Saturday, July 24, 2010

A Bumpy Start

What. The. Fuck. is that noise?

It's not quite a grinding, and not quite a squeaking. It's like a combination of hard plastic and 3" foamcore, slo-o-o-o-o-owly being pulled against each other. Or maybe styrofoam on a blackboard.









I have now officially gone into bunny mode.

I'm on my hospital bed, in this room I've been jettisoned into, arms encircled tightly around my legs.

Rocking ever so slightly with my pounding heart.

Breathing, shallowly. Imperceptibly.

Like maybe if I make myself small enough, quiet enough - still enough - I'll disappear.





It doesn't really matter that there is a pause between, because the sound continues to reverberate, through each of us in the room.

It bounces off of piss-smelling floors and mint green walls, off of stained ceiling tiles and metal beds.

It is no coincidence that this bed that they've found for me, for her, for them, is mere steps away from the palliative ward.

It is no coincidence that this grind/stop/grind/stop/grind/stop/grind/stop is a physical manifestation of his shifting of gears; brakes on, skidding, not wanting to make that last stop.

When I muster up enough courage to actually look on the other side of the curtain on one of my returns to my lair after the bathroom, I feel weak-kneed and a sadness like none I have ever felt before washes over me like a giant whitecap.

Almost as physical as that sound.





Beside me lies a man.

I use the word 'lies' loosely, as he is constant, writhing motion. His body has begun to cruelly, evilly betray him, and now he resides here, every muscle in an involuntary, convulsive, slow contraction.

I use the word 'man' loosely, as he is - to my mind - simply spirit, encased in a flesh vessel.

The grinding sound?

His jaws. Grinding down his teeth. Micrometer by enamel micrometer. They will not get to be nubs; he will make his journey before that.


"The medication may give you some mouth sores".

This statement, factual and crisp, is delivered to me by one of the oncology nurses.

I'm not too stupid to realize that this statement is purely a cover-your-ass statement, not unlike a pilot, who, when steering a plane through a hurricane, calmly tells his passengers "It might get a little bumpy for a few minutes".

At first, all is well.

But then again, I am living in small segments of time.

The first half-hour was good.

The first two hours were good.

But then, regardless of all my shadowy optimism, of my dispassionate semi-belief that nothing bad will ever happen, it does.

Strangely enough, as predicted, the mouth sores do come.

Like gangbusters.

No sneak attack here. Nothing stealthy or sleek about it.

One moment nothing; the next, they're everywhere: palatte, sides of my tongue, throat.

Swallowing saliva is like gargling with broken glass.

In an 'unusual' reaction, I start producing so much saliva, I can't keep up. I'm drowning.

I vomit, I swallow, I drown.

"This is a very bad reaction" says my oncologist. "You must think I'm trying to kill you."

I give him my best dehydrated wan smile. Really? Did you just say that?

Oh, the gallows humor.

Never gets old.

So here I am.

In a ward, getting wa-a-a-ay ahead of myself, mere steps away from where all this might lead me.

And I sit, with more fluids pumping in to - ironically - stop the drowning.

I sit, listening to my room mate. Willing the stupid nurse to stop force-feeding him.

Willing him to stop gurgling up all his food when they're all on a break.

Willing him to go back to Grinnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnd.


Willing him to make it through the night.

Willing him to keep me company.

Willing him to not lead the way.

Willing him.

Just willing him.


  1. This was difficult to read, but it was absorbed directly through my skin. I could feel my saliva glands clenching in shared misery, my fingertips turned an icy shade of grey and for a moment the memory of pain was overwhelming.

    Powerful. Incisive. You've stripped life down to its bare bones and sinew, in sharing this.

    Thank you, Shelley.

  2. Ti: I applaud your bravery it sticking it through; trust me when I say it was that much more exponentially difficult to write. But, for me, necessary. I spent the majority of my illness trying to keep the status quo, trying not to make a fuss. And now, 4 plus years later, I am finally ready to start owning my terror. I have witnessed lives fall all around me, some swift, some as slow and prolonged as a feather floating to the ground. I just can't tote this burden any further.

    Thank you back. xxoo