Here’s some context on this – I wrote this draft for a class and never used it. It was too dark. Re-reading it now I still like the concept and maybe will expand it out into a full story at some point. It think it’s pretty reflexive of my early writing style where I used a lot of colloquial language and humor to interject my own personality into the work.
Today was the greatest and worst day of my life.
It was great because as I sit here writing this, I feel great. I had the time of my life last night and have never felt freer in my choices.
This was the worst day of my life because I found out I was dying.
I don’t mean the existential version of dying where I realized that one day when I’m old and grey I’ll drift off to a peaceful sleep surrounded by loved ones and never wake up… I mean that at 3:41pm, while sitting in my doctor’s office staring at a picture of his ugly kids and surgery enhanced wife, he said told me in overly dispassionate tone that I had maybe had a year left.
Cancer of the fuck you.
It’s an odd feeling, starting that countdown to the end. The news punched me in the gut and I wanted to vomit cheerios all over his desk. In the movies it always takes a dramatic minute or two before the news sinks in. In my experience it took all of a third of a second before I wanted to punch the fucker in the face and demand a retraction.
I lost all concept of time, sitting there listening to him try to inject some semblance of hope into what was clearly a hopeless situation. People die of Cancer every day, and one day soon that person would be me. “We can try Radiation” he said. “We can try Chemotherapy, but the chances are slim. If we had caught it earlier…”
Mentally I had retreated into my own head. Basically a mini-psychotic break. I heard him, and I’m sure I nodded or made some gesture; but all I could think about what to have for dinner.
What wine goes with Cancer? Definitely something red… maybe a good Cabernet.
Not long after I was leaving. I had managed to schedule some sort of appointment for follow up, though I don’t think I have any intention of following up.
I sat in my car for a minute, trying to figure out my next move. My mind was all over the place. I wanted to be an Astronaut when I was a kid… can I pull that off in less than a year? I always wanted to go to New York City… that seems like a much more attainable goal.
My first choice was the grocery store.
I’m not sure how long I was standing in the pasta aisle, staring intently at the shelves but not actually seeing anything. I was dying, and in it seemed relatively soon. That’s some fucked up shit to deal with. I probably could have stood there, working my way through the five stages of grief, a bottle of shitty pasta sauce in my hand for hours… but as it happens, a bit of kismet intervened.
“Elliott? Dude, you look like shit.” Matt, a casual friend I played basketball with was standing in front of me. “You alright?”
“Uh, yeah. Matt, what’s up. Good seeing you…” and I walked away. I just put my plastic basket down on the floor and left.
I wasn’t sure where I was going. I got in my car, no particular destination in mind and drove. I must’ve circled the town five times before ending up in a seemingly surprising destination; my driveway. I’ve read those stories about people being faced with some traumatic situation and they just get in their cars and starting some grand adventure; but I’m willing to bet that for every adventure that starts with a turn of the key, a billion or so other people just end up at home still pissed off that their wife left, they got fired, or in my case they had a year left to live.
I’ve watched those shows on TV where someone says something seemingly profound like, “The world looked different to me somehow.” Bullshit. I still had the same apartment, with the same furniture, and the same stupid shit I see every day. I flopped into my familiar ass groove on the couch and flipped on the TV, not really paying attention to it. I popped the lid of my laptop open and checked my email.
Somehow in the back of my mind I half expected an email from my mom, crying, apologizing for spanking me when I was ten.
As it were, I got ten emails of craptacular spam.
I logged into my facebook account. Twelve friends on, no one I liked. Status updates, Farmville, book reviews… fucking miserable.
Okay, so maybe not everything is the same. I looked at this bullshit on the screen and it bugged me. These people were caught up in inane crap and here I was reading it because I had nothing better to do that sit there and fucking die.
I pulled up my list of friends; Two hundred and twenty eight friends. I scrolled down the list looking for the first victim to delete. Shep Turner, bingo… a guy who I used to play with in third grade. I don’t know shit about this guy, he doesn’t know shit about me. He could have grown up to be a serial child molester with a penchant for shoving vicodin up his ass. Here I was dealing with some major life events and he was bitching about his fucking facebook farm! Fuck that shit!
