, was another noted artist whose art made him rich and famous in his lifetime. After a dose of Cubism and spending considerable time wrapping her head around it, being a film buff, Shelly decided to visit the Museum of Cinema in Bercy. She found it
fascinating to know that France produced 130-140 films in a year. She also learnt that it was the Lumière brothers who had first started French cinema which was in its early years, ironically, casual and full of laughter.
It was Shelly’s last day in Paris. While she took the metro to the airport, she made some final notes in her book:
I seem to have fallen in love with Paris! The experience has been nothing short of walking into art, history and culture – all rolled into one!
But apart from just soaking in the sights and sounds of the city, I also managed to do some soul-searching. There is much that I am going to take back home with me as Paris seems to have enriched my life personally too. Mark Twain had written a long time ago that ‘Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor.
Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover’. At this point, I can’t agree with those lines more. In the past few days, I feel privileged to have followed the wisdom of these lines so closely.
Shelly looked up from her diary and just then, another quote came in her mind which and she promptly wrote down too:
‘Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away’. I feel hopeful and optimistic. Most of all, I find that I no longer feel afraid of the imminent truth that I am about to face only a few months from now. Instead at this point, I feel glad for having fulfilled one of my most cherished dreams. I am returning to my home with a renewed sense of enthusiasm and radiance. I may ultimately live a short life, but at least I won’t die leaving any regrets behind.
And so with that positive emotion reinforced within her, she got into her flight, confident and smiling.
Shelly returned home in Sydney, glowing and happy. As she reached home, she found that it was raining heavily. Without a second thought, she went out and danced in the rain – something she had never in her life done for fear of getting her hair wet. After changing and unpacking, she left for the city that afternoon. Walking into a tattoo studio, she chose herself a design and got it imprinted on her forearm. It was something she had always wanted to do, but had always been afraid of the pain. She loved how it looked placed neatly on her body. She looked at her long hair and went to the salon next door. Here, she got herself a trendy new trim. Later that afternoon, she made another list:
1. Tattoo – check
2. Haircut – check
3. Overcoming fear of the afterlife – check
4. Overcoming fear of heights – check
5. No longer making any lists – check
That evening, she went to Anya’s house. “Hey Anya! I have to tell you all about my wonderful trip to Paris!” she said as they met. One look at Shelly and Anya could barely recognize her.
Shelly recounted all her wonderful stories to Anya breathlessly. “Wait till you see all the photos!” she said excitedly. Anya listened, amazed. She noticed a pink flushed look on Shelly’s otherwise pale face. “Wow!” she said after she had finished recounting her tale,
“You seem like a different person to me!”
“Well you see, I really have changed, Anya. I have suddenly learnt the importance of all that you used to keep telling me about going out there and enjoying life. In this remaining time I have left, I’ve decided to do just that! It’s unfortunate that the realization has dawned upon me so late, when I have such little time remaining,” she said, looking down sadly.
“Well, I’m sure it’s all for the best, dear,” said Anya. “You need to come for another test tomorrow. I’ll see you there!” she said, as Shelly left.
The next day, Shelly went for her second test to Anya’s clinic. She sat and waited patiently outside till Anya called her in.
As she entered, she saw a broad smile appear on Anya’s face. “Shelly, I have some good news for you. Guess what, you have been cured! You no longer have any sickness,” she said.
“What?” asked Shelly, looking up in disbelief.
“Yes, it’s true. All these years, you had been suffering from a disease called the cancer of the soul. It was a cancer of that part of you that didn’t know how to live. But after your trip to Paris, I have found that that part has finally died out and is no longer a part of your system. So basically you have recovered.”
Shelly suddenly understood what Anya was saying. She got up laughing from her chair and gave her a tight hug. “Oh my God, what a vicious friend you are!”
“Well, you see I’m a doctor but more importantly I am a friend. Your ‘disease’ had no remedy by a regular doctor but I could see what treatment you needed so I had to resort to this extreme step. I am glad my gamble paid off and you have healed from your malady.” said Anya cheekily and the two girls hugged again.
Needless to say, Shelly was relieved, but she was also grateful to Anya for curing her of her inner ailment and in a sense, changing her life forever.