Whole

I’m scanning the internet for a meme, a joke… something to express all of my fears as something light and silly, something laughable to get it off my chest…but there isn’t anything. I want a way to say it all out loud because I’ve been carrying it around for weeks, and I don’t know how to say what I need to say without feeling pathetic. But still, I can’t do this alone.

I feel hot, then cold, then numb. I’m tired and I have to lay down. I reach for a bottle of whiskey and tell myself that I’ll still be a woman when all of this is over. I run my fingers over my scars.

I never wanted my womanhood to be defined by sex and childbearing, but suddenly unable to do either, I find myself grappling with my value as a human. Will anybody want me? Do I have anything left to give? It was supposed to be a robotic surgery, picking through my muscles and nerves for adhesions, when suddenly the doctor sprung on me that the best option, really, the option I’d ultimately need, was a hysterectomy. The disease is already growing back, they said. Your organs will fail you anyway.

What?

Maybe this is a good thing. That’s what I tell myself, likely because I have to. Stay on the sunny side. Never again can someone claim they don’t want children, sucker me into a relationship, and then drop the bomb that I can’t fulfill their needs and they just thought I would change. One boyfriend knew three weeks in that kids were not an option with me, and he told me he didn’t want any. Then one night, in an ugly drunken slur I would come to know far too well, he told my best friend he had absolutely always wanted children. He just secretly believed I would change. When I left, he accused me in a torrent of scorn and sarcasm.

“I’m so sorry I wanted marriage and a family!”

Because my choices are valueless and less important than his. Because I must have never wanted to be married or have a family of my choosing. Because my body is perfect and functioning. Because any man has the right to demand pregnancy of a woman.

My friend Mia always calls it like it is. “ ‘Sorry I wanted marriage and a family‘? That’s a nice way of saying ‘Sorry I baited you into relationship based on a lie.’” She was right. She usually is.

I can’t change myself. I can’t change that I want to foster troubled kids before I’d ever feel the need to push one out of my body. I can’t change that my reproductive organs have been weaponized to devour the rest of my body. Auto immune diseases are a living nightmare. Your body betrays you, and mine is destroying itself.

Maybe men will have to want me for who I am after this.  Maybe the truth of my body will shut it all down. Maybe it’s a good thing.

This probably isn’t true. I suppose someone can still romance me, pretend they don’t want children, and then drop me a few years in. Even the lack of a uterus can’t put off a man on the hunt. I’ve heard the words, “You’re my dream girl.” enough times to make me shudder. I can’t be your dream, I’m just a person. How could someone who can’t have children be your dream girl if that’s what you’ve always wanted? I’m exhausted trying to carry around the fantasies projected onto me because I look good in blue jeans and tell witty jokes. I’m nobody’s dream girl. I’m a woman with scars and sight and perspective. I’m not damaged or broken, but I’ve seen some ugly things, and I’ve survived them. I’ve learned and I’ve grown and I’ve evolved into something wiser, quicker, stronger, and more assured. I have power and value beyond my ability to satisfy someone else’s needs. I sometimes falter, but I know this.

I’m better now. Happier. Free of constant shaming. Free of control. Of always being wrong to him, being told I have terrible morals and am making wrong choices. I’m free of not being allowed to hang out with my friends without retribution. Of being yelled at for scheduling my own doctor appointments without asking permission. I am free.

But I also wake up in the hospital bed alone. There is no one to sleep in the chair overnight. No one to hold me while I drift in and out, bandaged and bleeding, No one placing a stuffed animal in my arms and telling me they love me. Today, I am my strongest, fullest self I ever have been…

But in these moments, waiting for the terrible things that will help or hurt me, waiting for the days of liquid food and throwing up in garbage cans, waiting for my eighth, ninth, and tenth surgical scars… I am lonely.

They tell me I can’t wear my red lipstick in the OR, but I need to feel strong, more than just a piece of meat and a compilation of statistics, so I paint all of my nails black and shiny.

I am powerful, I tell myself.

When I wake up at 3am to take the two anti-microbial showers, I am strong.
When I can’t eat for days and have to drink a gallon of chalk, I am strong.
When I spend the days bleeding and sleeping, I am strong.

