A few years ago I went to visit a friend I’d not seen in a while to say a quick hello on my way to a lunch. I was dressed in my favorite jeans and top, and I even wore makeup and managed to blow-dry my hair all shiny. I was then as I still am—as healthy as the ol’ clichéd horse, full of energy, sexuality, vitality, and kickassery.
What I want to focus on is the moment I stepped through her door and into her living-room. Here I strongly strode in, smiling my hello, slightly in a hurry to meet someone I was excited to be flirting with. I entered with all this HEALTH surrounding me like a big cloud of WHUPOW. I vibrated, hummed, shimmered.
Ah. But not so my friend. Her future was uncertain. Her health, her very life, in question. I don’t know what I’d expected—that she’d look the same as she always did, act the same as she always did, and that the beast inside her would be a hidden monster we’d both acknowledge by edging around it and nodding sagely and wisely about life’s twists and turns. All those pink ribbons and shit. The way it seems that if you have an illness you should be out running marathons and hi-fiving the air ’cause you are gonna beat this thang by golley-gee-willikers! Likely, I’d thought none of this, some of this, or all of this as I’d motored my way to her home, parked, and then knocked on her door. My pinked cheeks, my sturdy body, my clean-and-free-from-cancer insides. I walked into her house and she sat in her chair with cancer eating at her, what was left of her hair and her partially bald scalp showing through a little from her scarf, her pallid complexion.
Before she uttered a word, the look in her eyes said, “I want to be healthy again. I want to be strong again. I want to have on my cute clothes again. I want my hair back! I want this fucking cancer out of my body RIGHT NOW! I want to be me again. And I don’t care what Oprah Magazine says, I don’t feel like being all heroic. Okay?” And maybe even, “I’m glad my friend is here, but . . . .” But, she’s making me feel sicker. But, she’s making me feel ugly. But, she’s making me feel hairless and sick and pale and pukey and weak.
She simply said, “You look nice.” And those wistful words punched me in the face, hard.
Before she spoke and most assuredly after, I’d put myself in her place (and she in mine) in a way I’d not expected—whether I’d hit all our thoughts on the proverbial nail isn’t important for the purposes of thinking from a “writer’s perspective.” What matters is— [Read more…]