Tag Archives: novella

INTERMISSION: CHAPTER 18

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I have spent my last half a week curled up in a ball trying to sleep away the days so that I could just hurry and get to my nights to sleep more. Vomiting has become as commonplace as blinking, and because personal hygiene is the very last thing on my mind, I haven’t showered or brushed my teeth in something like ninety-six hours.

I keep telling Jade that I’m sick and she keeps telling the nurse that I’m sick and the nurse keeps bringing nausea medication but it never works. It’s like taking Tylenol because your leg just got ripped off. The sickness has grown and amplified and magnified, no longer a harmless garden variety lizard but now a towering reptilian monster destroying various major cities that are, symbolically, each of my organs.

My “hangover” has matured into a full-fledged Death Bed Shutdown where I don’t feel pain; I am pain. It radiates from the center of my body, at a point where my ribs and lungs meet. I can feel my diaphragm; I can feel the meat and bone surrounding it. I can feel every inch of tissue, every cell, every strand of DNA, flowing with black hatred. My heart pumps blood and my stomach churns food and my lungs circulate oxygen and this spot in my chest produces pain, sending it out in waves, reaching into the furthest extremities of my limbs. My eyeballs throb and the light is blinding and sickening and overwhelming, every bright color a dart to the back of my skull. Every noise is sent through a megaphone placed against my ear. The television, the radio, the beeping of my IV machine, footsteps, toilets flushing, birds chirping, everything hits my brain like a bare-knuckled super soldier. Pliers twist and grind inside my head, and my stomach feels like an ocean filled with buttery fat, wave after wave of sloshy curdled goop washing onto my shores. I puke into the buttery waves and the world screams at me and the pain pinches my eyes and blasts through my body and I am on fire, filled with poison, my body shoving chemicals in and out, in and out, my liver screaming like a witch at the pyre.

 

The Black Tendrils are slowly dying, curling back like a rose bush in winter solstice, but a new monster is rising up, something worse than cancer, something without a face or a cure. Because it is the cure. This is not the cancer making me sick. This is the medicine making me sick.

I make earnest prayers to God to please just let me die. I am in so much pain. Every ounce of energy I have stored is being pulled away from me. Everything is a fight. Everything is a battle. Walking, talking, eating, chewing, shitting, blinking, breathing, it’s all one vicious fight after the next. My life is a Faces of Death segment played in super slow motion.

My stomach hurts so badly that I feel as though I can’t stand up. Every movement I make, no matter how small or subtle, upsets my senses like a boat in the ocean, capsizing it and drowning the crew. I lie as still as possible for as long as possible and think about how the doctor told me that the treatments will compound, that they’ll become worse every time.

This is just the beginning and I am at the end of my rope.

Never before or since have I felt such pain as that which plagued me through chemotherapy. I cry often and often I cry alone. I shut my eyes and see the flame of hope flickering, threatening to extinguish. The proverbial light at the end of the tunnel is far away, through a maze of subterranean tubes, and out of sight, out of mind. I’m in the desert and my ending is a slow burn. I can’t imagine ever coming out of this, ever being healthy, ever being unsick. I can’t see past the next moment in time, the next bag of chemo, the next dose of medicine. The pain builds and grows inside me with every passing moment, a thermometer rising, the mercury inside of it threatening to burst out in a spray of toxicity.

 

On Monday, I tell Jade that I want to die. On Tuesday, I repeat myself. On Wednesday, I say it again until I absolutely believe it. On Thursday, I just keep mumbling it over and over like a mantra, begging the darkness to swallow me up. Tiny violins play wherever I go. On Friday, Jade sits down next to me and says, “Is that really what you want? To die?” and I look at my feet, ashamed and feeling stupid all of a sudden. She repeats herself but I don’t answer. She tells me that I’m not going through this alone. She tells me that I’m not alone. She tells me—and I cut her off. I say, “I am alone. I’m the one in the hospital bed. I’m the one with the IV stuck in my arm. I’m the one with the pain in my bones and the fear in my brain—” and now it’s her turn to cut me off. She says, “You’re not going through this alone. You might be carrying the pain around but I’m twenty-four years old and I have to sit aside and watch my husband die . . . and the worst part is he’s just going right along without even swinging a punch. Where’s your fight?” and then she lets that thought hang in the air like rotten fruit.

She takes my hand in hers and rubs her thumb along the ridge of my plain, gold wedding band. “It’s loose,” she says, and I look down. Even my fingers are losing weight. I shrug. She slides my ring off my finger and silently reads the inscription that runs around its inside, hidden from view. She laughs and says, “I remember when I took this ring to the jeweler to have it engraved. There was a really old woman behind the counter and she told me to write down exactly, exactly what I wanted it to say. When I handed her the paper, her face,” Jade laughs. “Her mouth dropped open and her eyes popped out and she goes, ‘Is this a joke?’ And I say, ‘Nope.’ And the woman says, ‘This is for a wedding ring?’ and I told her it was for my husband to-be. She had this look that was like, Young people . . . . “Then,” she continues, “I remember on our wedding day, we walked down the aisle, just married and, in the backroom, waiting to be announced outside for the rice throwing, I told you to take it off and read it. Do you remember?”

 

And yes, I do remember. I gave it a tug and it came off easy that day, as well, from my nervous-sweaty hands. I held the shining circle up to the light, tilted it just so and read the following words, laid out in all caps: WE’RE NOT GONNA MAKE IT.

If I had any doubts about marrying the right girl, they vanished right there.

Jade now, in real time, in the hospital, three years into our marriage, slides the ring back onto my finger and says, “We are going to make it. Both of us. You stop telling yourself otherwise.”

I say, “OK,” and, “I know,” and, “You’re right,” and, while I quit saying those things and while I try hard to stop thinking them, they still rattle around in the dark recesses of my brain, cluttering it and infecting it.

I reach my hand out and hold hers, rubbing my thumb against the back of her palm until the nurse enters to remove my IV because, thank God so very, very much, today is the day we’re leaving.

The nurse at hand struggles with removing the IV thanks to the massive amounts of tape that had been used to set it to my arm. She apologetically pulls and tugs at the sticky material, tearing out countless arm hairs while ruthlessly jerking the catheter tube that rests in my vein in and out, in and out. I bite my bottom lip and my eyes pinch shut. The nurse picks at the tape with her fingernail and rips another strip off with a drawn out, “Sohhhhh-ryyyyy,” and a grimace.

 

When she finally manages to pull out the tube, I experience a sensation that I can only equate to that which you feel after jumping off of a trampoline, the way the ground feels foreign and strange. After eight days of the constant tug of the pole and tubes I feel like a part of me is missing.

By policy I’m not allowed to walk to the exit myself so I’m asked to sit in a wheelchair while my wife escorts me. I feel humiliated every time we pass someone in the hall even though I know the emotion is stupid and senseless.

One week after beginning my six-month treatment, I am released from the hospital and allowed to go home for an intermission—two weeks of down time before I return for my second interval.

When we get in the car, I lie down in the backseat and shut my eyes. On the forty-minute drive home I feel every single bump in the freeway, every pothole, every stomp of the brake. I feel everything, my senses not numbed but amplified. I am a glass of liquid, waiting to spill.

I ask Jade to turn down the music and she does but then I ask her to shut it off completely. I put my hands over my ears and can’t imagine this getting any worse. I ask her to pull over and I puke into the gutter twice.

We get home and I sit down in a soft yellow rocking chair, a piece of furniture that my wife and I found abandoned under a bridge when we first moved to LA. It seemed like it was in good enough condition so we brought it home.

 

Like a good dog, it’s been well loved.

Severe chills run up and down my body so I put on a thick hoodie, pull up the hood and give the strings a good tug, scrunching my field of vision. I shut my eyes and try to sleep but to no avail.

My mom asks if we feel like playing that popular board game Sorry! and my wife says sure and I say nothing but sit at the table and stare at the board. I roll the die—

—die—

—and move my marker and roll my die and move my marker and die and Cancer Marker.

I sit back in my chair and Jade asks what I want for dinner and I tell her I’m not hungry. My stomach hurts. I puke again, this time simply at the thought of food being placed on my tongue.

The hospital has sent us home with a small suitcase filled with pharmaceuticals: two kinds of anti-nausea pills, several pain relievers for head, several pain relievers for body, stool softeners because the pain relievers cause constipation; vitamins A through F, K through P and R, V and Z individually. My mother has also personally prescribed fish oil and ginkgo biloba, which I think is for memory loss but I can’t exactly recall.

Lying in bed that night, I stare at the fan blades spinning round and wonder how many times they’ve turned since I’ve lived in this house. Ten thousand? A hundred thousand? I start counting but only get to seven when my wife reaches over and gives me a kiss on my cheek.

 

I turn to her and she says, “Hey,” and I say, “Hey,” and, because I realize that I still haven’t brushed my teeth in over a week now, I sort of avert my mouth.

She places her hand on my stomach and says, “Hey,” and raises an eyebrow and I say, “Uh . . . ” and, even though I’ve promised myself to “be strong” the thought that keeps rolling through my head is, “I just want to die, I just want to die, I just want to die,” but instead I say, “Is this, like, sympathy sex?” and she laughs and says that she digs guys with cancer.

I smile and give her a kiss on the cheek and we try our very best but the entire time I’m just fighting my gag reflex from the constant rocking and my bones feel like they’re going to crumble and for some reason I keep picturing my dick as raw butcher meat and I am just totally worthless and there’s no way this is happening.

Cancer: the ultimate cock block.

I eventually say, “I . . . I can’t do this,” and lie back on the bed and say, “Sorry,” and she says, “It’s OK, I’m really into guys that are emotionally and physically damaged.”

We hold hands and I tickle her back and she goes to sleep and I continue to count, “Eight . . . nine . . . ten . . . .”

 

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BABY BLOCKS: CHAPTER 11

 

Another double whammy this week on the chapter front. We’ll start out with BABY BLOCKS: CHAPTER 11, which will mostly round out our cryo-banking experience (as far as it’s detailed here) followed closely by TIME OFF: CHAPTER 12, which is a shorty and doesn’t really work as a stand alone.

If you’re new to what we’re doing here, I’m releasing my book Cancer? But I’m a Virgo one chapter a week All. Year. Long. This week is chapter 11 and 12 but it’s not too late to catch up! To start reading from the very beginning, just click here!

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Three hundred million: That is both the amount of money Forrest Gump made theatrically, as well as the average number of human sperm per serving, according to Wikipedia.

Fifty-six: the yearly average number of people on the Sioux Falls, South Dakota, bowling league, as well as the number of healthy sperm in my semen analysis, according to Dr. Chaplips, whom I currently have on the phone.

