Missing The Bus
The writer in me
balks at giving away the ending like this, before
the narrative has even begun: what kind of Sophomore
Composition Class storytelling is that?? On the other hand, the
wife/mother/daughter/sister/journaler/friend in me isn't much
interested in putting anyone else through the kind of torture David and
I have had to endure, the past couple of months. So I'm saying "The
hell with dramatic tension," and
I'm spoiling the ending for you,
right here and now.
a little while we actually thought it might be cancer, especially
first few days after we found the lump. The morning my fingertips
connected with that little rolling knot of tissue for the first time, I
was positive that it was, in the way that you're positive about
first time you taste it, or about Dvorak's Symphony No. 9 in E Minor
the first time you hear it, or about the one true love of your heart
the first time you see him standing in the middle of a crowded airport
shidt, I remember thinking to
myself. I may have just
my own death.
course, I didn't say that to David. You don't say things like that to
David: one, because it would come out sounding needlessly overblown and
made-for-Lifetime-TV-Movie, and we both hate stuff that's needlessly
overblown and made-for-Lifetime-TV-Movie ... and two, because it would
have scared him to pieces. And the poor guy was already scared enough.
One look at his stricken expression -- his hand still clamped to my
breast, unwilling to let go, like a falling man clutching a window
ledge -- and I knew that I would have to assume the role of The
Optimistic One in this situation. "I'm sure it's nothing," is what I
said to him that morning, and for a lot of mornings immediately
thereafter. I told him that most breast lumps turn out to be
non-cancerous. (I'm amazingly knowledgeable about things I know
absolutely nothing about. Now ask me a question about
football.) I told him that I felt great: that I plan to live to
years old, if for no other reason than so I can force him to watch
pseudo-reality TV with me for another fifty years. I told him that even
though I've already had one completely unremarkable mammogram within
the past year, I would schedule another appointment as soon as I got
home from TicTac. I told him that everything was going to be just fine.
I saw myself standing in the middle of the crosswalk, watching The
Karma Bus barreling towards me at 100 miles an hour.
the fatalistic thoughts only lasted for a day or two. Then life got
really busy all of a sudden, and there followed a couple of weeks when
I didn't think about it much at all. There was the trip to TicTac to
deal with ... my job at The Dirt Company to deal with ... assorted
domestic/personal/family crises to deal with, some more critical than
others. Thoughts of lumps and tests and karmic buses had to be shelved
temporarily while I navigated my way through my messy, complicated,
exhausting life. Once I got home from TicTac and scheduled my
appointment -- actually, once I scheduled the first of what would turn
out to be a veritable NBC miniseries of appointments -- I began to
worry less about having some hideous terminal disease than I did about
having some disease,
period. I worried that even if it didn't
turn out to be terminal, it was still going to be inconvenient, and it
was probably going to hurt like hell, and it was going to be this huge
interruption in the middle of my messy, complicated, exhausting life.
And that really
pissed me off, because I happen to like my
messy, complicated, exhausting life just the way it is,
has only been in the past few days, as we waited for the test results
from the fine needle aspiration biopsy, that my thoughts began creeping
back to the morbid.
it seemed to manifest itself in dreams. On the Sunday night before the
test results were due, I dreamed that my boss was helping me pick out a
dress for my funeral. "Everybody
is going to be looking at you,"
she said cheerfully, as we stood in front of a rack of Gunny Sax
dresses."You want to look
nice, don't you?" On Monday
I dreamed that I was washing my hands with one of those fuzzy bars of
soap Grandma used to buy for us when I was a kid: the kind of soap that
melted away, layer by layer, gradually revealing a tiny prize buried at
the center of the bar. Usually the prize was something like a little
plastic dog or a miniature gyroscope or a penny whistle that left a
burning soap taste on your lips when you blew on it. As my dream self
stood at the bathroom sink washing my hands for dinner, the prize at
the center of the bar of soap turned out to be a tiny human skull, made
out of solid gold. I
could still feel the weight of it in my hand when I woke up.
the night before the results were due, mercifully, I didn't dream at
-- as I said earlier -- it isn't cancer. The results came by phone on
Wednesday morning, right in the middle of typing a 43,897,621-page
asbestos survey report. It turns out to be some kind of completely
non-threatening, non-lethal medical condition I'd never heard of. ("Clearly
benign" is the bottom-line
diagnosis. Were there ever three more
beautiful, more life-affirming words in the history of the English
language than "clearly benign"
... ? Besides "I love you,"
I mean, or "100% fat-free,"
or "See you Monday"
still got one more test to take, week after next -- another routine
poking/prodding session, just to tie up a few medical loose ends -- but
they assure me that this is just a formality. For all intents and
purposes, the drama is over. The bullet has been dodged. The speeding
bus has missed me by a fraction of an inch. It's like being handed a
permission slip to resume living my messy, complicated, exhausting
life: to go back to worrying about the Tots and worrying about my job
and worrying about the world and worrying about my website and worrying
about who will win "Survivor: Pearl Islands" ... all without carrying
around this stoopid little knot of fear and dread and uncertainty,
everywhere I go.
all without feeling the greasy diesel breath of an AC Transit Karmic
Articulated following hot on my heels ... just waiting for the chance
to run me down.
throw a rock?