 
And when I wake up with no uterus, I’ll be alone. But alone with the smallest hope, the belief planted inside me that I have to hang on to – that I am still good enough, whole enough, to be loved.

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Break Them, Lose Them, Leave Them

Lauren and I are decorating the tree.  We’re decorating the tree because it is December, because I’m a flexible Jew, and because Lauren is princessy enough to counteract all of my not caring about anything at all.  So we have a tree, and we’re putting pink tulle around it.  That’s how Lauren rolls.

I’m lucky to have her, and I’m glad she’s like this.  She gets me outside of myself sometimes, and I need that.  I pull out her snowmen, her angels and stars, and I smile.

“I almost got new ornaments this year,” I say, mostly to myself.

“Almost?”

“Well, yeah. I mean, I wanted to get some, but then I thought, why bother?”

“What?”

“I mean, I move.  I just, I always move.”

“But.. that doesn’t mean you can’t have nice things.”

“Yeah, I know… I know… it’s just how I am with nice things.  I either break them, lose them, or have to leave them behind when I go… and then I’m just… I’m so sad… so I just don’t really bother with things at all anymore.”

The second it comes out of my mouth, I realize how bad it sounds.  But I’m just being realistic.  I’ve moved so many times that anything I can buy more cheaply than ship gets thrown out.  Anything I have to worry about breaking is a huge liability, and anything I can forget has already been left somewhere between Fort Lauderdale and Finland.

I’m embracing myself, I say. I’m just admitting that I suck at this.

But it’s more than that, if I’m being honest.  It’s more than that.  I’ve lived here for a year without a dresser or blinds.  Without a phone that isn’t shattered or pillowcases my old roommate’s cat didn’t chew.  One day I woke up and realized that I wasn’t ready to settle in because I still hadn’t been able to admit I’d ended up here.  I haven’t moved on.  Not in theory, not in life.  Not at all.

*****

People forget, and I try to forget, but I can’t.

TOSHIBA TRANSFERS II 1709

The word “bride” made me itchy. I couldn’t wear it, it didn’t fit.  I was terrible at ogling place settings and invitations.

Every sales clerk at every bridal store had pitched it the same.

“He’s English!” They’d squeal.  “You’re going to live in Barcelona!” They’d shriek.

“It’s a fairytale!”

And I would nod, awkwardly, with a white dress 6 sizes too big clipped to me with the big orange bridal store clamps I’ve discovered they use to strap the samples on you.  The dresses never felt right, but I loved him fiercely, and he and I were going to build the life I’d always thought was out of reach.

The engagement was, truthfully, a dream come true.  Embracing everything I’d ever wanted with the man who always made me laugh and kissed me like the world was ending.  No fear, side by side, traveling, living in a foreign country again.  He would grin, sweeping me around in his arms, making plans.  The first place he wanted to take me was Italy.  We’d take weekend trips to Istanbul and buy produce from the farmer’s market by my language school.  We’d live in a shoe box apartment in the Gothic district of Barcelona and give bike tours to tourists, and these would be the years we would talk about for the rest of our lives.

I remember his speech when I brought home the pamphlet for the language school, sighing with longing.

“Why don’t you just go?  You go to school and I’ll work.  You never let anyone do anything for you.  You don’t trust anyone to love you enough.  Let me do this for you… with you.”

And suddenly all the feelings I was never sure I’d have for anyone hit me breathless.  I wanted to marry him, and I knew it.

Three weeks later on one knee, he pushed his grandmother’s ring onto my finger.  Everything I never knew I wanted, I had.

It’s been fifteen months since everything came crashing to the ground.

How do I ever explain how piece by piece, everything fell apart?  The mindfuck of loving a man like him was that his lifelong entitlement and privilege was so complete, he couldn’t even understand why anyone would be upset that all of his promises were empty, and all of his stories were lies.  Every failure he’d ever had he was bailed out of by his wealthy parents.  Everything he’d ever achieved had been purchased for him.  The concept of consequences, that people hurt, that people cared, was lost on him.

