If I’ve heard it once, I’ve heard it a thousand times.
I nod along with the doctor who’s giving me the same information that the last one gave me. She’s doing that thing where she’s trying to be comforting but knowing that she can’t be.
After all, what is comfort? How does one comfort another when they’re separated by disparate realities?
I take a pamphlet and a number and a card and every step between diagnosis and departure feels like a fucking eternity.
I just want a drink.
There’s an irony in there somewhere but I don’t think I need to expand on that. If you’re even half an idiot you should be able to connect the dots. If not the dots, then…fuck it…who cares, right?
I decide to walk back home.
Someone might look at that notion and start doing the mental math of it all. When time is finite, why waste it on things like walking? Why waste it on this or that or whatever.
But that’s what life is, right? It’s just a clock and we’re all running it down. Grain by little grain. Gunshots and gonorrhea. Flus and fist fights. Old age and old injuries. Incarcerations and cancers.
By that logic, no one should be wasting time on things like walking or talking or wondering or wanting. It’s all pointless if you turn it into the right kind of numbers game.
There’s a homeless guy on the way home and he’s got one of those little signs made of cardboard that says that he’s a vet of some type or another. In truth, I only stop because he also has a dog. I’m allowed to have my weak points. It’s the only real thing that we all have in common that actually matters. The rest is like a smattering of smudges and stains that we collectively try to turn into unique attributes so that we don’t have to see that we’re all just copies of a copy of a copy of a copy of a…you get the picture.
It’s cold enough out that most people are wearing extra layers and sometimes someone gives me that look. That look that says, “The fuck is up with this guy?” because I’m out here walking home in jeans and a t-shirt and I don’t really mind so much.
Cold is like that, you feel it at first and it’s so sharp that it almost hurts. Then it sort of goes away. It gets warmer without getting warmer.
The dying off of sensitivity.
The growth of callouses – seen or not – felt or unfelt – real or imagined.
No one thinks they’re going to hear a doctor say what they say until they hear them say it.
You’re going in because your shoulder hurts and they want to run some tests. Tendonitis. Impingement. Muscle strain. Etcetera, etcetera, etcetera. Then they come back and they have that look that says it’s not just the thing they were hoping for. They have that look that they’ve been perfecting over the course of a residency and then some. They have it down to a science. The way their eyes move. The way they look at the file like it’s got more information than they already have to say.
Theatrics. Pageantry. Spectacle.
When I pass the sign for a street whose number is the same number of months I’ve been given, I can’t help but chuckle.
My friend Alisha had a cat once. I mean, she’s had several cats. She’s a cat person. I don’t mean that in a bad way but I’m not really much of a cat person.
Anyway…my friend Alisha had a cat once. Good guy as far as cats go, whatever the fuck that means. Vet says he’s got…whatever…I can’t remember. He’s not long for this world though. You know the drill.
A year passes. Two years. Five years. Fucking cat is apparently cashing in on that whole nine lives thing because the vet says he was supposed to be dead by now and this fucking cat just keeps on going.
Energizer bunny. Nothing stops a Trane. Insert clever marketing tagline here.
Alisha calls me one day. She’s all weepy because the cat died. The cat that should’ve died years ago and then every day thereafter in exponentially increasing values so, of course, all that time did nothing to help her get her head around the loss.
Loss is loss, after all. You can’t put numbers on shit like that.
You can know to your heart’s content. To the peak of your brain’s understanding. To infinity and beyond or whatever.
It’s not real until it’s real and then it’s more real than all your hypotheticals. All your quantifiers and qualifiers. All your data. All your science. All your feelings.
Insert sound effect here for things being sudden and abrupt and fucking terrible.
When I get home, Mrs. Dodson is leaving the building and she does that stupid, pursed-lip head nod thing that people do when their face is trying to just say, “Hey, person I recognize” and I silently hope she gets hit by a car.
That’s not very nice of me but that’s what people do, huh? They turn their problems into a targeting system and they point it at everyone else. If I had a shrink they’d probably be saying words like “coping strategy” and “feeling resolution” and “self-perceived sense of worth” or whatever the fuck.
I give her the same pursed-lip expression back. I feel like we’re both just slightly advanced monkeys aping one another.
Maybe that’s all that life is. In my experience, it’s not far off.
Inside the quaint, wall-shared isolation of my unit, I sit down with a beer. The fucking doctor must be able to hear the can opening because I see an incoming call from the office. On the other end is some receptionist who’s talking about follow-up visits and making a treatment plan.
It’s funny to think about dying on a schedule. Not funny “ha ha” mind you but more like funny “curious”.
When I tell her I need to think she does that thing where she’s trying to be supportive but also kind of pushy. I tell her I’ll be in touch and she’s just sitting there silent like I’m about to say a date and a time or something and I obviously don’t.
“Well, we hope to hear from you soon.”
I toss the phone to the side and keep drinking. I put the TV on to drown out the sound of reality. I keep the curtains open for some kind of perspective for whatever that’s worth.
I can’t remember how many times I’ve run this circle. It gets old. It’s always the same thing and it’s always the same circle.
I remember the first time more than the ones in between.
Dr. Carlyle – 1706 – back then, they were still making shit up more than really understanding things. They didn’t know much. In some regards, that hasn’t changed.
They didn’t tell me it was cancer back then, though. They didn’t have a strong grasp of that concept yet. It wasn’t until the 1800s when they started getting that sorted out.
Now it’s just this long, arduous slog of everyone telling me I’m dying while I’m mentally going, “Spare me the fucking rhetoric.”
People always want to believe the weirdest shit about immortality but no one ever thinks about the boredom. The absolute, mind-numbing, soul-sucking, life-draining boredom.
Sometimes I think about letting the doctors do their thing but I know that the thing they’d be killing is the thing that keeps me from dying.
How’s that for some fucking irony?
My shoulder still hurts and the doctor only seemed to care about cancer and who cares about a sore shoulder when cancer’s on the buffet?
I take some ibuprofen and wash it down with the last drink of the current can of beer before I get another one. I glance over at my phone to see if the doctor can mentally intuit that I’m mixing alcohol and NSAIDs but nothing happens.
This is what eternity is like, I guess.
Just a game of wait and see.
That’s what doctors like to say sometimes. “We’ll have to wait and see.”
I laugh a little bit and keep drinking, liver be damned.