I’ll be damned if that bird wasn’t right. My girlfriend is a cancer survivor, too. But she went through chemo and radiation, and I didn’t—she didn’t have any body parts chopped off, and I did. Our suffering is more or less the same size, but shaped very differently.
On the night that we met, I was wearing a fragrant T-shirt with a Pushead illustration of a fetal skeleton inside a bottle on it, while she had on a Christina Hendricks–esque wrap dress in a deep blue that set off a blood-red hair waterfall pouring down her back. I said, “Oh, hang on, you’ve got something stuck to your forehead there,” and she replied, “It’s probably just lint, stuck in the glue for my wig.”
“Oh,” I said, “is that not your real hair?”
She said, “Well, it grew out of somebody’s real head and I paid a lot of money for it, so I’d say that it’s my real hair now.” That’s how I found out that she was finishing radiation for Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
It’s not always that easy to communicate what I’m feeling, or to understand her when she says, “Everyone’s going to die, Jeff. Cancer patients just have more data.”
No Paris Review, Jeff Simmermon em “Chasing Away The Big Black Bird“.