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Friendship Sad Christian

Oh, Mark. What has become of you? It was obvious that we were both incredibly happy to see one another. We were both terrified at the same time, and both terrified for the same reason. We didn’t want you to get sick. I’d spend every single day here at your apartment with you if I could. Already your neighbors know me by name. I spend more time in your apartment than I do in mine. Five days a week I'm with you. We watched TV for a long time yesterday. Binge watching a series with you is a new experience. At one point you laid down with your head on my shoulder just like we used to, all those years ago. When you laid down again, I ran my fingers through your hair and pulled on it by the fist full the way I always had, the way that used to alleviate your headaches. After about a full minute of that, I noticed something I’ve never seen before. A large mass of your hair had piled up on the pillow beneath your head. Your thick illustrious hair was no longer as thick as I remember it being. You didn’t notice, but I paused for a moment and began to cry. 

In the middle of the night when you were being woken up from the pain you told me about the process you had been through. For chemotherapy they hooked you up in the hospital to the port that still is embedded in your chest. You would sit there for six hours with nothing to do except reading the pamphlets they would hand you about what it is they were giving to you. This one was for breast cancer, that one was for colon cancer, but none of them actually were specifically designed for pancreatic cancer because there isn’t a cure for that one. They’re just trying to do whatever they can do; whatever possible. 

I didn’t know it was pancreatic cancer until then. I didn’t know because you didn’t want me to know. But I will always always cherish the fact that you finally let me cook dinner for you last night. Chicken with rice, a very simple dish, but one you thoroughly enjoyed, and you even asked for more. I’ve wanted to cook for you for the last three years as I spent every single weekend and most of the weeks with you in your apartment. Until now I never had the opportunity. It was far more simple than what I would normally cook but it was easy to digest and made with nothing but the ingredients you already had. 

I do worry so much about you. I love you. Always before when I knew somebody was going through a hard time, I always showed up to help out in whatever way I could because I thought they needed me to. With you it’s different. With you I do it for me. I do it for you also, but I’m doing it for me because I want to spend whatever time I can with you now. I can honestly say it’s selfishly motivated because I know without a doubt I have never loved anyone the way that I love you. The way I know I can trust you.

Your smile makes me feel a sense of joy I’m unfamiliar with. You laugh at something in your phone and your eyes light up. It’s not an overwhelming happiness I feel in that moment, as I normally associate joy, but rather a calming sense of knowing in that moment that you are happy. Knowing that if you’re smiling, for a brief moment the pain is gone just enough for you to be at ease and be able to smile. You’re entertained. You laugh or chuckle and my heart lifts just a little, the heavy feeling of your constant pain no longer laying upon me like a ton of bricks. As much as your pain hurts me, I can’t begin to imagine how it hurts you. I love you. I pray all the time that I could take it all away from you and feel it myself instead so you wouldn’t have to. 

I’ve tried bargaining with God many times, most recently last night. I placed my hand on your back and prayed to God to heal you; to take me in your place. For all my prayers the only thing that has changed in these three years has been the color of your kitchen from our painting it together last summer. What I wouldn’t give to take your cancer as my own and to give you that peace and long life. I think about that far more often than what would probably be deemed as healthy. I have so few things in this life that I ever truly wanted. Among the biggest dreams I ever had was to know this kind of unconditional love. Now that I’ve had it, I’d trade my life for you to live on. I’m sure I would find things I would need to take care of before being truly ready for death to come but I would take care of them and move on if it meant making sure you had another shot at life, guaranteed. 

As you concentrate on hearing the voice on your phone that I’m not privy to I can’t help but notice the hair on the couch I wasn’t able to sweep away yesterday. You talk about options - maybe the cancer is gone from the chemo; unlikely but possible. Maybe it’s shrunk small enough that a surgeon can remove it - a great hope, not as unlikely but still unlikely enough. And maybe it’s not budged at all, and targeted radiation is the next step. You talk of three options and I realize how much you want to live. You may not realize it but death is not an option to be considered, even for you. It gives me hope. I wish I didn’t have to hear all of this through the conversation you have with someone else though. Why couldn’t you tell me these things? Do you fear telling me that badly? Somehow I thought you were more open with me than that.

Then you say into the phone “we have to figure it the fuck out. And if we don’t, I’ve had a good run. I beat the odds already. Only 20% are candidates to receive the whipple surgery and only 5% of those make it off the operating table, less than 5% of those make it five years and only 2% of those make it to ten years. They cut me wide open and took cancer out of my body. I still smoke. I eat like shit. I don’t exercise. Now, WE GOT THIS and I can just watch the world go by outside. That chemo was very aggressive and heavy duty. It almost glowed going in and sometimes it glowed coming out. I was having all of the rare side effects. Four bags of chemo, three there and one bag to go home with me. All those rare side effects, where it says almost nobody has these, I was having them all. It just got worse from there.” I had to stare at my phone and pretend to be on social media so you didn’t see the tears in my eyes.

My poor Mark. My poor friend. I may never know the pain you’ve lived through. I just wish I could take it all away from you. I wish you weren’t so resigned to trying to accept death as an option. You are a miracle to have survived what you have. But you are MY miracle to have given me the emotions in a heart I thought had died long ago. You gave me the impossible. You gave me a reason to love unselfishly. Yes, you’ve had a good run. But please don’t die. You’re not done yet. You still have things to do. You have life left to live. I’ve healed as much as I have because I had you in my life. I know that’s hard to understand, but it’s real. 

“I haven’t filed taxes in five years,” you just admitted to a friend through the phone. Now I finally understand so much more. You don’t plan to live long enough to be audited. You are as broken as I am. This is your burden you refuse to share. This is what keeps you at arms length, but also bonds us. We are broken, separately, together.

Oh God, please don’t let Mark give up. 

Mark passed away April 1st, 2022. 

May 31, 2022 20:25

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1 comment

Michael Regan
17:57 Jun 09, 2022

Your name popped up in Critique Circle. I liked the way you talked about the relationship with Mark, but, the story left me with a lot of questions. I liked this story enough to read your previous stories. Your first story 'filled in the blanks' on the things I had trouble with in this story. Perhaps an amalgamation of the two would have worked better.


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