When I gave notice at my job he was lying about filing our marriage license.  When I was breaking my lease he was lying about getting a job in Spain to support us.  We had planned to sell his house to purchase a home in Barcelona when it turned out – the house didn’t belong to him.  His parents were bankrolling the charade.  He’d attempt to get off on technicalities and I would angrily force the truth – none of those games mattered.  We were adults.  Trust mattered.  Respect mattered.  Responsibility mattered.  He shrank from me, deflated in realizing his grandiose claims of taking care of us were just an empty boast.  He fell off the grid for a week.  He claimed he didn’t have a phone charger but posted on social media.  I told him I didn’t care where he’d been or what he’d done.  It didn’t matter.  He was nothing to make a husband of.  He was nothing at all.

My job was gone, my home was gone, I had sold my car and spent out my savings on the wedding.  Everything I had worked so hard for my entire life was broken, wasted on this useless man, who thought nothing of what he had cost me. I thought that love meant finally trusting someone with something important, and when finally I opened up to it, I was stripped of everything I had.

In the wake of everything I lost, I collapsed in on myself.  I turned off my facebook, I didn’t return calls.  I cut out everyone who looked at me cross eyed or said an unkind word.  Nothing but a bundle of frayed threads, terrified that if you touch me, I’ll all but come unraveled.

I cried when I saw pictures of old friends together, and I burned the contract for my wedding venue.  I vowed never to lose so much to anyone, ever, ever again.

My dream of traveling the world with someone I loved was just that, a dream.  And looking behind at the wreckage of my life I feel that I can’t take on a single thing if I have to worry that it will be taken away from me, because I just don’t have the strength to watch another thing I love fall apart.  How could finally giving my trust, the best of myself, leave everything in pieces?

Everything I ever wanted broken, lost, and left behind.

***

A year later, after reassembling my life, my heart is still reeling from my losses.  I’ve been wandering through life in some sort of aimless haze, somehow all stuck together on the outside – I got a job, a car, and an apartment again – but hollow on the inside.  Cracked and empty.  I have trouble feeling anything.  These little activities with Lauren make me feel more human.  It’s Christmas, so we’re going to buy a tree topper.  It’s the thing to do.

Lauren and I are strolling aimlessly through the Culver City Target, picking out wrapping paper and buying trash bags.  We talk about the holiday and her latest job interview.  She turns to the wreaths and bows, and I, restless, veer off into the clearance ornaments that no one in the past month felt were worth $6.95.

My eyes feeling glassy, half in and half out of head, I pause to gather myself.  And that’s when I see it.  A little glittery globe.  A shiny promise of the planet.  I pick up the ornament and feel my heart warm with love and desire.  Enticed and enchanted, I hold it for a moment, and walk to the front of the store.

A discount ornament with flecks of dried hot glue, a ball of cheap glitter all over my clothes, and yet… it’s something.  I decide that I want something for the first time in a long time.  Suddenly strong enough to risk another loss.  In the flick of a heartbeat, something in me wakes up.  I am not whole yet, but I am healing.

I clutch the globe to my chest, intent on making it mine.  And though I promise myself to do my best not to break it, lose it, or leave it, I know that if my best leaves it shattered to pieces, or stranded in a suitcase in Belgium, my heart will learn to love something once again.

And in the mean time, I’ve got the world on a string.

You’re hurting me.

Some days I’m so angry, and they stick me with another needle, and another, and another, and I just grit my teeth and take it.

“Anything,” I tell myself, “anything to get well.”

Some days I just stay in my room, I forget to eat and I don’t shower, and I cry a lot.

I’ve had so many needles placed directly into my nerves, or up through my vagina and into my abdominal wall, that I now posses the horrifying knowledge of what those things are “supposed” to feel like.  I understand the difference between when the epidural goes in properly and when the needle strikes my spine.  I can tell a botched IV an hour before my arm swells and the nurses take me seriously.  I can feel when a physical therapist has gentle hands, and I can sense if you don’t care if you’re hurting me.  And some of you don’t.

A few weeks ago I went to to have some of my spinal nerves destroyed with radiofrequency generated heat.  I don’t want to hope because hope has hurt so much, but I come in anyway, grasping at straws.  They go to put the line in, and even though I know I have “good” veins – clear to see, close to the top of my skin – they try to place it in my hand and fail.  I grimace as they fish around; I’ve felt worse.  They pull the needle out and try again, only this time, they hit something.  I jump and cry out, two things I never, ever do, and I try to tell them.

“It’s wrong, something’s wrong!” I yell, and they keep sticking me.