I ask him what the chances are of me getting my wife pregnant. I hear him lick his lips and, judging by the crackling noise coming through the line, I assume he still hasn’t solved his oral issue. “Aaahh,” he says. “Almost impossible. Very unlikely.” I say, “One thousand to one?” and he pauses before saying, “Probably higher.”

“Higher? Like what? What are my chances of a standard human pregnancy?” I don’t know why I’m doing this to myself. I don’t know why I’m asking these questions. It’s already too late to do anything about it because the cryobank suggests that I abstain from myself for three days previous to each deposit. I just feel this desire to know how defective I am. If I were a term paper, what grade would I receive?

“Probably more around one hundred thousand to one.”

I take a couple small breaths and ever the Dumb and Dumber enthusiast, say, “So you’re telling me there’s a chance?” He’s clearly never seen the movie because he just says, “No. I’m not.” I thank him and hang up. I tell my wife the great news. “Babe,” I say, “We never, ever, ever have to use condoms again! Don’t you get it? I’m as sterile as a crayon! A potato has more potential for reproduction than I do! This is fantastic! This—this sucks . . . . ”

 

Inside I can feel the growth, the landmass, the intruder, the Cancer, growing larger and larger on my testicle. Every moment of every day I am reminded of it. Every moment of every day, I have a constant throbbing pain. Every day it grows and grows and grows. What was once a tiny pea is now a lima bean. It’s getting bigger. It’s stretching out. It’s making itself at home. And still I can do nothing. If I want to bank what little functioning sperm I have, there is nothing to do but wait. If I want children, I must gamble with my life. True Russian roulette.

The pain grows and the doctor prescribes me Vicodin, which I begin to pop like Tic Tacs or cashews or addictive prescription drugs. The pain grows more and I pop more Vicodin and the pain grows more and I pop more Vicodin and the pain grows more and I wait and wait and wait to bank. The banking will take a month. The banking will take thirty days. Cancer will take full advantage of me in that time, feeding itself and fueling itself off me.

The waiting gives me anxiety, and I neurotically touch My Lump, the way people will continue to play with a hangnail or tongue the sore spot in their mouth. My body wants it out, and I’m forcing it to stay in. My body hates me, and I am sorry.

Call me selfish. Call me crazy. Call me reckless. But I’ll have my children.

Even if it kills me.

Fast forward a couple blurry days, and I’m taking the Olympic Boulevard exit off the 405 freeway at 8 a.m. I’ve got my first appointment scheduled with the sperm bank this morning and am very excited to open a savings account with them.

The building is tucked away and is fairly understated, causing me to drive around the block a couple times before I find it. The parking lot only holds about eleven cars and most of the spaces are empty. On the front door is an intercom switch. I hit the button and wait. Someone buzzes me in.

Hidden buildings, hi-tech locks, espionage! This is getting dead sexy, and I’ve seen enough James Bond movies to know that the chicks involved are going to be hot. I open the door and put on my “cool face,” expecting to see some smoking bombshell blonde in a short nurse’s skirt. In my head, she looks just like the girl on the cover of Blink 182’s Enema of the State album. Those clowns at the semen analysis place don’t know shit about shit, making me rub one out in a dentist chair. These people here are professionals. I have no doubt about that. Professionals. Hot Nurses. Hot Nurse Professionals.

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(ABOVE: THE DREAM.)

 

I cup my hand over my mouth, smell my breath, and walk into a reception area containing only six chairs. An older gentleman who arrived before me lowers his newspaper and glances at me through Coke-bottle glasses. We make eye contact and both immediately think, You’re here to jack off! and then, JINX! 1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8-9-10!

He lifts his paper back up, and I turn my attention to the Hot Nurse Station where I come face to face with Bill Cosby and Mimi from The Drew Carey Show. The first sits behind an ancient IBM whose white plastic sheen has turned the color of eggnog, while Mimi digs through towering filing cabinets twice her height.

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(ABOVE: THE REALITY)

 

Now it should be noted that these two people are not actual Bill Cosby and not actual Mimi from The Drew Carey Show but individuals who look so incredibly similar that they could be hired to work at a children’s birthday party as cheap duplicates.

One final word on their characters: I will describe the first person as both “Bill Cosby” and then as “she” but trust me when I say that both of these descriptors are not only accurate, they are also absolutely necessary.

Bill Cosby says, “License, please,” and I slide my ID over the counter. Without looking up, she says, “Is this your current address?” and I say, “No. I didn’t drive that far.” She looks at me sideways, and I say, “It’s a South Dakota license.”

She glances back at it and laughs far harder than is deemed even remotely necessary for what can only be considered a subpar joke. She then repeats her folly to her coworker, Mimi, in a fit of giggles. Mimi says, “What? You’re laughing too hard. I can’t understand,” and so Bill repeats it again, the poor joke becoming less and less funny with every turn.

“Riiiiiight . . . . Buzz him in,” Mimi commands and Bill Cosby opens a door, ushering me to The Back. He/she hands me a small cup—sort of the ATM deposit envelope, if you will—and then says, “Choose any door on your right.” I examine each of them in turn and discover that they all look identical save for room 4, which has been decorated with wallpaper adorned with silhouettes of naked women.

I choose the room I’m standing in front of. I figure it’s the closest to reception and therefore probably the least used. Only a true pervert would choose this room, so close to other people. Only a true sicko would choose—I stop analyzing my choice.

Bill Cosby hands me a disc. I look at it: an adult DVD artfully titled Bangin’ at the Cabo Cabana. I say, “Thank you,” and he/she turns and walks away.

I enter the room and shut the door. Lock the door. This is not what I expected on the drive over. It’s a 4 x 4 closet with a 7” flat screen television and a stack of hardcore, full penetration, tit-squishing, spread-’em-wide, take-no-prisoners, anything goes, pornographic magazines.

I flip through a couple, and the pages are genuinely stuck together, crusty with usage. The classic joke isn’t that funny when you find your fingers running over a stranger’s dried semen. I drop the magazines and pop in the DVD. At this point, I’m still not certain if I’m going to watch it to the end. I’m not sure how I feel about this, making children like this. “Son, I remember the day I ejaculated you. I was in a closet by myself, watching a Puerto Rican girl get sandwiched by a couple of brothers who kept high-fiving.”

Curiosity being what it is, I hit play and turn the volume down. There is a pair of headphones connected to the television but I have no desire to touch them, let alone put them on my head. I wait. And then it begins. The most horrific thing I could imagine begins. From the sky, eight individual baby blocks drop until they’re in the middle of the screen. On each block is a letter and, all of them together spell out the name of the production company, which I won’t name here, a production company that, obviously, specializes in making porno strictly for sperm banks.

Everything really has been thought of. Half of me is disgusted and half of me applauds their ingenuity and sense of entrepreneurial pioneering. Actually, half and half is an unfair ratio. I’ll call it a 90/10 split, respectively.

And then, just like that, without any set up or story, without someone entering a room or taking off their clothes, without any dialogue or foreplay, from frame numero uno, Bangin’ at the Cabo Cabana immediately earns its title.

I reach up and hit stop. The screen goes black again. Much like the girl in the video, I feel as though I’ve gotten my fill of Hector (my name for the male actor), and I’m really concerned that if I watch the video to the end, the guy, rather than choosing to go with the “traditional” adult ending, will just decide to neatly collect his “product” in a little plastic vial and then set it on a nearby counter and frankly, if that happens, I believe I would just go limper than a spaghetti noodle in a bubble bath.

Mimi and Bill Cosby stop outside my door to chat about a party this weekend, some kind of dinner date. Mimi has a bad cough, full of phlegm. Bill Cosby does most of the talking and laughing. I double check to make sure the door is locked.

I’m so ashamed to be here. Not that I’m ashamed that I have cancer or that I’m sterile. I’m just feeling these very powerful emotions of human shame about masturbating. I can only equate it to pooping in the woods. You know it’s OK. You know everyone that you’re with is doing it and it’s totally normal but you’re just afraid someone is going to come around the corner and catch you in your most exposed state.

Snap out of it, Brookbank! I yell at myself. You’re paying them to be here! Now pull out that dick, and get yer whack on!

I do. And with the help of those sticky-paged magazines and the blonde cop with the nightstick on p. 27, it takes considerably less time then the dentist’s reclining chair experience did. I’m not really going to get into the logistics of the deposit itself, but I will say this: Even after my final visit, I’m still not completely certain what the best way to get the “money” from my “wallet” into the “envelope” is.

Once the deed is done, I screw the yellow lid on and it’s only then that I realize that they’ve never told me what to do with it. At the semen analysis place there was a Mr. Ed style half-door that I opened and placed the jar into to be gathered up by a faceless technician in the next room. I search the walls. Nothing.

I put my pants back on (yes, I felt the strange need to remove them completely, as the only thing that could make this a bit more awkward is dried cum gracing the cover of my jeans), unlock the door and slowly, slowly open it. I don’t want to alert anyone that I’m done. More shame. Shame. Shameful Shaming Shame!

Should I leave my cum basket behind? Should I take it with me? Which is the least horrendous situation: the one where I abandon it in the room and a stranger finds it, or the one where I’m caught in the hallway trouncing around with a porno snack pack?

After weighing the pros and cons endlessly, I decide to plant the plastic container into my palm and sort of twist my hand backward so that no approaching person will see what I’m carrying. I walk through a small labyrinth of narrow hallways up to another counter with more bulletproof glass, and I stop to wonder how many times sperm banks have been robbed. I set my collection of human sperm down on the counter and ring a bell. DING! ATTENTION EVERYONE IN THE GENERAL VICINITY! THIS YOUNG MAN HAS JUST COMPLETED HIS JACK OFF! CONGRATULATIONS, SIR!

I turn to leave and almost make it back to the exit when a small Asian woman who looks like Michelle Kwan wearing a baggy blue hazmat suit (helmet and all) pops her head out from the sliding glass door and says in a Darth Vadery voice, “Excuse me . . . sir . . . . ” All these dots are where Darth is doing his heavy breathing. “I need to ask you . . . a few questions . . . . ”

I come back over to Darth Kwan and, with my canned specimen resting next to her writing hand, she says, “How long . . . have you been . . . absent . . . ?” and I just assume she means abstinent.

She says, “Did you get it all . . . in the cup?”

I want to tell her that most of it went on the floor because of their stupid little cup technology. I want to tell her it’s on the TV and all over the magazines and on the headphones. I want to tell her that someone needs to go in there with some baby wipes and give every object in that room a cursory once-over.

But I don’t. Instead I just nod and say, “Yes, ma’am. It was a clean escape.”

At the front desk they charge me a hundred bucks and I say, “A hundred bucks? But I did all the work!” and ol’ Bill Cosby certainly thought THAT one was funny. And I don’t blame him/her.

