Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Mind the Light

I walk downstairs and round the corner to go pick up our takeout, Chinese, and the sun is finishing up a spectacular setting thing that it's clearly been working on for a while. A molten puddle of gold settles down past New Jersey and the sky gets all pale blue wistful and airbrushed like something out of Maxfield Parrish.

There's a touch, a soup├žon, of meaning in the air, and it seems to have something to do with remembering the past, a momentary pause where all the sunsets that touched my heart and quieted my mind enjamb one another and combine into a single moment where there is no time: Arizona, Manhattanhenge, Astoria, Kew Gardens, Paris, Morocco, Brooklyn - all one, suspended in me.

In crossing the street to the takeout place I ignore the light and almost step out in front of a car before I catch myself and jump back onto the curb, into reality.

Monday, May 30, 2016

Squares Are All About Undies

I'm almost finished rinsing the soap off when the phone rings. Katie and I look at each other in horror: it's the delivery guy, with dinner, and he's downstairs now.

I jump out of the shower, throw on a bathrobe, and reach for my underwear for a modicum of decency, when Katie asks, "You're wearing underwear just to run downstairs?"

I pull them up, saying, "Well, don't want to freak out the squares."

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Tap Out

Man, I'm having a great day: working at the Brooklyn Flea, talking to people, selling butterflies, alert - feeling good!

In a slow moment, Katie and I chat for a bit about taking pictures, and I swear I'm listening to her.

Then I'm dreaming.

When I wake up, Katie is staring at me, smiling but open-mouthed in shock, saying, "Did you just fall asleep looking at me?"

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Sharing

The guy who begs for change on our block has been selling bottles of cold water from a cooler to the thirsty masses along 7th Avenue. As Katie and I finish packing the truck, he offers me one.

I demur, suggesting he should keep it for himself, and he says, "Some guy gave me a fifth of something today, for free!"

He proudly shows me a bottle of inexpensive prosecco and adds, "I don't drink, but do you think they'll like it at the barbecue I'm going to tomorrow?"

Friday, May 27, 2016

Theater Kids

On the way to the drugstore on a warm summer night, I slow down my pace to listen to the girls walking behind me.

"I'm sorry I got annoying about that test, but you know how when you know you did okay, but then you start to doubt yourself?" one says.

"It's okay," another says, "everybody makes mistakes."

Suddenly all three are singing: "People make mistakes, fathers, mothers."

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Up and Down

"Yeah, today was good," I say as we relax on the couch after dinner. Katie is smiling, the TV cheerfully burbles in the background. "I feel really good!"

Later, right before bed, as I fill up water bottles in the kitchen, the ice cube I dropped skitters across the floor, and I find myself about to burst into tears for no reason at all.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Asking

In the midst of emptying the dishwasher, a wave of exhaustion cuts the legs out from under me, and I start to panic a little.

"Pookie, can you help me finish cleaning in the kitchen?" I ask Katie where she's lying on the couch in the family room.

"Nope, sorry," she says, rising with a half-smile. "You're gonna have to handle this on your own."

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

So, Kind of the Opposite

"Is this gonna freak her out?" the woman sitting on our stoop waiting for a bus says, extending her hand toward the doge.

"She's not going to bite you," I say, shrugging, "but she was a rescue, and she wasn't really socialized properly when she was little."

"I've got a cat like that," the woman says. "She loves being the center of attention, but only so, when you try to pet her, she can fuck you up."

Monday, May 23, 2016

Don't Be A Hero

I beg off work a little early, as my boss expects, and head home, tired, but not completely wiped out, with the words of my nurse, Ryan, echoing in my mind: "Don't be a hero."

Once home, I relax for a few minutes, and then climb into bed for what I hope will be a quick nap.

An hour-and-a-half later I wake up, confused and exhausted. The doge and I stagger down the stairs for her evening walk, and I wonder how I would have gotten home had I tried to tough out the day.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Helping

Our downstairs neighbor and her friend come out of her apartment (where, it turns out, they've been cooking for us all day) as I'm going down to the truck to help unload from the flea.

"What can we do to help?" she asks. My head is full of cotton, and I'm nauseated, tired, and depressed, but I'm so touched for a second that I think I'm going to cry.

I stare at her blankly for a moment before saying, "Uh, I'm not sure."

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Priorities

I meet my neighbor coming out of his apartment. "Hey, didn't you run the Brooklyn Half Marathon today? How did you do?"

"I beat everybody I knew there," he says, "and that's what's important."

Friday, May 20, 2016

Tumor Envy

Although it was nice of him to mention my disease on Facebook, I found it a little annoying when he called it "relatively treatable." Like, what the hell, man, this is scary for me, and you're making it seem like it's no big deal?