“Take it out!  It’s wrong, I know it’s wrong, take it out of me!”  I’m practically screaming.

“Sometimes it just hurts more in your hands.”

Sure it does.  They don’t know me, and they don’t know if I have a low pain tolerance, or any idea what this is supposed to be like, but I do.  “It’s wrong.” I glare.  “Take it out of me.”

They do, and when I feel my heart rate start dropping back to something close to normal I ask for a glass of water.

“We’re going to have an IV in you.  We’re just about to hydrate you.”  The doctor says.

I can feel the heat behind my eyes as I look at him.  “That’s lovely, but I’m asking because I’m nauseous, so it’s get me a cup or have me vomit on your sterile table, your choice.”

A minute later I sip the water, tell them to try again, and bite down hard on my tongue.

They get it this time.

They wheel me over to the procedure room, where I’m drifting in and out, but not out enough that I can’t feel them yank my pants off.  I should be embarrassed, but everyone in Los Angeles has seen me naked and stuck me with a needle at this point.  There is nothing left to be ashamed of.  There is no pride left to lose.

Anesthesia does odd things to you.  I dream the same dream over and over, and in it, I am alone in a spotlight in a dark room, screaming out again and again,

“You’re hurting me!  You’re hurting me!”

But no one hears me.  Or if they do, they don’t believe.

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Snowflakes

I think it’s been about five years, and people still ask about you.

I think it’s been five years because I don’t count.  I’ve never counted.  I try not think about it at all.

When I do try to talk about you, I never know where to begin. The first time I saw you and we locked eyes across a common hall packed full of students too young to drink?  Or… your mouth pressed to mine on the balcony in that little town in Spain, high above the world or… that time you got down on one knee and pulled out your grandmother’s ring.

Everyone wants the story, and for once in my life, I don’t know what to say.

I knew you better, and I loved you harder, than anything before or since.  I’m still trying to write about you, where do I ever begin.

***

When we were living in New England, we raced to the top of the hill in the snow, only to have three busses pass us by and leave us shouting, cursing in the slush.  In the nine months I’ve lived here I have grown to hate blizzards, public transit, and the ever growing hole in my left boot that I still can’t afford to replace.

We stood there, growing later for work by the minute, shivering in the dull February morning.  I looked up into the grey sky, all doey eyed California girl, and remark to him on how the snow looks like little jagged chunks.  It only snowed once every other year or so when I was a child, I said. I’ve never really had the chance to see it closely.

He grins, feigning disbelief.  “My American baby,” he says, laughing.  I tell him to shut up as he hooks his arm around my back and draws me to him.

“Here.”

He scrapes my collar with his credit card, and holds it up for me.  I am twenty six years old.  I have never seen a snowflake.  I stare at it, all tiny and perfect as he holds me to him with his other arm – and I can feel him – warm in 10 degrees below zero, warm in the slush up our calves, warm through the two overcoats, three sweaters, and four shirts between us.

I am beaming.  I am full of love.

Windows

I want to go to his house and break all his windows.  I want to take everything that means anything to him, and curb stomp it into the ground.  I want to punch him in the stomach a thousand times, until he finally hurts as much as I do, and when he does he will cry out and say “Little bee, I had no idea, I’m so, so sorry.”

And he will remember he loves me.  He will will wrap his arms around me, we will cry together, and everything will be the same again.

But they won’t.

And they never, ever will.

Fall

I’ve been doing everything I possibly can not to write about you.

I shut down my computer.  I make more plans.  I thwart my own desire to write.

I don’t tell friends your name, I won’t introduce you.  I put your flowers on the coffee table and stuffed the hand written note into the top left drawer of my dresser. Then suddenly, in a moment of recklessness, yanked it out and put it in my purse.

Unbeknownst to you, for the last two weeks I’ve been carrying your words, your crooked k’s and i’s dotted far to the left, everywhere I go. I know I’m falling for you. I’m fighting it every step of the god damned way.

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Pi

The thing I didn’t mention about my birthday is my toes.

Okay, I did mention my toes.

My shoes.

What I didn’t mention is that since I’ve lost the heels people would compliment with envy; the beauty, the stride, and the height… if I’m wearing a pretty dress I don’t know what to do with myself.  Work flats don’t go with strappy dresses and boots make me look like a streetwalker.  Thankfully, this is Los Angeles, so in a pinch, a pair of glittery flip flops will do the trick.