 

***   ***   ***   ***   ***

 

 

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I’ve been banking “successfully” for several weeks now. Every Monday and Thursday, I come into work feeling like a completely twisted weirdo. My producer asks me how my morning is, and I turn to him, a guy I call Cookie Dave, and say, “Cookie Dave, this morning I jacked off into a cup inside of a commercial business. If I’m being totally honest with you, the last couple weeks have been pretty strange.” He hands me a small napkin with a cookie in it and asks if I’d like it. “Thank you.” Peanut butter. My favorite.

He asks me how the whole “cancer thing” is going, and I say, “They’re going to cut out my ball in a few days. They’re going to just . . . cut it out completely,” and he says, “Ouch,” and takes another bite.

“Yes,” I say. “Ouch,” I repeat. Cookie Dave tells me to call him when I’m done with my edit, and he exits just as my boss walks into my bay and begins telling me about some zombie movie he recently saw. I try to listen, but his words all run together into a sonic blur. He says, “Dead,” he says, “Blood,” he says, “Tumor,” and I say, “What?” and he says, “TWO MORE! They’re making two more sequels!” and I say, “I have cancer,” and he sits down on my couch and says, “What?”

I try to explain it in the most succinct way possible. “I felt a lump on my nuts . . . . I went to the doctor . . . . I have cancer.”

“Uh . . . uh . . . ” he stammers. This speech pattern and the blank looks and the blind stares and the hopeless get-well-soon phrases are something to which I’ll shortly become accustomed. He looks at me like I’m a puppy that’s had its hind legs blown off and now rolls around in one of those sort of cute, sort of depressing doggy wheelchairs. “Well . . . uh . . . that sucks.” “Yes,” I say. “It does suck. I have surgery in a couple days and they’re going to try to remove it. I need some time off,” and he says, “Yes! Yes! Absolutely! Anything you need! Any time off you need, you take it!” And then, again, “That sucks, man. That really . . . sucks.”

The room is silent, and I feel my tumor throbbing, calling out to me, begging for attention. I sniff and rub my nose, not crying, just trying to make noise to break the horrible silence. He says, “Wow,” and I say, “This zombie movie . . . . It’s good?” and he says, “They run!

The throbbing continues and the black venom stretches out slowly into my body while I do nothing but wait.

***   ***   ***   ***   ***

 

Next week is pretty monumental as we are going to be covering SURGERY: CHAPTER 13, wherein the tumor and the testicle will be attacked by strangers wielding blades and laser beams. So if that appeals to you (why would it not?), then you’re in for a real treat.

 

 

 

 

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PARENTS: CHAPTER 6

 

Welcome back for Cancer Monday. Every week we’re releasing a chapter from my book Cancer? But I’m a Virgo, which chronicles that one time I had cancer at 26, until the very bittersweet end.

If you’d like to start from the beginning, click here.

Otherwise, let’s press forward and read together about what it was like to call my parental units to inform them about my tumor.

 

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Over the last few weeks I’ve left my parents in the dark because I didn’t want to put them through unnecessary Cancer worry, especially if the problem were going to simply solve itself. Which it didn’t. So now I have to work on The Big Reveal. And remember, as any good salesman will tell you, presentation is everything.

Jade pulls into a Walgreen’s parking lot to buy a Diet Coke and we sit on the sidewalk and call her mom. “It’s a lump. It’s cancer. They’re taking it, yes.” My mother-in-law asks to speak to me. She asks me how I’m doing. She asks me how I’m feeling. I tell her that it’s no big deal. I tell her that absolute very worst-case scenario is that I have to get a little chemotherapy, just some needle and I’ll feel like I’ve got the flu for a bit. I’ll get better. Whatever.

She says, “Wow.” She says, “You’re brave.” She says, “Stay strong.”

The truth is, I’m not brave. I’m being forced kicking and screaming through this scenario. I don’t want to be here, and I never would have volunteered. I don’t deserve this.

Deserve. That’s an awfully big word that gets thrown around a lot. Maybe I do deserve it. I try to examine my life from a higher perspective. I’ve lied, cheated, and stolen; said hurtful things to people intentionally; torn people down verbally with complete purpose; and talked shit about my friends and family behind their backs. Maybe I do deserve this.

We drive home and I take a seat in my backyard on our patio furniture. I lean back in the chair and let the sun, one of the only absolute constants in our lives, hit my face, warm me, comfort me.

A man walks through my alley pushing a shopping cart and shouting, “Tamale! Tamale! Tamale con queso!” and I think about him and all my neighbors and how, as far as I know, none of them have cancer. Just me. Just all of a sudden. Nobody knows about my balls. Nobody anywhere knows or cares about anything right now.

My mom wanders around her home 1,500 miles away, feeding her dogs, her healthy children somewhere in the back of her head. My dad fixes a computer, thoughts of gigabytes and RAM clouding his brain, the world a dull fuzz outside of his peripheral.

Everything is about to change for them. They are about to become Parents Of A Child With Cancer.

I pick up the phone and call my mom first. I let it ring six times before I hang up. I set the phone down and stare at it, wondering if maybe she’ll call right back. I stand up and start pacing, rubbing my thumb along the inside of my pinky, a nervous tick I have.

I pick up the phone again and try my dad. It rings twice before he answers in a distracted, gruffly voice. “This is Mike,” he says. “Hey, Daaaaaad. It’s me.” I sort of let the word play out like that because I have no idea how to get into this conversation, how to ease into it; I didn’t plan an opening act or monologue. “How’s it going?” I ask, and he begins to tell me about computer problems that I don’t and probably won’t ever understand. I listen, but only to be polite because I didn’t call to hear what he’s been up to. I didn’t call for any polite reason. I called with one intent and I’m just waiting for my selfish turn to speak.

“What’s new with you?” he asks. And there’s my window.

“Well,” I say, struggling for the words, hoping that they would find me if I just started talking but . . . no. I throw eloquence and pacing to the wind and just say, “I have cancer.”

There’s a long pause on the other end like he’s waiting for the punch line. The great joke this is bound to be. It doesn’t come. Trust me, I’m still waiting myself.

He says, “Oh . . . kay . . . . Did you tell your mom?” and I say, “No,” and he says, “You better let me tell her,” and I quickly say, “NO! No . . . I’d rather tell her myself,” and he says, “Oh . . . kay . . . . ” and I quickly fill in the blanks with, “There’s a good chance I’ll survive. I just . . . I have cancer . . . . ” There’s more silence. Loads of it. Then he says, “Your mom just got home. Why don’t you call her?” And I do.

Yellow, John Boy! How ya’ doin’?” My mother is forever the chipper woman, her syllables bouncing up and down playfully. I feel bad that I have to destroy this. I say, “I’m doing good. I’m doing OK. Did Dad talk to you?” and she, with a hint of suspicion, says, “Nooo-ooooh. What’s going on?”

I take a deep breath and shut my eyes. In my head I think, I’m sorry, Mom. I’m sorry. I wish I didn’t have to tell you this. I wish I could just keep it from you and spare you and not drag you into it. I wish I didn’t have to damage you with this information, and I’m sorry for the pain I’m about to cause you. I feel sick to my stomach.

“I have cancer.”

Another long silence. I’ll get used to these. Like an old computer reading a large file, people need a chunk of time to process a sizable piece of information like that.

There are no tears. She doesn’t cry. Everything about this interaction is atypical. I tell her I should survive and she says, “OK.” I tell her I’ll keep her posted on everything and then, as she’s telling me goodbye, I hear her voice crack and I realize that she is first and foremost in shock, and second, trying to keep a straight face for my sake. I tell her goodbye and the moment I slam the phone closed I begin to cry, vicious sobs that wrench my body.

Moments later my phone rings, and I assume it’s my mom calling back, but no. It’s my brother-in-law, Jarod. I cover my eyes with the palm of my hand and wipe down, pushing the tears away. I look up at the sky, and I think about how there are people out there with real problems. People starving. People dying. Currently dying of cancer. Lung cancer. Heart cancer. Brain cancer. Get it together. I answer the phone, trying to sound cool but coming off like a mop. “Hey . . . . ”

Jarod, three years my senior, says, “Heeeey. So I just heard about . . . . How are you doing?” and this is the one person I’ve spoken to so far who I don’t want to cry in front of. This is my brother-in-law and the person I just want to shrug it off with and give an, “Eh, you know,” but for some reason, I can’t hold it back. Everything comes out. Everything I didn’t tell my mom. Everything I didn’t tell my dad. Everything I didn’t tell my mother-in-law. Everything I didn’t tell my wife. It comes out now.

Everything overflows.

I’m so afraid. I’m so fucking afraid. I don’t know what happened. I don’t know how this happened. I don’t . . . I don’t fucking deserve this and . . . it’s so fucked up. I can’t have kids— I’m like some fucking . . . sterile . . . . I can’t fucking have kids! And they’re going to cut my nut off. I’m so afraid that I’m going to die. I don’t want to die. I don’t want to die.” And then I just cry into the phone and it feels so great and so terrible and Jarod says the absolute wisest thing he can.

Nothing.

He simply listens.

 

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Next week we’re talking about The Mechanical Donut. Excerpt below . . .

 

What hangs in the balance of this test? What will these results reveal? The thought of this being the beginning of something bigger crosses my mind, and I try to push it away. For me, surgery is the end. There is a definitive period afterward, and I go home and go back to work and that’s it but . . . .

What if . . . .

What if the cancer has spread? Lungs? Stomach? Liver? Is this possible? Yes. Yes, it’s all definitely possible. But is it probable? I pause, trying to be logical and not emotional and yes, I realize, it is probable.

Will I die in six months? Could I die in six months? I could die in six months. If it has spread, what are my chances for survival? The Internet tells me that, depending on what kind of cancer I have, it could be anywhere between 30 percent to 90 percent survival rate, which is basically like saying, “Maybe you’ll die. Maybe you won’t,” and then shrugging unapologetically.

 

 

 

 

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BIRTHDAY PRESENT: CHAPTER 5

Welcome back to the on-going serial auto-biography Cancer? But I’m a Virgo. We’re blasting out chapter 5 today after a late start this week. If you haven’t had a chance to jump in yet, it’s not too late! Just click here to start from the beginning! C’mon! You know that one of your resolutions was to read more books this year.

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PART 2

“What is to give light, must endure burning.”

-Viktor E. Frankl . . . whoever he is

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I’m sitting in a waiting room somewhere in Pasadena, staring at a magazine that is listing the 100 most influential people of the year. Lady Gaga, Jay-Z, and Bill Gates are all in attendance. I do a quick scan but don’t see any glossy celebrity snapshots of Jesus.

