Monday, November 26, 2012

Michelle in March

I am losing my husband, and I am losing one of my best friends who lives across the street.

With her though, it's not really about what I am losing, but about what she is losing, and I feeling sorry for myself for it.

Back in March I wrote down some thoughts about her journey with metastatic breast cancer.  One morning, I came home from a particularly rough night at work and met her outside at the end of our driveways to wait for the school bus.

I break down about my morning at shift change.  She is interested and wants to hear.  It’s a change from the usual topic of death.  She says that even as a family member, when her son was 17 and dying in the hospital with cancer, she could see how badly some of the nurses treated one another.  They are catty bitches, I say with enthusiasm.  It’s good to be able to tell another woman this, because my husband can’t fully comprehend what I am talking about when I say those two words together, even though he has been on the receiving end.  Before the words even finish leaving my mouth she is echoing them, grimaces, and says with a tone of feistiness “Do you need me to go down there?”

She is dressed up, wearing some of the layered necklaces that I admire her for, always looking put together despite being a mess inside.  There’s a new wig, the second wig.  I joke that she’s already losing hair from the wig too as I remove a long strand from her white shirt, and she laughs.  I tell her it’s a nice style and looks good on her.  What I don’t say is that I miss her old hair that spoke of vibrant health.  

She sees her youngest son off to school, tells me that every day he says he is dropping out of kindergarten.  There is an oncologist appointment this morning to discuss her pain.  She gets through the day with church people and her close friend Stacy, and at night helps her kids with their homework, but in the very late hours that's when it gets bad.  She has been up the past two nights laying on the floor in the bathroom.  I assume it is from vomiting, but she says it is just that she feels like she has to grit her teeth together from the pain, all alone in there.  She won’t take narcotics, not now, not this early on.

She senses my drunken sleepiness and tells me to go lay down.  As I walk away, instead of feeling calm and contented with the camaraderie we just shared over mean women, I want to scream “Noooooooooooo!  You can’t die.  You are the closest thing to a best friend that I have right now!  The only true Southerner who seems to get my sarcasm and is not offended by it!"

I don’t ever want her to see me cry during these moments.  She would ask what was the matter, and I would have to lie.  Would she forgive me if she knew that I was blurring the honesty line a little past where friends normally go?