back in the land of relentless mortality
home after three weeks of ecstatic travel, straight back into the maw of bleakness and cold reality. my neighborhood is buried in four feet of snow. it’s 7 degrees. I slept for 12 hours after the 30-hour airplane slog (tack on an extra 8 hours due to the snowpocolypse) and now…straight to the hospital to take care of anthony for 24 hours in the transplant-halfway-house next to the cancer infusion center.
when i landed last night, the line for a cab at logan airport was over an hour long.
the cab dispatch kept walking the line and shouting out neighborhoods, trying to pair people up to get everybody home faster. how nice, I thought. I was dead tired after the 30 hour trip, hungry, nauseous, lovely. the cab to my hood is only about fifteen minutes, and subway and bus travel with this amount of luggage wasn’t an option. I called lee. he couldn’t get me, the car was snowed in.
when the dispatch called down the line for my neighborhood (the south end) I raised my hand and gleefully trucked my luggage to the beginning of the line at which point I was confronted with a woman arguing with the cab dispatch that she had not volunteered to share her cab with ANYONE and that “he hadn’t even asked her.”
I looked at her. it was late. cold. the cabs were arriving only every few minutes.
I looked at the other 300 people in line behind her.
I was pissed. I hated her for a second, her and her Prada handbag. I knew better.
I came up with a more clever comeback in the shower last night, which went:
“but now I REALLY want to share a cab with you. because I am totally fascinated to find out what kind of person doesn’t share a cab for fifteen minutes with a stranger in a snowstorm”
but instead I found myself inspired by that scene with Steve Martin from “planes, trains and automobiles” where he haggles with an attorney over the price of a bribe for a taxi in a snowstorm in New York the day before thanksgiving.
I looked at her and said:
“would you share your cab with me for $500?”
I’m not sure what I expected her to say, she just looked at me with horror, and at least I amused the rest of the line behind her, who all tittered in appreciation. I went back into the line. I waited.
when I got to the front, I offered to share my cab.
ah, boston: puritan land, home of harsh beauty and inescapable reminders of our own mortality and insignificance and stained, unholy nature in the eyes of The Lord.
an Anthony update: he has now been an inpatient for about 50 days, and while the good news is that the bone marrow transplant “took”, the reality is that the recovery process is relentless. he was supposed to be in the sterile halfway house (next to the hospital, as he needs to be near his treatments and the drives are too dangerous) for only about a week or two; it’s stretched into three, four weeks. his wife Laura and a small circle of friends have been taking turns doing 24-hour shifts, since he’s untended by nurses but is not allowed to be alone, and needs a caretaker. he can’t eat most normal foods, only things that have been frozen or canned or cooked through. he’s weak and stays in bed, and is going stir crazy, and doesn’t have energy to do very much of anything, including text and email.
I booked the trip to Australia back when he was supposed to get the transplant in September or October – we figured he’d be long out of the hospital and home, recovering, by now. not so.
I felt guilty leaving. I was mostly useless in the fall, even though I carved out the time to be around; he was mostly wanting to stay home, not hang out, conserve his energy for the upcoming transplant marathon. once he went into the halfway-house, I was needed. and that’s when I left. it felt incredible shitty, like I was a fair-weather caretaker who could help but only at my convenience. I’ve had enough supportive friends tell me to shut the fuck up, but you know how it is. it eats me.
adding the trip to South Africa dragged things out another six days, seven if you count the extra snow-bound travel day, but it was – in a roundabout way – unavoidable.
i texted him every day while I was away. sometimes he had the energy to answer. some days not. some stretches I was lucky to just get a series of emoticons after a few days’ silence. cell phones, texting, emails…it’s totally changed the way people are in hospitals. twenty years ago you lolled there staring at daytime television. now, if you choose, you can stay connected with the world through the little prison bars of your phone screen.
I’ve been following Zoe Keating‘s blog. jeff, her husband, is dealing with his own relentless cancer battle and she’s hanging on by a thread. a strong thread. I look up to her. I watch my friends, I take comfort in the fact that we are all weirdly, somehow, connected. I used to rely on anthony to be the strong one in my life…the one I could turn to, cry on, seek guidance, look for comfort, trust to be my honest compass. now I am finding myself looking in place where I knew I would eventually wind up if I got my shit together: inward. when there’s nobody around to prop you up, when the reserves run dry, when there is nobody around to comfort you in your particularly un-comfort-able state…that’s when you have to find yourself. you dig deep and find the hidden stash of self, the blessed lost quarter hidden in the cracks of the passenger seat, under the floor mats among the rotten leaves and sand and grime, which allow you to pay the meter and get on with things.
one more thing, and best put at the end of a long and rambling blog like this:
a lot of you have been asking if you can send things to anthony. yes, you can.
nothing can go straight to the hospital, because it needs to stay sterile-as-hell there, but his friends are picking up his PO box mail, and anything can go there.
do not send anything edible or alive or floral, and anything big and cumbersome is probably more of a pain in the ass. I suggest handwritten letters, small books, art you’ve made, poems, things like that. he’ll appreciate it. I haven’t wanted to share the address until now because I haven’t wanted to overwhelm him.
PO box 48
Lexington, MA 02420
godspeed us all.
I’ll post a blog about South Africa soon…if you have any great pictures send them along. it already seems like a dream from years ago.