In my travels I’ve discovered a thing or two.

In Massachusetts, I’m a high maintenance clusterfuck.

In Los Angeles, I get called “busted” because I don’t paint my does.

It feels stupid to say out loud, but an athlete may define himself by a weight class or a line drive.  An intellectual is allowed to hold their identity in their ability to reason and recall.  My strength, my beauty, my ferocity, and my ambition were expressed in a wickedly vast, slick salvaged, bargain basement, sky high heel collection.

It’s pre-party and only Jenna and Nikki are at the house, unpacking extra wine glasses and opening makeup cases.  I’m hovering, vibrating in flux; a weird sad hummingbird tittering around my shoe based insecurity.  If I have to wear flats, I should at least put on nail polish.  Like looking good after a breakup, it’s less about inducing longing and more about the fact that you just can’t have any kinks in your armor.  No notches that don’t bend or holes in the armpit.  You can’t let the fragile parts show.

It’s only when I get on the ground that I realize I don’t think I can do this.  The bending and reaching.  The time it will take on one side.  I realize the physical impossibility of it.  No.  It’s your birthday.  Don’t cry.

As always, with a dumb sense of fight that can’t be cured despite an ever mounting pile of losses, I struggle to put all of my weight on my left side and prop myself up with my left elbow as I reach for the polish.

“You want me to do that for you?”  It’s Jenna.  It’s a simple question.

“I got it.”  I smile.  And I do have it.  I do.  I’m deftly painting my left toes almost like you might expect a girl to do.  From a distance, I could fake it.  You’d never know.  I finish, satisfied, and then stupidly look to my right.  I twist.  I bend.  I grope.  I fail.  I can’t do it.  I just can’t.  There’s just no way to paint my right toenails without gross bodily harm.  I am kicking and screaming inside, fighting to do it, dying to do it, and I feel the tears welling up as I turn to Jenna and start to open my mouth.

It seems so simple to allow someone to help you.  I know if I were seeing it from a distance I would wonder why it was so hard.  Hell, even up close and experiencing ti I wonder why it’s so hard.  Shouldn’t it just be like letting a tall person grab a box of cereal for you when you can’t reach?  But it isn’t.  You were never tall enough to reach that cereal.  But just yesterday, or at least, the last time you checked, you could paint your own damn toenails.  Your life is suddenly full of surprises, painful puzzles you never see coming, over and over again, unexpectedly having to solve an equation that never seems to be done.  You get ready to do something you’ve done a thousand times, like sit in a chair, or drive a car, or paint your own stupid nails… and you can’t.  You can’t, and you don’t know how to live your life without everything you knew to do before sickness.  You don’t know the first way around it.  And when you finally start to figure it out, you realize that the answer is just a damn circle.  A snake eating it’s tail.  An answer you can keep solving for day in and day out, from the moment you wake up till your head hits the pillow, and you’ll still never be finished.  Pi.

I realize why asking for help is so hard.  It is because with every concession, you feel you are reneging on a piece of your humanity.  In every trip I have to tell my friends I can’t take, in every part of my body I can no longer get my fingers to, I’m losing a sense of adulthood, autonomy, and self.

But Jenna is still looking at me.  And she’s a nurse, she’s not dumb.  She can see I can’t reach.

“Yeah,” I whisper, “Maybe I do need you to do the other side.”

And I scoot across the floor towards her.  Grieving my losses while thanking whatever goodness there is left in the universe that someone is still there offering help.  Because for now, whether I like it or not, I’m still solving for pi.

And today’s flavor is humble.

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Portraits

A little over two years ago, I started taking photographs.

I started taking photographs of the gowns I wore – the pills I took.

I started taking photographs of pain.

At first, I thought it was a weird, pop culture, selfie compulsion… but I wasn’t sharing these photos.  They never touched a twitter or a tumblr.  They never left my phone.

For months this went on; needle after needle, table after table, crumpled white medical paper and a camera phone.

When my boyfriend left, I cried and told my mother I finally figured out why I was taking these pictures.  I don’t look sick.  I look like a normal girl.  And in trying to be happy, in trying desperately to be normal, I took from the outside like nothing is wrong.  Or, if something is wrong, it can’t possibly be too bad.