But then another part of me piped up, saying, "What exactly is wrong with you? It's not like he's completely wrong, since they are treating it, and wouldn't that be the kind of cancer you want, anyway?" 

Thursday, May 19, 2016

She Always Makes Me Laugh

We're walking the dog after an 11 hour day at the hospital. I'm a little woozy and queasier than I thought I'd be this early in the game.

Katie's talking about the 20 minutes that we were actually apart today, when she went down to the in-clinic pharmacy to pick up my meds.

"It's like the line at the post office, so nobody wants to be there, and everybody has cancer," she says.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Some Things Never Go Out of Style

I'm coming up on the stage of being sick where I find myself boring, and I'm more interested in other people's stories.

"My boyfriend, without telling me ahead of time, joined a bowling league," my co-worker tells me. "Now he spends all his time with portly, middle-aged men drinking beer and throwing balls at pins."

"I mean, I knew they still had bowling leagues," I say, "but do they still have the shirts?"

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Cyber

Today, they're "installing" (such a clinical term) a "port" in my chest, so that it's easier to administer the chemo, and sending me one step further down my path to becoming a cybernetic organism. After a few hours laying on a bed in a prep room watching old 70s anime, Vidal, a big orderly wearing a Yankees headscarf, wheels me into the operating suite.

I'm making it a point today to remember the name of everybody I meet, partially out of kind politeness, and partially because I'm nervous, and when I'm nervous I talk too much, and reciting their names gives me something to do with my mouth.

After they get me situated in the operating suite amidst the machines that will begin my transformation to cyborg, right before I start to go under the anesthesia, James comes up to me in his surgical scrubs and asks me to turn my head, saying "Lauren is nicer to look at anyway."

Monday, May 16, 2016

Work to Do

A last minute issue at work only hours before tomorrow's surgery leaves me shaken and angry. We finally eat dinner (later than I wanted) after I've fixed it, and watch "Game of Thrones" while sitting on the couch.

It takes me about half-hour, what with my mind racing, to notice that I'm shivering, and I ask Katie why I could possibly be cold.

"Well, you're in shock," she says, standing up to get a blanket.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Our New Addition (Tumor Edition)

"Yeah, I'm not really hungry," I say, leaning against the kitchen counter, "but I didn't eat much today at the flea market, and I'm just worried that I'm not eating enough, you know, nutritious food. I've been worried I'm losing weight, and then I lose weight 'cause I'm worried, and then I get worried...."

Katie looks me up and down and says, "Well, a month or so ago, you we're trying to lose weight. Plus," she smiles, "you are eating for two."

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Good To Know

I've asked the woman who cuts my hair to cut it particularly short, today, so that the contrast won't be as drastic when it starts to fall out during my chemo treatments.

"I had one customer whose hair fell out during his cancer treatments," she says in her lilting Trinidadian accent, "and it grew back thick, and curly, and all black!"

The scissors continue clipping busily away as she continues, "He used to tell me, 'Why do I need black hair now that I'm old and dying?'"

She pauses for a moment, then looks at me very seriously, saying, "He died, but not from cancer, you know."

A Different Kind of Banking

At the sperm bank, after I spend a half hour filling out ALL the paperwork, an older woman in a white lab coat takes me upstairs, past two offices where two women sit doing officey things, to a small, spare, red room. She hands me a small plastic jar, pulls a sheet of paper over the reclining chair, and leaves me to it, closing the ill-fitting door behind her.

At one end of the room lurks a TV/DVD player (with several scandalous DVDs next to it), sitting on a shelf of old, rumpled skin magazines from the previous decade - Playboys, Penthouses, Sports Illustrated swimsuit issues - and a box of tissues.

The thought of trying to "obtain a sample" while going through these old, pawed over magazines seems a little skeezy, and the DVDs seem a little weird, what with the ladies just down the hall, and no indication in the room of any gesture toward soundproofing, so, after some thought, I pull my headphones out of my bag, plug them into my phone, and tap in my unlock code to get started.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

A Banner Night

Another long day, and we start getting ready for bed at around 8:00 pm. Katie's in the shower already.

The bathroom steams up, the mirrors fog over; a podcast plays on her phone, detailing the debate over nuclear winter that went down in the 80s, and I climb into the shower after her like I'm climbing out of a well.

"Can we just put on robes and drink wine when were done in here?" she asks wearily.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

The Vast Wasteland

"So I see all these shows I like on Hulu and whatever," I say. "But when I turn on the TV, I only see, like, five shows: Law & Order, NCIS, The Big Bang Theory, The Voice, and the last season of fuckin' American Idol."

"It's been like this since the writer's strike," Katie says. "And don't forget Dancing with the Stars!"

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

A Desire to Bathe in the Blood of Our Enemies

"And I didn't kill anyone on the train tonight," she adds, triumphantly.