The waiting room is empty. The couch I’m sitting on is leather and cold. I touch it with my finger and wonder if the cow that this skin belonged to had a nice personality. I touch my tumor by squeezing it between my thighs. It’s still there. Maybe this doctor will simply give me some pills, and I can wipe all the sweat off my brow.

The woman behind the bulletproof glass calls my name, and I walk through a locked door. They weigh me, measure me, etc., etc. The nurse leaves, and I’m sitting alone in the Examination Room. The walls are covered in pictures that children have drawn in crayons, all with personalized messages addressed to a man named Dr. Odegaard.

“Thanks for fixing my arm,” wrote James, 7, with a drawing of himself in a cast, standing in front of a tree. The drawing is so bad I have to wonder if he had to create it with his lesser-used hand.

“You’re the best. Thank you for the Band-Aids,” wrote Tiffany, 6, who decided to draw birds flying over a rainbow.

I try to imagine what my drawing would look like. There would be a picture of a smiling rooster. Above it, in bubble typeface, it would read, “Thanks for saving my dick. I owe you one.” –Johnny, 26.

The doctor enters and asks me a few questions. First the preliminary stuff because it’s my first visit to see him, followed by the more intimate inquiries. “What seems to be the problem?” And, “Describe the lump.” And, “Which testicle is it on?” And this is where I sort of mumble something about a trick question. Mumble something about my uni-testicle. Mumble some off-colored joke that he doesn’t laugh at. He asks me to pull my pants down, and I ask him if the door is locked. He tells me that no one will come in, and I comply.

He snaps on a rubber glove and fondles me in a professional manner. He hums and grunts a couple times, makes the sort of noise you might make after seeing a two-headed turtle—not absolute shock but more of an idle fascination.

He tells me to pull my pants up and that he definitely feels something. He tells me that he’s recommending me to a good friend of his, a urologist (penis doctor; see also dick doc) named Dr. Honda. It’s the 11th of September, and it will be six more days with this thing growing inside of me before I get any real answers.

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On September 17, 2008, I turned 26 years old. My wife and I spent it indoors, she having made me a cake and purchased me a few books. The day was regular enough, the cake was regular enough, the weather was regular enough and, as far as birthdays go, it would forever be branded in my brain as the most irregular day I had ever experienced.

We arrive at Dr. Honda’s office, a nice brick building in Arcadia, just after noon. My wife and I sit down in the lobby and she immediately picks up a Better Homes magazine and begins scouring it for ideas to, presumably, make our home . . . better.

Everyone in the room with us is old. Really old. Nursing-home old. They’re so old, that they each have some kind of caretaker visiting the facility with them. I try to imagine the day, hundreds and hundreds of years from now, when I’ll be too weak to take care of myself. The day, thousands of years from now when I can’t bathe myself any longer. The day when I eat more pills than food. Millions of years away.

My wife turns to me and says, “What do you think he’s going to say?” and I say, “You know what I think,” and she just laughs and shrugs. She still thinks it’s a cyst or an ingrown hair or an extraterrestrial’s tracking device, all things that are more realistic possibilities than that cancer-thing-that-other-people-get-and-it-never-happens-to-you disease.

They call my name, and I walk back through the door, alone. Every step I take, I am closer to understanding what this thing is. Closer to knowing that it’s either cancer (which I know it is) or an alien GPS system (which it probably isn’t but in many ways would be easier to deal with).

I jump up on that bed-table-thing with the giant roll of single-ply toilet paper covering it and glance around the room. There are no children’s drawings. Instead there are just diagrams of penises and vaginas that go on and on, wall to wall. Dongs that have been split in half lengthwise to show me what the inside looks like. Uteruses and ovaries that resemble cow heads. Black arrows pointing to the dangly bits, informing me what is in my pants. A part of me wants to examine them closer, wants to read all the scientific jargon, but the other, louder side of me doesn’t want to get caught staring at a drawing of a 16-inch schlong.

The door creaks, and Dr. Honda enters the room. He’s a slim Asian man with a mustache and a big smile. He immediately makes me feel welcome and, as I will come to shortly learn, this is not a professional trait of all doctors. He has bedside manner, a characteristic and skill that cannot be taught.

He shakes my hand and introduces himself. He asks me a few questions about life, what do I do, am I married, do I have kids, where am I from, and then my pants are suddenly at my ankles yet again and I’m Porky-Piggin’ it, naked from the waist down.

As he’s squeezing my GPS tracking system with a rubber-gloved hand, I hear footsteps fast approaching in the hallway and quickly ask if the door is locked. He says they’ll knock first. Yeah, I think, But I’m sure it’ll be that knock-knock-open that people are so wont to do.

“My ultrasound guy is here today. I’m gonna have him check you out.” I ask if I can pull up my pants.

You’ve read all this before. You know what happens. I know what happens. The story is inevitable.

I have Cancer.

That thing that makes people go bald and look sick and thin and tired. That thing that sucks the life out of individuals and kills kids and evaporates old folks. That thing I hear about on TV and in movies and sometimes in books. It’s me. It’s on me. It’s in me. Growing. Slowly.

I picture it looking like the black goo that Venom is made out of in the popular Spider-Man films; it’s not quite a gel but it’s not quite a liquid. It’s just a mess of sticky tar that attaches and grows and builds and pulls and destroys until it has encompassed your very being and turned you into someone else. No more Peter Parker. No more Eddie Brock.

Venom.

Cancer.

I’m staring at the ceiling, cold jelly on my testicle. Now I know. Now I know that I was right. Everything I thought I knew was correct. My gut was dead on. Dead. On.

Dead.

Without looking at the Indian man who’s given me my diagnosis, I ask, “Can I pull my pants up?” and he says, “Yes.”

Pamphlets are spread out in front of me. Every single person on every single cover is happier than the last. Everyone is so happy. They’re all so happy about their Cancer . . . and . . . I am just . . . .

. . . .

Dr. Honda tells me that I have two options in regard to the tumor. My Tumor. First, there is a surgery wherein they will cut me open and split my remaining testicle in half, removing the bad stuff but leaving me fertile. I tell him that I cannot fathom anything that sounds more painful. I ask him what the second option is.

He succinctly states, “Full removal.”

I sigh and ask what the third option is. He stares back at me. Nobody says anything. After a moment he tells me that if they miss even one single cell during the nutcracker operation the cancer will simply return, and they’d have to perform a second surgery in order to take the remaining half. I assume this is supposed to make my decision easier.

I look at the ground. At my feet. At my pants. I tell him to take it all. He smiles, and it’s a very kind face looking back at me. You can tell that he doesn’t want to tell me these things. You can see his compassion, and I’m thankful for it.

He pokes the pamphlets and says, “You’re going to want to bank your sperm,” and I nod. I am going to be sterile. Unable to reproduce. There is something very damaging to me about this thought, and the memory of me lying in a hospital bed talking to a doctor when I am eight is at the forefront of my mind.

I shake his hand and walk out of his office. I walk down the hall. I walk back through the door and to my wife, surrounded by old people. She puts down her Better Homes magazine and stands up, smiles. We walk out of the office, down the steps and out the front door into the parking lot and the warm sunshine.

It has not crossed my mind how blissfully ignorant she currently is.

She looks at me and, with her complete confidence with the ingrown hair theory asks, “Well, what did he say?” and, without missing a beat, I respond, “I have a tumor.”

She takes one more step before collapsing onto a parking block and begins weeping. This is when the reality all hits me, and I weep as well.

 

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Thank you so much for reading another chapter this week. Please click FOLLOW down below to stay up-to-date as we’re releasing one chapter a week until the very end!

Next Monday is PARENTS: Chapter 6.

 

 

 

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FIRST CONTACT: CHAPTER 4

Welcome back for week four of the serial novel Cancer? But I’m a Virgo, where we explore my experience with cancer, chemotherapy, sex, drugs, comedy and death. If you’re just tuning in, click here to start from the beginning.

We’ve spent the last three weeks introducing our main character – our hero, if you will. And, uh, that’s me, in case you were wondering. I’m very charming.

But what is a good hero without a really strong nemesis? A hero is nothing without a proper enemy. And so here we stand, awaiting our villains arrival. Quiet now.

He’s close.

Hands inside the cart everyone. This is where it gets ugly.

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I pull into my driveway around 11:30 p.m. I’ve spent the last two days in Vegas smoking enough pot to transform my brain into one of those slimy slug-souls from The Little Mermaid. The house is mostly dark save for a small desk lamp radiating a warm glow in the front window. Like the jingle of that popular hotel, my wife has left a light on for me. The trip back from Las Vegas was mostly uneventful (outside of me having to shit off my front bumper but that story is neither here nor there); the trip driving west always lacks any of the magic of the possibility that crackles in the air when heading toward the Electric City. I haven’t slept more than a few scattered hours in two days and I can feel it.

When I finally open my front door, I immediately feel the warm welcome that is Home. My wife has an aura about her that allows her to take the mundane and turn it into the extraordinary. Our house is no longer wood and dry wall. It is flesh and bone and personality. It is living and breathing and welcoming. She chooses color palettes and purchases knick knacks; the bar-style dining-room table, the weird collection of antique cameras on top of the shelves in the kitchen, the vintage teacher’s desk in the living room, the furniture, the mirrors, the finds, the little treasures. I try to imagine what I would have done to this house if I’d lived here alone, if we’d never gotten married.

I’m seeing white walls. I’m seeing a stained couch. I’m seeing pizza boxes. Maybe I’m a little heavier? Maybe I sleep on a pile of wood chips in the corner? An old blanket tangled around my ankle?

I sit down on my couch and I close my eyes, letting images of the weekend roll through my imagination: Caesar’s Palace, The Venetian, the games, the walking, the laughing, the people, the servers dressed like Alice Cooper and Michael Jackson and Madonna. I chuckle to myself, having proudly taken that right of passage into Manhood that is Las Vegas. I’m 26 and at the top of the world.

Finally settled in, I pull out my pipe and stash of weed. The smoke fills my lungs and I quickly begin to disconnect from the world. So I lost $400? So what?! What’s money? It’s just paper. It’s just representative of something. Take my money, take my job. I’d rather move into the woods, anyway. Lose myself in the trees, get out of the city. I hate the city—the smog, the traffic, the cement. I want clear blue skies and trees and rivers and rocks and animals and stars.

I have to pee.

I stand up and walk to the bathroom, down the dark hallway, bumping into the doorframe. I flip on a light and there, sitting in the corner, is the toilet. It’s all come to this. My whole life has come to this toilet. Every step I’ve ever taken has led me right here. The first part of The Journey that is my life is about to end. Every choice, every waking moment has brought me here, to this bathroom, in this house, in this room, at this time, in this mental condition.

