“Are your ready to see this patient?” asked my attending.
This patient was a young mother-to-be, otherwise healthy with her first baby on the way. I had hardly conducted any prenatal checks myself nor led a gynecological exam. I was vaguely familiar with the questions I should ask and distantly comfortable with the physical exam maneuvers I was to perform.
I had done them before, once, in a time that seemed so far past. Mentally, I weighed the pros and cons of leading this appointment. The cons seemed to stack up.
“Are you ready?” echoed in my head.
The hollow spaces hissed back, “No.”
She withered into a sliver of a woman after I told her the news, “Stage 4 pulmonary adenocarcinoma. You have lung cancer that has spread throughout your body.”
“But I was so healthy?” you could see her life decisions replaying in her eyes through a lens of doubt, questioning everything.
“I am incredibly sorry. I honestly don’t know what to say.”
So I sat there while she delicately sobbed her regrets away. My hand reached out and held hers. I’d occasionally add prognostic words - chemo, palliative, radiation, family - but they just evaporated into the room’s dark cloud.
“I’m not ready for this.” her eyes pleaded with mine.
She texted me, “We need to talk.”
It’s amazing how a cliche can make your heart drop.
“Not me, not right now. I just can’t.”
My brain replayed everything - the memories, the laughs, the chemistry. After all that? How? Why?
I put my fingers to the phone’s keyboard.
There was about a 20 story drop between me and the rushing river below. I was perched on a small metal grate that jutted out the side of an old bridge. It was a crisp winter day, clear skies, and nothing but the sounds of nature around me.
It was a beautiful day to jump.
The man who jumped before me screamed the entire way down. I wondered if I would do the same.
The only thing connecting me to the bridge was a thick bungee cord. I got into a squatting position so I could explode out into swan dive as beautifully as possible. My friend held a camera to record everything.
Behind me, the jumpmaster yelled instructions, “THREE. TWO. ONE. DIVE.”
“No one is ever ready.” I thought. I led that appointment.
“No one is ever ready.” I whispered back. I never saw her again.
“No one is ever ready.” I texted back. She never responded.
“No one is ever ready.” I jumped. I loved the rush.
We are never ready. We are never one-hundred percent.
It’s the missing percentage that makes life thrilling, worth loving, worth living, worth trying.
Standing uneasy on an old ice covered rail bridge, winters haunting silence is broken by a call from you. A staticky voice sent to me in the clouds.
Time has treated you well as you ramble about each new soul, they are part of a collection presented to me like a possession I should be envious of. Told that this season is what brings people closer together. I’ve been surrounding myself with temporary muses and people who live to break or be broken. I wonder why I’m running on the fumes of dying friendships and the recycled words from books.
You tell me that I’m different, bitter and forcibly jaded. Asked how far daydreams can carry me and where they can take me. Candidly I tell you that after twenty four years, I’ve found my voice–wavering,unaware, nervous, drifting, strong, resilient, hopeful, unabashed.
One final question about why I never write about you. I write about the places I’ve been and the people I know. You are a place that I wish to never return to and a series of memories I choose to forget.
A long pause. As quickly as the winter came and went, you were gone again.