"Want to talk about it?" I say. 

Katie proceeds to tell me of a couple of women who made fun of her for asking to get by them to a less crowded part of the train, and how she freaked them out by maintaining eye contact and laughing insanely.

"It's not enough," I say, shaking my head.

Monday, May 9, 2016

Family Values

The doge and I come out the building, and she bumbles down the stoop to the sidewalk, only to stop short at the two guys having an animated conversation down by the curb.

One's wearing a Park Slope Food Co-op reflective vest, and he's speaking with some conviction to the bearded fellow leaning on his car, where they just loaded up the bearded guy's groceries.

"So the guy in the Beach Boys, not the crazy one, the other guy, the one with all the singing talent, Mike Love, he knew some of the guys who knew Manson," he says excitedly.

Bearded guy nods slowly, with a look that suggests he might wish he were somewhere else, as vesty says, "Now that is a family I wish I knew more about."

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Mother's Day

My mom's picture comes up on my phone. 

"We're Facetiming on my phone!" she says happily. Normally I call my dad's phone to Facetime.

 I reply, "I think we're really taking our relationship to the next level, here."

Considered Opinion

We're watching that movie Joy, starring Jennifer Lawrence and Robert De Niro and a bunch of other folks, where the main character tries, against all odds, to sell her invention and pull herself and her family out of the dead end of poverty.

The familial relationships in the film are complicated, and few of the characters besides the protagonist are particularly likable. By the end of the movie, Katie and I are both pretty tense, and we sit there trying to detox.

"I'm beginning to think I don't like David O. Russel movies very much," Katie finally announces, almost angrily.

Saturday, May 7, 2016

A Long Week

"So we're gonna snuggle and watch weird TV and sleep like puppies," Katie says.

It's been a long week.

"Rent 'Kiss Kiss Bang Bang,'" she continues. "I'm gonna be asleep ten minutes after it starts, anyway."

Thursday, May 5, 2016

But...Tacos!

"The trains were fuuuucked tonight," Katie says as she gets home. The house smells of tacos I made for Cinco de Mayo, and I've been keeping the fixins warm waiting for her to arrive.

She explains to me the whole story: her train was stopped, and they were told it was because of train traffic in front of them, only to find out that it was a police search.

I'm still in the kitchen finishing up when I hear from the bedroom, "And the cat threw up on my shirt...on two shirts."

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Is There a Ghost in My House?

The doge warily climbs the stairs to the second floor where our downstairs neighbor waits, glistening from his run in the rain. She gives a half-hearted "boof" and he laughs.

"She didn't make a sound when I was playing Apocalypse Now earlier today," he says, grinning.

"Sometimes, I think she's sure there's somebody in the apartment with her, the way she goes off," he continues, watching her with something like admiration.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Momento Mori (Musical Theater Edition)

After crying my way through most of the first act of Hamilton, I find myself thinking pretty hard about what I'm seeing, and my vision splits in two.

On the one hand, I'm watching the very entertaining story of the driven titular hero of the show, a hard-working, almost possessed polymath with, as he says, "a tolerance for pain," and a deep-seated awareness of his own mortality and his brief time on this earth.

On the other hand, I'm watching the product of a very driven mind, that is, the show itself, created by a man who seems to be working very hard to put out as much stuff as possible, in as many media as possible, and who, himself, may be very aware of his own mortality and the briefness of life, etc. etc.

During intermission I make my way to the souvenir counter and point to the glass cabinet: "One of the notebooks with the logo, please," I tell the cashier.

Monday, May 2, 2016

It's May Right Now, Isn't It?

My friend and I are walking to the train before work.

"So I already have a spreadsheet, with three tabs, listing all the places I want to visit in L.A., all the things I want to see, and all the places I want to stay. Does that make me crazy?"

"You did say you were going in December, right?" I ask after a short pause.

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Rainy Sunday

"Is it raining?" I ask. We've taken the day off from the Brooklyn Flea after finding out that, not only would it be raining, but the 5 Boro Bike Tour was supposed to pass right by our usual set up spot. Not a great day to sell butterflies, we figured, and after sleeping in for a bit, we're finishing breakfast in the front room of our apartment while the grey light from an overcast day leaches the color from the world.

"Enough for some people to carry umbrellas," she replies, gazing contemplatively out the window at the passers-by on the street below.

Ghosts of Roommates Past

"Is everything okay?" Katie asks after we get off our video chat with our likely new roommate for the summer. "You were a little standoffish."

I get a little irritated at this, but she's right, as usual. I suppose I was still a little gunshy after our last roommate drank all our booze, and I could still remember the roommate we used to call "The Troll" who threw a party so "great" that we almost got kicked out of the building.