I reach down and fumble with my zipper, pulling it south. I reach inside my jeans and think briefly about my one testicle—its existence a constant reminder of the missing twin—and I start to pee. I stare at the red wall in front of me, thinking, Bright red paint. That’s a bold choice for my wife to go with. But she did it. I wonder what people think when they’re standing here fondling their nut sacks and peeing?

I look down and realize that I am, indeed, fondling my nut sack. This is a simple truth of the world; men just sometimes absent-mindedly grab handfuls of themselves and we bumble around blindly. It’s like a security blanket. It’s platonic. It’s like petting a dog.

Mid-pee, mid-stream, mid-relief, my left hand feels something that does not belong. A foreign object on my body, a second tongue, a third nipple, a fourth knuckle—it’s not right, not normal, not standard. It’s the size of a pea and rests casually on my single remaining testicle.

And this is the moment where my life breaks in two. I don’t know it yet but this is the moment of impact. Nothing will ever be as it was. Nothing will ever be the same.

Imagine with me . . . try to set aside all of your individual predispositions and personality traits. Listen to the stories I’ve told you about myself, pick up my luggage, my emotional baggage, my history of illness (both real and imagined) and touch my genitals with me. Imitate me. Channel me. Possess me. Feel the lump on your singular ball.

Also, you are pretty high right now.

I turn the pea over and over in my hand like a pebble, examining it, touching it, feeling it, becoming familiar with it. No. I can’t become familiar with it. I know that immediately. We will never be friends. The hypochondriac begins whispering in my ear. He knows what it is. He, the great soothsayer of sickness knows what is happening right now. Whatever it is (you know what it is) I know that I hate it. Whatever it is (you know, just say it), I’m sure it will all go away soon. Just avert your eyes and breathe and (CANCER!) it will all be over soon.

Cancer . . . .

A woman tells me that she’s pregnant. She tells me that it’s crazy and exciting and wonderful. She tells me that she knew she was pregnant before the test results. She tells me that she just knew . . . and right now . . . I need no more explanation than that. I understand completely.

Cancer . . . .

I zip it back into my pants and stare at the red wall and think, “ . . . . . . . . . . . . ” and then I walk out of the bathroom, down the long hallway, and into my bedroom, where my wife is asleep. I wonder how she’ll take the news. Will she cry? Weep? Fall into a great depression? Will we cling to one another for mutual comfort, swearing fealty to each other? Swearing that we’ll get through this, don’t worry, no matter what, etc., etc., etc.? I try to summon images of Hollywood movies into my mind; how have I seen this done? How did Mandy Moore break the news in A Walk to Remember?

Jade opens her eyes and says, “You’re back. How was Vegas?” and I say, “Good,” and I say, “There’s something on my . . . . ” and it’s weird but I am six years old again, and I’m talking to my mom about my bawl, and I don’t want to say it.

“What time is it?” she asks in a gravelly voice. “Late,” I answer tenderly, quietly, wanting to keep things as calm as possible for the storm that is about to erupt. “It’s around midnight.” She asks me if I’m coming to bed.

I sit down and run my hands through her hair, the words in my throat, on my tongue, my lips. I say, “I felt something on my testicle. It’s a lump. I think . . . I think I have . . . cancer.”

There is a pause. She looks at me and blinks, once, twice, and I know some great emotion is on the precipice of bursting inside of her. She shuts her eyes, takes a breath and says, “You are such a hypochondriac. You have cancer now? Please.” And she clicks off the bed lamp, leaving me in the literal, figurative, and metaphysical dark.

I am furious (scared). I am angry (confused). I am full of questions, and I want (need) answers. An idea hits me, and I do that thing that no one should ever, ever, ever do when they think they have cancer growing on their nuts and are super super high at the same time.

I get on the Internet and do a Google search for “Hard balls on balls” and the first option is a gay pornographic website starring body builders. I try again. “Infected nuts,” and this time it’s something about oak trees being poisoned. I try again, “How to check for testicular cancer” and the first hit says, “How to check for testicular cancer.” Bingo.

Article after article after article pops up, an encyclopedia of penial knowledge at my shaft tip all for me to soak in and fear by myself in this paranoid state. “This most certainly will be a night I will never forget,” I think to myself as one hand scrolls the text around the monitor and the other pinches that little peapod on my privates.

The first article says, “Take a warm bath, loosen up, pinch your nuts like this. Does the tumor feel like a little rock? Is it the size of a pea? Does it lack feeling? Then it’s probably cancer.”

Red flag, red flag, red flag. Cancer, cancer, cancer. Tumor, tumor, tumor. That’s the first time I’d seen that word as it related to me. I was looking at the word tumor, and I was touching something in my body that may or may not have been (I know it is) a tumor a tumor a cancerous tumor inside of my body I have cancer tumors cancer tumors cancer tumors.

Maybe it’s just a fluke, this article. Maybe I’m seeing what I want to see, believing what I want to believe, y’know? I want to know that what Jade is saying is correct. I’m a hypochondriac, and none of it is real. I click on another article but it says the same thing. Article three and four are likewise. By article eleven, my hope is not simply beginning to break, it is broken.

I. Just. Know.

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So that’s it. That’s it for this week. And I know what you’re thinking. “Wow, that’s some really bad news – getting a little tumor like that.” Yeah, it is. But, trust me when I say that this is only the beginning and if the story stopped here, it would barely be a story at all. Over the course of the next few weeks we are going to systematically break Johnny down until the only thing that’s left of him is a hollow little shell, filled with anxiety and hopelessness.

We are going to destroy him.

But we’ll do it together and it will hopefully be a lot of fun to watch.

So, next week be sure to come back for Birthday Present: Chapter 5 with excerpt below . . .

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She looks at me and, with her complete confidence in my health asks, “Well, what did he say?” and, without missing a beat, I respond, “I have a tumor.”

She takes one more step before collapsing onto a parking block and begins weeping. This is when the reality all hits me, and I weep as well.

 

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PLAGUED BY PLAGUES: CHAPTER 3

 

Welcome back for Chapter 3, which is the final chapter before everything starts to slide out of control. Take a deep breath with me and enjoy this last bite. Chew slowly. It’s going to be a full year before we come out the other side together. Next Monday we’re going to receive some very bad news.

But we’re not supposed to know about that yet, are we?

If you’re new, click HERE to go to the beginning. As you can see, we’re only 3 chapters in (and they’re very, very short!) so jump in with us and read a chapter a week all year long as we explore what it looks like to have dick cancer at 26.

 

See you all at the bottom of the slide!

 

 

 

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Eczema. Ring worms. Food poisoning. Poison poisoning. West Nile. Airborne toxins. Flu, cold, constipation, diarrhea. I have suffered from it all, both real and imaginary. My wife points an accusing finger at me and says, “You’re a hypochondriac!” and I casually walk into the other room, get online, and look up the disease to see if I am actually exhibiting symptoms.

 

Illnesses are my passion and I collect them like stickers in a book. In elementary school, I had ulcers. In junior high, insomnia. In high school, I became convinced that I had acquired early onset Alzheimer’s because I couldn’t remember any of the mathematical equations that help you solve endless rows of meaningless problems. It seemed to come so easily to everyone else. . . .

Years later, a friend will tell me that his son can’t seem to get a grasp on numeric sequences. More than just a few in a row and “Poof,” he says, “they’re gone.” He tells me the disease is called dyscalculia and it simply sounds too similar to Dracula for me to pass up. I’m positive I have it. I wear it on my sleeve, displaying the fact proudly. I won’t let my handicap hold me back. I won’t box it up in some closet. Plus, I’ve always been a bit more of a words guy and less of a digits person anyway so I feel like there is something strangely poetic in my illness, my disease, my burden.

My wife says, “You don’t have dyscalculia. You’re just an idiot.” I look up the term idiot on Web MD betting that she’s right but no results return. Further research is required.

 

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My stomach rolls over, and I vomit into a toilet, beads of sweat dripping down my forehead. My knees are raw from kneeling on the bathroom tiles. My wife circles the door frame, blocking the light shining dramatically on my face and says, uncaringly, “You’re going to be late for work.”

“I can’t go to work! Look at me! I’m sick!” I plead, desperately trying to make her understand. It’s not cancer, not yet (this is still years and years earlier), but it’s definitely something.

“You’re not sick.” I puke again just to reinforce my point and then elaborately throw myself onto the bathroom floor, the back of my hand pressed against my sort-of-hot forehead. Not sick? Not sick? Has she heard of the norovirus?! Because I have it on good account (my friend’s friend is pre-med) that it’s making rounds this year. A couple people died in Missouri. Didn’t my wife hear about this? Doesn’t she watch the news on Comedy Central? Doesn’t she read The Onion?

She tells me that I don’t have the norovirus. She tells me that I have the moron virus and then she laughs at her own dumb little joke while I just dry heave twice in a row. I tell her to look away. I tell her that the norovirus is really taking its toll on me when suddenly my chest is racked with a pinching suffocation. It feels like someone is pulling the membrane off my lungs every time I inhale. Jade raises an eyebrow and says, “Pleurisy again?”

I just hold up a hand for her to “be silent” while I bare my cross. She says, “Oh, geeeeez.” After the pain passes I explain that, “I have pleurisy,” and she says, “I know you think you do,” and I say, “It’s an inflammation of the lining on the lungs,” and she says, “You’ve told me the definition,” and I say, “My mom has it too,” and my wife says, “I’m sure she believes she does.”

Is there nothing I can do to convince her of my various conditions? Is it my fault I have an immune system that is susceptible to such attacks? Someday, I tell myself, someday I’ll get something and she’ll believe me.

Jade says, “Are you day dreaming about your illnesses?” and I say, “Huh? What?” and she says, “Wishing someone would believe that your fake thing was real?” and I say, “My fake thing is real. Remember The Blood Shit Incident?”

Jade says, “I remember The Blood Shit Incident. I wonder if you remember it.” I say, “Of course I remember it. I was there. I wrote it.” And she says, “Every piece of good fiction needs an author.”

 

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I’m sitting on the toilet in my mom’s house and I’m staring at a piece of toilet paper covered in brown and red. I’m shitting blood. It’s been happening for a couple days. Not a lot. Just a little. Just a few drops. Just enough to fill a vile. Or two.

I’m nineteen and I try to weigh my options—the possibilities, the probabilities, the causes, the outcomes. “Why would my ass be bleeding?” I ask myself. “I don’t stick things up it. I swear.”

Who do I approach? Who do I ask for advice? Not my dad. Definitely not my mother; I don’t want to see the sequel to The Nut Sack Situation. No, I’ll handle this one myself. How to proceed, how to proceed. The Internet? Too traceable. The search engines all have a way of remembering things I type in, and I’m no good with PCs. I don’t understand how to clear the cash or eat the cookies or whatever. The library? Absolutely not. The idea of checking out a book about anal fissures will certainly get me on some Pervert of the Week list.