Somewhere deep inside, afraid that no one believes me, I have been documenting my descent.  Can anybody hear me?

Last week a friend told me he had been suffering from a disease for over a year.  It took them that long to diagnose him, and silently, secretly, he suffered.  I wanted to tell him that I understood, that I truly understood, but how can you?  And then I realized that in the midst of my completely inward terror, I had somehow created a tiny bit of good to give.

Better than a billion of my stupid, useless words.  Portraits.

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My Girl

The day I was born, my father didn’t speak.  He sang.

They wrapped me in a bundle and put me in his arms; the youngest, the first and only girl.  There’s a faded picture of him cradling me, smiling, singing.

“I’ve got sunshine, on a cloudy day.  When it’s cold outside, I’ve got the month of May.  I guess you’d say, what can make me feel this way?  My girl, talkin’ ’bout, my girl…”

When I was four, before the 50’s diner shut down, my father would give me a dime to put in the jukebox, and tell me to play our song.  I would sit on his lap and he would give me half his milkshake.  We would sway under the neon lights and the fake car crashing through the wall until the Temptations sang their final note.

When I was fifteen, at a sock hop thrown by our church, I snuck up to the DJ.

“Play ‘My Girl’ for me?”  I asked, “It’s for my father.”

He smiled at me from across the room when it played, knowing who was responsible.

At twenty two, he went through my phone records.  I’d been living away from home for four years and paid for that phone.  He knew he had no right.  He found the international number of my British boyfriend, who he hated, and called him at 3am with a threat.

“Get out of my life!”  I screamed.  “I’m a full grown woman!”

My cat got sick that year, and was put in the animal hospital.  I remember driving up to see him from college, and passing my father in the waiting room.  We didn’t say a word to each other.  I looked at him through hard eyes and walked into the back room.

We grew farther and farther apart.  I left his faith.  I didn’t know how to talk to him anymore.  He told me that if he saw me running into a burning building, it was his job to rescue me.  I told him that I didn’t share his beliefs, that I was an adult, and I should have the same freedoms as everyone else.

We had a series of horrible fights, culminating in me shouting at him, “I don’t believe in your god!”  and storming out.

I went back to my place in Long Beach.  We didn’t talk for a while.

I am twenty four when my mother is hospitalized.  Only Dad and I come to visit her every day.  I curl up with her in her hospital bed, wishing with every ounce in my body that my love could heal.  I bring her chocolate milkshakes like the kind we used to get from the diner.  When visiting hours are over my dad and I drive back to their house together.  We don’t have the words to say anything, but in the car I hold his hand.

At twenty six, my world is shattered.  I was going to be married, and now I have nothing at all.  I gave up my home, my job, my car, and my life to move to Europe with my fiance, who has disappeared for a week.  When I finally get a hold of him to confront all of his lies, it’s too late.  I throw the ring across the room and cry.

“He wasn’t worthy of you.” My father tells me.  “Come home, come heal.”

When I didn’t leave my room for a month and did nothing but eat cheese and beer, he said nothing.  When I wandered the house in tears, he held me.  When I asked him if anyone would ever love me again, he said, “You are the bravest soul to walk away when you had to.  I know some who didn’t, and regretted it.  Someone will know your spirit, and someone will love you more than he was capable of.”

When I got a job and an apartment to get back on my feet, he lent me his car and told me he would miss having me in the house.

When I was twenty nine, my father got sick.  Truthfully, my father has been sick my entire life, and while his yearly hospitalizations have always made me nervous, over time I’ve learned to cope; it’s been happening for three decades.  This time was different.  He, along with my aunt and uncle, were throwing my Grandmother’s 95th birthday party.  I was on a flight, waiting for him to pick me up at the airport when I got the message that he wasn’t coming.  By the time they knew something was wrong, he was vomiting from the infection that had spread to his kidneys, and then to his blood.

“Can I see him?  Please, let me see him.”  I begged. I came from the airport as fast as I could.  But they wouldn’t let me in.

They take him into surgery before I have a chance to see him or tell him I love him.  I spend hours watching the little green tab on the screen above me, indicating that he is currently being operated on.  As the tab next to his name turns blue I exhale all the breath I feel I’ve been holding for eternity.  When they finally let me see him, I run to his bedside and cry.  He is pale, and he is tired, but he is alive.

