My good friend has cancer and she's 32 / sketches from Summer 2012
--- Fourth of July, Summer 2012
We move our mats together during our morning yoga class. Our instructor calls the forms our bodies takes “shapes.” Cat Steven’s Free to be you and me heralds our sequence of shifting.
Later I pick her up and we head to the beach for a walk. Too windy, sand sandwich for lunch, no thanks. Taking cover we sit in a mini park someone made of a median cleaving two highways. Eating our quinoa, lentils and sip Perrier next to a group men smoking from greasy pipes. When we walk back to the car two boys ask, can we get a ride up the street? Yes, she says, so I nod, too.
Both boys from Scranton, PA. One works at a toilet paper factory, and he describes the paper roller he exclusively controls. "Size of a city block!," he proudly announces, "needs fourteen other guys to get it going!" In my rearview mirror I watch him put his hand to his forehead and say, but I don’t really like my job.
That night we pick up what I think is a watermelon and head to a rooftop party in Portero. A girl with mermaid hair helps me cut the belly of the fruit and we discover it’s a honeydew. Explosion of laughter, our friendship cemented.
--- First time at chemotherapy, Stanford Hospital
In the hospital and your Mom is telling us stories from her first few weeks as a nurse. She talks about washing curmudgeonly Art the Cart, a cursing, spitting, homeless war vet. She'd crack her knuckles and lower him into a basin set in the middle of the hospital corridor. Upon peeling off his shirt she discovered a woman’s vagina tattooed on his back, lazily spanning shoulder to shoulder.
"How we care for the ill is strange," you say, having heard the story before. You crunch on a graham cracker and sigh.
-- Taking a break from chemo, Stanford Hospital
We sit in the garden and you are glowing, if an angel tumbled down you would be it. You're telling me how your therapist told you to stand in front of the mirror and recite “I don’t fit in, I don't fit," and you almost passed out from lack of air.
--- First night back from your surgery in Texas
You are standing outside your Mission apartment when I drive my Prius up to the curb. You are Twiggy in the nineties, wearing black pants, an oversized salmon sweater, your blonde hair spiky and cut close. I think you look beautiful, and I say so, and you roll your eyes and mumble no. I drive my car with two fingers touching the wheel, taking a long, winding, slow route because I don’t want your organs to clash like tambourines inside your recently opened belly. Through the steam cloud of our favorite pho I tell you recent gossip, nonsense really, but I know you will laugh and stay entertained. We are sitting there I hope the lines around my mouth are showing in the evening slant of sun. I want to be equable with you, I want to match as the hormones ravage your body, aging you before your time. We are both wearing brown moccasins. We are both holding brown bags and red notebooks. But between us we only have three breasts, and that will always be an odd number.
photo from art piece called KIDS, made @CCA 2010