Finally, after meditating on the rhythmic drip-drip-drip, the answer comes to me clearly, like a comet in the night sky. It is a moment of what some may call divine clarity. It is so simple I can’t believe I didn’t see it before.

I will simply ignore the problem and hope it fixes itself.

I am a human body! I get scratches and cuts all the time and what happens? Blood clotting, scabbing . . . something . . . something else, science, etc., and there you have it, back to normal! My inner ass cavern will be the same! I just need to leave it be and give it some time to heal. I’ll eat soft foods. I’ll push very, very gently. Or maybe not at all. I’ll practice Zen meditation and just let the fecal matter slither from my rectum like a snake shedding skin.

This could work. This could definitely work.

Two weeks later, I’m still shitting blood. It’s not slowing down. What was I thinking?! Scabs?! Inside my ass?! What if there are ruptures and the blood ruptures are being infected by feces? Don’t people die when their shit and blood begin to mix?

My stomach hurts. My head hurts. IT’S HAPPENING!

Could I bring this to my girlfriend? Could I ask Jade about this? Yeah! She’s really smart. A grade-A student through and through, she was studying to become a neonatologist and you know anyone with the suffix -ologist in their job title is legit.

She knows things I don’t know. She understands things about blood and bile and positrons and neutrons and Klingons and she pretty much just knows everything! She’ll know . . . she’ll know. But how do I breach the topic? This is touchy stuff, and it’s important not to make it weird. Then the answer comes to me clearly, like a comet in the night sky. It is a moment of what some may call divine clarity. It is so simple I can’t believe I didn’t see it before. The words come to me with such smooth precision it is as though a greater entity is speaking directly through me.

We’re sitting at the table, alone, at my house, eating jam-covered waffles. She smiles at me and I say, “I’ve been shitting blood for three weeks now. What do you suppose this—“ she drops her fork, but I finish my thought anyway, “—could mean?”

Coming from a world where it took eight years to get my missing testicle examined by a doctor, I was made strangely uncomfortable by the speed at which Jade scheduled an appointment for me later that same day. Neither of us knew it then, me nineteen, she just turning eighteen, but we were being given a small glimpse into our future, more than a decade away: The Caretaker and The Ass Bleeder.

I love her. I am nineteen and I know this. I love her for all of the fantastic things she is, says, and does, but I love her because I can tell her that I’m shitting blood and she is willing to get her hands (figuratively) dirty to solve it. She’s had commitment from day one. She’s a barnacle. She’s not letting go.

The next day, sitting again in the stagnant, falsely fresh smelling waiting room of my local clinic, I find myself staring at those same Georgia O’Keeffe paintings and wondering, “Where do they come from? Who is Georgia O’Keeffe? Why do all hospitals and clinics insist on using her work?”

I lean over to Jade and I ask (since she knows everything), “What do you think they’ll do? Do you think I’ll just get some pills or cream?” and Jade answers, “He’s probably going to take a speculum—” and I cut her off.

“Sorry. A what?”

“A speculum.”

“What’s a speculum?”

“Oh, it’s like this thing they put in your vagina and they turn this crank and it opens you up so they can get a really good view. They’ll probably do that to your ass.”

My face goes white. My blood turns to ice. She knows everything.

I say to her, “They’ve done this to you?” and she says, “Yeah. Couple times,” and I say, “And you think they’re going to—are you messing with me?” and she says, “No. They’re checking to see if you have blood fissures. They need to look. So they need to spread.”

I stand up. I am done. I will go with Plan B: The Scabbing Over Plan. But Jade grabs my hand before I can run and tells me to sit down. I think she’s going to say she’s just joking but instead she says, “Bleeding from your butt can mean colon cancer and men eighteen and up need to be getting checked regularly.”[*]

I say, “But the speculum . . . ?” and she finishes with, “Oh yeah, they’re shoving that thing way up there and parting you like the Red Sea.”

I stand up and begin heading toward the door when the nurse calls me, “Johnny . . . Buh . . . rookbag?” Every eye in the room lands on me, the guy standing up, looking like a deer in headlights. The nurse speaks softly, over the shuffle of papers and various weekly literature, “Right this way.”

Before disappearing into the halls, I turn back and take one last look at Jade who is sitting in her chair, a gossip magazine on her lap, spreading her hands open, miming a speculum.

I hate her.

But not the kind of hate that means I’m going to burn her house down. I mean the kind where you know they know better and they’re making you do something that’s necessary even though you don’t want to.

Inside the doctor’s office there is no cancer, there are no fissures or ruptures and there is, thankfully, no speculum. There is only a man with a rubber glove, a bunch of lube and a strange eagerness to examine me. In the end he gives me some pills and some cream and says to eat soft foods and to not press so hard. He tells me that the human body is an amazing thing and that I’ll be just fine.

It’ll heal itself.

I shrug and shake my head and walk back to the lobby, where I eyebrow beat Jade to death. We hold hands and walk out into the sunlight while Fate sits back and laughs, waiting eagerly for us to return on this path sooner rather than later. It watches our backs as we fade out with the glossy luster of blissful ignorance protecting us like armor.

We are still young, only nineteen. And neither of us have ever been struck with the harsh reality of true tragedy. We just don’t know anything yet.

But we very soon will.

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[*] Fact. So if you find the dirty death star dripping darkness, dash to the doc and have your derriere dissected.

 

***   ***   ***   ***   ***

 

Alright, guys. Listen. That’s it for now. Next week is FIRST CONTACT: CHAPTER 4. And this is when the walls all begin to crumble. I’ve included a little excerpt below if you’d like to peak at it.

JB.

 

FIRST CONTACT: CHAPTER 4: EXCERPT

My left hand feels something that does not belong. A foreign object on my body, a second tongue, a third nipple, a fourth knuckle—it’s not right, not normal, not standard. It’s the size of a pea and rests casually on my single remaining testicle.

And this is the moment where my life breaks in two. I don’t know it yet but this is the moment of impact. Nothing will ever be as it was. Nothing will ever be the same.

 

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THE SPIRALING CORNUCOPIA OF PALE LAVENDER [SEQ. 14 – 15]

The Spiraling Cornucopia of Pale Lavender is  a 10-part series of fiction that explores perception and reality. Below is part 8. To read the introduction of the project, click here.

To read part 1, click here.

To read part 2, click here.

To read part 3, click here.

To read part 4, click here.

To read part 5, click here.

To read part 6, click here.

To read part 7, click here.

To read part 8, click here.

Otherwise, begin scroll.

 

[SEQ. XIV] 1Now I’m making waffles. 2I am thirty years old and I have short hair and a good smile. My muscles feel good and my confidence is strong. 3The kitchen is wide open and there are pots and pans hanging from little hooks. It looks nice. 4My wife is a thin brunette who usually wears white shirts and black yoga pants. She doesn’t teach yoga but she’s thought about it. 5She’s a vegetarian who thinks vegans are pious. I don’t really like her. But I love my daughter. 6And right now my daughter is sitting at the kitchen table and she’s dressed up like a princess for no special occasion. She wears a pink dress with a crown on her head and a scepter in her hand. And now that I’m actually looking at the costume and giving it more than just a passing glance, I think she might be dressed as a kind of fairy princess instead and not just a regular, run of the mill, earth bound human princess. Boring. 7I lift up the waffle iron and see that the waffle is burnt to an absolute black crisp. “Okay, baby! Guess what we’ve got here?” “Smells like it’s burning. Did you burn my waffles again?” 8“I sure did. I know just how you like em! Black with a little bit of whipped cream.” 9“Ebony and irony,” she sing-songs jokingly. 10I love her and I’m thinking about packing her up one night and leaving her mom. 11It might work but the horuscribe tells me it’s a mistake. 12The horuscribe is a small creature, three feet tall, that lingers in the ceiling corner of all rooms that I enter. 13Its body is very narrow and has always reminded me of a carrot – thick at top and tapered out at the bottom. 14It wears a black robe and a white mask. The white mask looks like a deer skull with black make-up applied to it. 15The black make-up highlights certain areas like spots on a dog. 16Sometimes, however, I wonder if the deer mask is not a mask at all but rather just its face. 17The horuscribe has eyeballs – two in the front of its face in the same place that I do. 18It has long black and white fingers that also look like bone. 19It watches me. It simply watches me. 20On the morning of my 26th birthday, it was the first daybreak of the second Knuckled Moon, I woke up and my wife told me, “Happy Birthday. I’m pregnant.” And it was that same morning that I first saw the horuscribe. 21My wife has never seen it. Nobody has ever seen it. 22When I use the bathroom, it is there. 23When I am intimate with my wife, it is there. 24In my car, it is there. It is everywhere. 25It was there when I opened my eyes. And now its there whether my eyes are open or not and I can’t get rid of it. 26Everywhere I go, there it is. 27I’ve tried to touch it but nothing happens. My hand passes through it but there is a sense of captivity when I do. 28It watches me and sometimes it points at me but I don’t know what it means. 29It is always in the room that I’m in and it is always there when I leave and it is always in the next room before I enter. 30It is never positioned in such a way wherein I can see if it exists in two places at once. 31One time I was watching a late night science documentary and it was talking about how, in quantum physics, a singular atom can exist in two places at once and move in two different directions at the same time. 32There’s nothing I can do with this information because I am not a quantum physicist but I found it interesting albeit useless. 33At first I had a very difficult time coming to terms with its presence but now I find it kind of comforting. 34I’ve gotten used to it. 35And then one day I walked into my house after a long day of work and I found that the creature was sitting atop my daughters head, propped on top of her scalp like a vulture. 36It seemed to be in a state of subdued ecstasy – a kind of waking coma. 37“Meghan?” I asked and her hand lifts in the air and she smiles. “Hey, dad! How was your day at work?” 38She is full of joy and she seems like herself but it is not her. 39This creature is puppeteering her being. 40The creature was controlling her like a puppet, drawing her arms and legs like marionette strings, creating mock emotions that felt genuine but were imposters. 41Has it not been observing me? Has it been observing her? What has it stolen from me? 42All things my daughter does, no matter how genuine they seem, are now only reflections of real emotions. 43When I tell her I love her, she responds and the worst part is that she thinks she means it but she doesn’t. 44When she goes to school, she studies hard for good grades and she really does try but really it is the horuscribe trying and succeeding and I want to be proud of her because she doesn’t understand the difference but I do. I understand. I see through her. 45Perhaps this horuscribe is her true self? 46Is my daughter a projection of this oddity? 47Is the horuscribe a projection of a projection? 48Do I have a horuscribe attached to me that I cannot see? 49Do I think I am making my own decisions while only being a puppet myself? 50Has my daughter been living with her own visions of a creature attached to me, understanding that I am not her father at all? 51If my daughter feels emotions and thinks they’re real, even if they are being manufactured by the sentient thoughts of another, does that negate them? 52When does self-awareness stop or start being self-awareness? 53My world is false. My world is a projection. My world is transparent. 54My daughter is here but she is not real. 55My daughter is this creature. This creature is my daughter. 56My daughter is just a body. Just a sock filled with meat that is being propelled through an entity no one can see except myself. 57My wife speaks to me. I listen. My wife speaks to Meghan. She listens. 58She answers. She smiles. She waves. She jokes. She eats. She poops. She vomits. 59She is my Meghan. 60And then one day the creature speaks to me. Speaks to me for the very first time. And it says to me, in a voice that sounds like a phone sex operator at a PTA meeting, ‘The Sky is Falling.” 61And I feel the sentence with each of its capital letters. 62I feel the hard importance and the factuality of this statement. 63I look up and the sky cracks open and begins to crumble like rocks. 64Large boulders of celestial matter crumble and fall to the earth in slow motion. 65Their ragged edges rip holes in the fabric of existence. Sheets peel down from the sky, of the sky, like billboards in a hurricane. Earth. The Greatest advertisement. 66We are knocked out of orbit and our planet tears through the cosmos. 67I lift off the ground and my back slams into an apple tree in our front yard. 68I feel my spine snap and my legs disappear but it’s okay because I can fly. 69The soil and the sky switch spots and the earth tears apart like a loaf of bread. 70 “You can save her,” the creature whispers to me. “You can save your daughter from this fate but you have to do it now.” 71“Do what? Save her from what? What is happening?” 72I desperately want to save my daughter and I desperately want to make a decision but I don’t know the rules. I don’t know the logic. I don’t have the information readily available to make a smart move. 73Can I even trust this thing? 74 “You must choose now, Richard.” “What is happening?” “Everything is falling apart. The pants of existence are getting unzipped. You knew it would be your generation. You always knew. And now here it is and you weren’t ready. There goes your house.” 75I turn my head and I see my house tip over like a two dimensional slice of cheese and then it vanishes. 76The world suddenly looks flat and strange although I think it has always looked like this? Do I have new eyes? A new brain? Where am I? [SEQ. XV] 1I look down and see that I have neither body nor eyes. I am not breathing. 2I am embedded into the actual fabric of time. 3I am a moment. 4My eyes perceive all at once. 5Asia is my hand and Europe is my fist and North America is my toe. 6I feel the people walking on me and planting in me and digging in me. 7The pressure of the cities are great, like tumors. The gray masses grow and grow until it destroys my life cells. 8And then the people crumble. 9They always crumble. They always come and go. They rise and they fall. 10They destroy one another. 11This time it will be with cellular weapons. 12The land will become polluted by their toxicity and then I will heal. 13I always heal. 14Until my mother Sun eats me alive, I will grow, the chosen princess of Miss Universe. 15The Greator chose me to bear life and to hold the secrets. 16I reach deep into my core and I find fire and I squeeze it tight inside me and I feel it drizzle out of my holes like burning shit. 17People scream for their lives from my red-hot diarrhea and I destroy their villages and burn their cultures in my frantic filth. 18Ash cakes the sky and thousands choke to death. 19They should have known better. 20They should have asked me not to do it. 21The cities will be next. If only I could reach them somehow. 22They are destroying me and eating away at my simple perfections and flawless ecosystems. 23They are recreating a photoshopped copy of life and it disgusts me. 24Bow to me, you fucking Humanlings! You stand atop me! You eat my grain! You eat my vegetables! You eat my fruit! I give you water. I give you trees and oxygen! I bore you. I gave you life. I nurtured you in my womb that you call the atmosphere. You are my children. Bow to me and respect me. Worship me. Tell me that you love me. Show me your appreciation. Tell me that I am beautiful. Fall to my feet, you pitiful worms or eat from the dumpster of my asshole. 24I flex my unbreakable abs and a tsunami rushes over the coastal communities and I laugh as they drown and I watch their miserable little bodies float through the streets. 25Let the buildings save you now. Let your silly paper money bandage your wounds.