Two mouse clicks and he was out of my life forever. The finality was empowering… for almost ten seconds. He really was out of my life forever. I was going to be dead and this fucker wouldn’t care or know! Call me an egotistical prick, but if I’m going out I want a big fucking billboard that says “Elliott died today.” I want people crying in the streets, and Presidential speeches, and a worldwide moment of silence; and I’ve already managed to take one guy out of that loop because he had the audacity to fill the void in his day with a little bit of Social networking.
I found his profile and re-added him with the short note, “Dude, accidentally deleted you.” I could’ve gone with the longer, “I’m going to be dead soon and I want you to be my facebook friend so you might miss me when I’m gone,” but he would’ve taken it as a joke, and it probably would have made me feel shitty when he actually found out.
I looked back over my list of friends. People I knew in college, high school, middle school, grade school, Ex-girlfriends, ex-girlfriends roommates, and ex-girlfriends ex-boyfriends who they were still ‘friends’ with. There were even a few people I’d never actually met, but had chatted with online with for years through various other fads (AOL, Myspace, etc.). I even checked the list of who I was following; a few bands, a couple of celebrities, a few politicians, and the President of the United States.
All in all, it was quite a robust list of friends that a dying man could be proud of…assuming all of these people had any emotional stake whatsoever in my life. If all of them came to my funeral and brought dates (we’re talking the social event of the year) plus any family that was obligated to show up, my memorial could be a rager with six hundred people. Boomtown. I should book a DJ.
One of the weirdest things about dying is the constant and phenomenally cruel way reality crashes down and drowns any amount of hope or suspension of disbelief I may be harboring about any and all situations. Most of these people I barely knew and some not at all. The ones I did know I wasn’t close with. I was 29 years old, single and working a job I barely liked. Even my closest friend Ian had been relegated to online status, even though we still lived within eighty or so miles. We still saw each other, and he’s still the first person I want to call. I’m definitely not going to send him a fucking email about this.
I needed some connection. I needed to hear a voice and not just read some text on a screen.
I checked to see who was online hoping to find someone to reconnect me to the physical world.
Bingo, Scott Brosby.
I worked with Scott in College and he’d actually been a pretty good friend of mine. We bonded because he was another Jewish guy who had sweet spot for the love of shiksas and vodka.
I clicked his name to send him a message.
ELLIOTT: Dude. Sup.
ELLIOTT: Fucking bored. Anything going on tonight?
SCOTT: You still livin in Sacto?
ELLIOTT: Yeah. Anything doin tonight?
SCOTT: Hittin a club. You wanna come?
ELLIOTT: Sure. Time/Place?
SCOTT: 815 L / 10:30…?
ELLIOTT: Sweet. Hit my cell if something changes.
And thus it was so that on the day I learned my time on this sweet earth was going to be drastically shorter than I originally had anticipated, I ended up drinking Vodka and Pineapple juice with Scott in a overly crowded and sweaty bar. Conversation was shallow and meaningless. It’s not that I didn’t want to talk about dying, it’s just not something you can yell over a rap song whose premise is about ‘hittin dat ass’.
I opted instead to get a little too close and personal with a chubby girl on the dance floor. Somewhere on that dance floor, with my hand groping her doughy flesh, I felt the rush of being free of long term consequence. Who gives a fuck if I drink too much? Who cares if I take this chubby girl home and maw her box until she suffocates me with her floppy white thighs? Consequences-fucking-schmonsequences, right?
Two hours later I was doing tequila shots in her bedroom and peeling off her clothes. I wasn’t shy or inhibited. I didn’t care what she thought of me. It was one of, if not the best, sexual encounter of my life.
I made it home when the sun light was just beginning to wash away the dark from the horizon. I had the slightest hint of an approaching hangover and was a little sore from my rambunctious encounter with the chubbette, but was jovial from my night of true freedom and reckless abandon. It was and is an amazing feeling. Cancer of the fuck you, fuck you.
There was only one thing left to do before climbing into bed and finding blissful sleep, and that’s call Ian. He was my best friend and deserved to know. What’s more is that I needed him to know. I always knew that he’d walk through hell with me, and I just crossed the river and bought a ticket.
It was the hardest conversation I’d ever had. Not a lot was said. He’ll need time to process, and so will I.