They won’t release him from the hospital for a week.  He misses the party that he helped provide, the visits with all of the people who’ve flown in, the time with his mother, and I can’t stop the crying.  I realize that this was his entire childhood, and most of his life.  He’s taking it better than I am I think, because I’m realizing for the first time how many things have been taken away from him because he’s been sick.   How many things he’s had to lose.

I insist that I won’t leave Florida until they release him from the hospital, but on my last day there, they let him go.

Two months later, I have a grip on a clumsy piece of sidewalk chalk, and am drawing a large square in the middle of my parents’ driveway.  In the middle I write the words, “Dance Floor”.   I put my ipod speaker on the ground and breathe.  I don’t know why I’m nervous, but I’m nervous.  I ask my mom to call out my dad, who is in jeans and a ripped up shirt, having been working in the tool shed.

Suddenly I feel incredibly foolish, but he’s here, and I’m standing all done up in a white sundress, and I have to say it.

“Dad, it’s our 30th Father’s Day.  I realized it’s our 30th Father’s Day and I thought…”  I stammer  “I just know Dad, that the way things have gone, I might not ever get married.  There might not ever be a wedding or a reason to do this.  But this is our song, and this is our dance, and I’ll be damned if I let you… and this… pass me by because some guy I’ve never met hasn’t come along yet.  We always knew this was our song.  We always knew this was our dance… And I’m here, and you’re here, and you never know how long you get with anyone anyway…”   My eyes fill with tears as I ramble at him, but I manage to force it out.

“I love you, and for our 30th Father’s Day I want to have this dance with you.  Whether or not it ever happens anywhere else, it’s going to happen here.”

My mother hits a button and “My Girl” starts to play.

My father takes me in his arms, and dances with me.

Art. Cynicism.

Travis comes to visit me, but I’m blue, and I’m lousy company.  I shrug, and apologize for being in the doldrums.

“My body is broken and so is my heart.  That’s all I’ve got going on right now, and I don’t want to bore anyone with it.”

He tells me that people aren’t bored by me, and that everything has just happened, and is still happening, and really though, it’s ok.  I breathe out a sigh and let all my feelings of inherent failure out with it.

“I never knew what to expect for the future, you know?  I wasn’t a kid with a plan, ‘I’ll be a teacher, or a social worker, or an engineer.’  I never wanted kids, but I thought eventually, I’d love someone, they’d love me back, and we’d stick together.  Or I’d have a successful job that I truly loved.  I just figured by the time I was this old, I’d know at least one thing.”

“People are assholes.  That’s a thing.”

God bless Travis.  He can always make me smile.

Travis hates museums.  Just absolutely hates them.  But because I can’t sit down, hang gliding is too expensive, the zoo is forty minutes away, and the universe seems to hate him, I manage to convince Travis that we should go to MOCA, and check out contemporary art.

I love contemporary art because it can be horrible.  I love it because I neither feel the need to enjoy it or respect it.  I can love it, hate it, be completely transfixed, or call it a piece of dogshit (which it might literally be) and go on with my day.  I enjoy wielding this power.  There is an hour long video of someone chainsawing a post.  There’s a room full of sinister clowns weeping in terror over a dead naked body.  My favorite, however, is a disco ball sitting on top of a cheap orange wig in the middle of the floor.  That’s it.  That’s the entire fucking installation.  I’m feeling bad for the saps who volunteer to spend their days guarding these abominations for fear we might touch them.

In one room we enter, it’s dark, full of couches and sledgehammers.  There are headphones for us to listen in and a video projecting on the wall.  We listen.  Teenage girls’ faces turn blue, then pink, screaming, cracking mirrors, looking vapid, talking about denim and makeup and boys in high pitched autotuned, sped up voices.  I yank the headphones off and turn to Travis.

“Ugh,” I say, “It’s like…. dating.”

The guard at the door loses it.  Just loses it.  Doubles over and grabs his knees, laughing out loud.

“You need to stop dating in Los Angeles,” says Travis.

He’s right, and we both know it.  So we do what any reasonable, single people pushing thirty in the city would do.

We leave immediately, and go get beer.