 

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The Spiral Cornucopia of Pale Lavender is winding down to its next Monday.

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THE SPIRALING CORNUCOPIA OF PALE LAVENDER [SEQ. 9 – 14]

The Spiraling Cornucopia of Pale Lavender is  a 10-part series of fiction that explores faith and reality. Below is part 8. To read the introduction of the project, click here.

To read part 1, click here.

To read part 2, click here.

To read part 3, click here.

To read part 4, click here.

To read part 5, click here.

To read part 6, click here.

To read part 7, click here.

Otherwise, begin scroll.

 

4The creators, encircled around me like a very intimate Roman Coliseum. There are two hundred of them. 5Each wears a different colored robe. Each means something different. 6Who are they? Who are you? 7And then I feel their presence. It reaches out to me, stronger than a language. No body speaks. 8We stare at one another and I can see them all at once, spread completely around me. 9Everything is presence. 10I have full knowledge of my surroundings. I feel absolute warmth. 11How do you describe love to someone that has never felt it? How do you tell someone what red looks like if they’ve never seen it? 12I feel uplifted. Warmth. Acceptance. 13I could reach my hands into the air and howl with delight and nobody would cast a social stone at me or even have a sideways thought of me. 14If that is how I were to display my happiness, it would be full acceptance. 15They all smile at me, but not with their faces. 16To me they all look nearly the same, much like the breed of a dog, but there are small differences. Nuances to features. 17I sense them as alternate forms as well. They display themselves differently depending on who is standing in front of them. Not just humans, either. Other races. 18A light consumes me and this one actually does look like a light. It slides with sun flares. It’s very bright. White. Almost blue. Perhaps pale lavender. 19I can see it. 20What are you? I can feel you. Your presence is so close. Take me away. Am I alone? I want to know. How can I know? Do I have to believe in all of these things? 21“Just do good.” 22But are you real?” “If I’m not, then whom are you speaking to?” 23And then everything was gone. Just like someone changed a channel. Everything was gone and [SEQ. XI] 1I found myself standing in a muted forest. And I was a yellow buck toothed sloth. 2Everything is SO muted. The greens are very mushy, pushing towards rotten. Yellows that are very warm and moist, almost a spicy diarrhea orange. There are greasy smudges of purple around. The flowers look like soggy beef. The ground looks like an untended lawn. 3Am I back on Earth? Is this what Earth has always looked like? 4I feel like my perception of truth has been totally fucked with. Have I been exposed to something so beautiful that now everything looks drab and weak by comparison? 5This world is a Seattle neighborhood in the nineties. 6I know what they did to me. In that bare moment, that moment where I felt naked, it was so powerful. Everything inside of me was revealed. 7My thought bubble. My consciousness. My history. The root of who I am. They were checking in on me and seeing how I was progressing before they placed me again. 8All the details and thoughts and past experiences were laid out in front of everyone. All the little pieces. They were pulled out of me, one at a time and then displayed. 9It was as if I were falling apart. And then I could see all facets of my entity before me, looking like orange and yellow and white dots, looking like soft gel capsules. 10And then the greys gazed. 11But not upon the gel capsules, which were merely projections for my benefit. They sifted through my meat and energy and they saw everything. All of the terrible things. All of the thoughts that I don’t want anyone to know. They know that I’ve – [SEQ. XII] 1then I’m sifting through the sea and it’s all I can observe for miles. Miles. What is that? A measurement for distance that does not matter. 2Control your elements. You are part of the elements. You touch the earth. You touch the heart of the earth. The planet of water is not a planet at all. 3Nothing is nothing. 4This is your. 5This is your subconscious. 6This bison of water is your being. Look at the ripples. Do not fear. You cannot die. 7I know I don’t have to tell you this because you already know but I need to explain it to the reader. They are a person sitting on an airplane somewhere over Utah dreaming about numbers. 8Where am I? What are you? Where are you? Are you under there? Underwear? You see the comedic value in my quip and I appreciate that. The joke would be considered by Earthlings, which you once were, as a bad one although we cannot describe why. It is called a dad joke because of something to do with its quality, something we cannot yet observe. They say things that don’t make sense. It seems to be random words strung together and then the others laugh. The dad joke is considered “bad” but it also brings a strange kind of joy and it’s only by disliking the joke that they are actually able to appreciate it. Very strange. 9They are glass porcelain, white and black and the sky is a white slate, perfect and clean and without texture. 10A moist cheese the color of lavender. Pale lavender. 11It doesn’t snow but the air glistens. It glistens lightly. Not crystals. Emotion candy. 12I stick out my tongue and catch one and a sense of eagerness and acceptance fills my body. 13My mouth is sweet caramel. It isn’t a flavor but it is a memory so sweet that I can taste it but differently than before. It is caramel over my soul orb. It is rich and dark and sweet and light and amazing and I feel it rubbing all over my person, like conditioner on my dick in the shower. 14My whole body vibrates and tingles and I am the feeling that pulls through my physical chest and pulses through my physical eyeballs and glides through my physical veins like helpful heroin, to my fingertips and it touches the back of my spine and soaks into my brain and I peak in a prismatic eclipse of shattering crystals of known experience that actually makes me laugh out loud. 15I inhale deeply and give myself a hug. Life is good. [SEQ. XIII] 1I begin walking towards work and then realize that I am in a neighborhood and I was having another hallucination. 2I haven’t been taking my medicine because I’m curious as to what will happen to me if I remove it from my diet. 3I want to better understand myself and what is wrong with me. 4I save all of my skipped pills in a small bottle in my bathroom cabinet. I don’t throw them away. 5The job is terrible. The pain is horrible. My hair is falling out. My knees hurt like fucking fuck. My hip has a sting in it when I walk and when it begins to rain. 6I mean, what the fuck? Just what the fuck, man? When did this happen? This is insane. 7I’m in better shape than this! I’m only sixty! I’m sixty. When did sixty get so old? When did this happen? 8Why am I working here? Why am I still here? 9I am going. To. Die. Soon

 

I

 

AM

 

GOING

 

TO

 

DIE

 

10I’m in a panic. But it’s subtle. It’s quiet. No, it’s muffled. 11It’s very hungry and I can feel it wanting to come out. 12I need to leave this job. 13I need to do something with my life. 14What have I done? What have I done with my life? With my time? What is going to happen to me when I die? What have I done with myself? With anything? 15Will anyone remember me? 16Is that the summation of absolute oblivion? 17When you die your memory is winked out of existence? BLEEP. Goodbye. You don’t exist anymore. 18Nobody can remember you. 19And nobody will tell them. Because nobody cares. 20And this is what god is afraid of. 21If no one has belief in the message, how will the message spread? 22If we are called to be the hands and feet of god, are we called to be the hands and feet because god cannot do it himself? 23I’ve spent my life working towards god and going to church and praying and I’ve read most of my bible. I’ve read most of the new testament. Probably half of it. But I’ve read that half twice. 24I pray. I have prayed. When bad things happen to me, I pray. When bad things happen to people around me, I pray. 25When I need something and it is really important to me, I pray. 26And god never helps me. God doesn’t heal my family and people that I have loved have died. 27He never gave me the things I asked for. I was poor my entire life. I had bills and there were times that I went hungry. I mean, I was never homeless or anything. We ate. We just couldn’t always go on vacation and I had to work my entire life. 28I am afraid that this government is going to hell now that all these lower class people are asking for handouts all the time. 29I would not describe my faith as sterile. I have spent every Sunday in church for my entire life. 30I can recite the rosary, probably backwards. That’s a joke. I definitely could not do that, if I’m speaking factually. 31What will happen to me when I die? 32My heart stops. I drop to my knees. There are no houses on the street – at least no inhabited ones. 33They are all boarded up and the lawns are dead. 34And now I can’t really breathe very well. 35It feels like someone has wrapped a large belt around my chest and has started to squeeze. 36My bones hurt. 37My heart feels as though it’s going to pop. 38I take shallow breaths but don’t panic. I don’t even have to convince myself not to panic. 39It’s all right. Everything is all right. Everything will not be all right for this physical body but it’s okay. 40Death is okay. 41My death will not be okay but death is natural and it’s just time for the next thing, whatever that thing is. It’s okay. Just like going to sleep. 42We were born to do this. 43Everyone was born to do it. And now it’s my turn. And now. And now. And now. 44I lie down and I look down a sewer pipe across the street and I wonder where the water running into it goes. 45I remember racing paper boats in them as a child. 46I don’t wonder who will find my body. 47My mind is already above it. 48I cannot feel my body dying but I can feel my mind elevating. 49I can feel myself understanding things with a cleared perspective. 50There are walls on my brain and I can feel them crumbling. Information is flowing. But not information as in ones and zeroes. 51It’s information as in the curtain is being pulled back. 52I can suddenly see through all of my opinions and I can see down to the tiny little speck of fact that is buried way inside. It’s so clear. 53And I understand everything and everything I did wrong and everything I did right and did almost right and I understand that I did most of it wrong. Everything, nearly. 54My kids are the biggest tragedy. I missed it. I missed it all. And I don’t even have a good excuse. 55I just accept that I did it wrong and I don’t know what’s next but if I start over I hope I can do it better. [SEQ. XIV] 1Now I’m making waffles. 2I am thirty years old and I have short hair and a good smile. My muscles feel good and my confidence is strong. 3The kitchen is wide open and there are pots and pans hanging from little hooks. It looks nice. 4My wife is a thin brunette who usually wears white shirts and black yoga pants. She doesn’t teach yoga but she’s thought about it. 5She’s a vegetarian who thinks vegans are pious. I don’t really like her.

 

 

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The Spiraling Cornucopia of Pale Lavender [seq. 8 – 10]

The Spiraling Cornucopia of Pale Lavender is  a 10-part series of fiction that explores faith and reality. Below is part 7. To read the introduction of the project, click here.

To read part 1, click here.

To read part 2, click here.

To read part 3, click here.

To read part 4, click here.

To read part 5, click here.

To read part 6, click here.

Otherwise, begin scroll.

[SEQ. VIII] 1I see a giant black orb floating in a sky of absolute white. Small streams of red pulse through the white like rivers of blood. It reminds me of photos I’ve seen of Earth taken from outer space. The white stretches to the horizon. 2A rushing wind hits me and tears my skin off, peels it back until I am just muscle and blood myself. 3My skin flaps in the breeze and disappears like a pair of lost pants. 4I hear a voice that is a loud and booming whisper. A spring breeze that will destroy a city. 5Voice says, “Look upon me and be in awe.” 6And it is in this moment that I realize I am not looking at a giant black orb and the sky is not white and the red is not rivers. 7I understand that I am looking at an eyeball. A singular eyeball. An eyeball that is so large that I am dwarfed by the pupil. 8I look down and see that I am standing on a platform made of flesh. “You do not see my true form, human. You see what your brain perceives. Your curiosity is not a weapon. 9Your curiosity is the path without end. Do you desire to continue down this path?” 10I fall to my knees and weep. 11I have been chosen. I have been Spoken to. How do I ever respond? How do I accept? I am so inadequate and unworthy. 12The magnitude of this creature is so great that the word creature is a box that cannot contain XXX. As time is a box that does not and cannot define Uncle Andy, there are no boxes that can define the greatness of this XXX. 13XXX is not a being. XXX is above XXX. Words are boxes and names are boxes that cannot contain the unstoppable rolling power that is this. 14The only word that keeps coming to mind is IS. 15IS. To be present. To exist. To be within. PRESENT. SINGULAR. FIRST PERSON. TO BE. IS. 16I see the word and I see a field of meaning stretched out behind it and I see that the knowledge is too great for my brain. 17I understand the shortcomings of my brain. 18No more could I teach a grasshopper meta-physics than could I begin to understand what IS is beyond what I see. 18My brain does not have the understanding to transcend into this. 19The fabric of reality is a blanket that can be folded and it can wear away and the blanket can be placed on many beds and it will take the shape of the bed and I am just a stitch on the fabric. Or yet… I am a pattern. A color. A shape. A simile. 20“You do not understand and you will never understand until it is time.” 21“Yes.” “But still. Walk towards me always. Do you believe that Little One?” 22I bend my head down and the sobbing takes over again. 23The great hand lifts me and places me inside the great mouth that is a black hole. 24I scream out, “Consume me, Master! Make me of value to your purpose! Allow my energy to feed your being!” and I drift in space and I am swallowed up and I feel myself being gently shifted down the throat until I am in a dark stomach that smells of roses. 25Chandeliers hang from the ceiling and someone has set out a dinner table with candles and wine and the floor is made of fine red meat. 26Six people sit at the table, all women, all mature. 27None of them have faces. They have heads but instead of features they contain swatches of flesh. 28Their hands lie on top of a pork roast and it dissolves into their flesh and I am reminded of Venus fly traps. 29The women stand up and begin walking towards me. One lifts up her hands and I see a clear toxin dripping from her palms and leaking onto the floor. 30“Stay back.” They continue marching towards me. 31I see a hole in the wall and run towards it. Jumping through the hole I find myself in the upper intestine of the IS. 32I run through a labyrinth of pliable purple flesh and find people lying about, eating from the walls and licking the floors. 33“Worship IS. Worship IS. Fall to your knees and worship with your mouth.” 34A man looks at me with flesh hanging from his teeth. “We are the great parasites of IS. We are meant to eat the cancer. Are you the cancer?” 35I run and then I’m in the small intestine and the ceiling is lower. Bats swoop down and claw at my face and blood runs down my cheeks and vines shoot from the earth and grab my feet and my legs and the vines have mouths that bite me. 36My shoes fill with blood and I scream and I bite back and I won’t give up. I bite the vines and they scream and I keep running and then I am in the color, filled with books. 37The Great Library of Knowledge. I pull a book off the shelf and open it. Inside is a language I have never seen but I read it anyway, feeling the words through my very being. 38Chapter 1: Always look left and right. Always say please and thank you. Always be a gentleman. Show compassion. Be empathy. Reflect sympathy. 39Chapter 2: Everyone has a voice. Everyone has a heart. Everyone has a brain. Everyone has a past. Everyone is comprised of innumerable memories and emotions. Everyone is a tangle of ideas that they don’t understand. 40Chapter 3: Happiness is just an emotion. Happiness is simply drug excretions from your brain. As is anger. As is love. 41Chapter 4: Nothing is impossible. 42Chapter 5: Trust everyone and fear losing nothing. 43I close the book and drop it on the ground because I don’t care. Someone else can pick it up. 44A trapdoor slides open under me and I hit my jaw on the way down, biting my tongue. 45My mouth begins to bleed and it tastes like cinnamon. 46The walls around me narrow until they are pressed against my shoulders and it feels as though my arms are on fire. 47I slam into the ground on top of a pile of hot coals, embers and wood. 48Crawling out of the fireplace [SEQ. IX] 1I find myself in my earth house circa four decades ago. I see myself opening a present. An action figure. I love him. 2My dad checks his watch. My mom takes a picture on her oblong camera. 3Where is this? A voice next to me says, “Prime time, baby.” 4And when I turn around I see that I am in a theater of people all watching my life. 5“It’s the 2pm showing. Everyone loves the next scene where you pee your pants, haha.” “Why are you watching this?” “Because your life is a TV show and you’re the main star. We all watch you. All of us. Every one of us. Our entire planet has watched you your entire life. Time is relative. You are a theatrical feature film. Your life is our entertainment. 6Your death makes us feel something we can’t feel. 7You create in us the sense of being alive. 8I have watched your life six times. Your teenage years are my favorite. Watching you discover the world from twelve to sixteen is a truly astounding experience. 9Do you remember your first beer? Hannah stole it out of her dad’s fishing cooler in the garage and you guys shared it and then made out for forty minutes, laying down in the boat while that screw dug into your hip. But you didn’t care. Hanna. 10But I have to know – something we never knew – did you like your dog when you were a kid? You always seemed ambivalent.” “I liked my dog, yes.” “It seems like you should. Let’s give Claude a big round of applause, everyone!” The room erupts into applause. 11Lights come on – rows of lights. Row after row after row and I watch the auditorium light up and it continues to go, further and further. 12I’m in a stadium, two stadiums, a small town. A city. I’m surrounded by a hundred million lights and they’re all looking right at us and I say, “Hey, we’re going to need flashlights if we’re going to go this way,” and everyone laughs again because it is so bright in here. 13I say, “Thank you all for coming. It was quite nice and uh, I guess thank you for watching! I hope I didn’t do anything that embarrassed myself too much…uh…” the audience lets out a groan of sympathy. Oooohhhhh. 14I have them by the throat. They all love me. 15“Were you all there when I found that odd shaped mole on my back? “YES!” “And you were all there when Laura broke up with me?” The audience nods. 16Some of them have tears in their eyes. 17Their race and shape seems to change. They seem to be something else until I move my eye toward them and then, as I do, they seem to shift to humans. 18Moving, shifting little creatures. 19What are you? What are you really? Just projections. You too. Me too. All of us part of something bigger. Struggling to get home. 20“Could you sign any autographs, sir?” “Oh yes,” I reply with far too much accepting glee, “I would be delighted to!” 21The audience erupts and rushes the stage. 22The manager calls for order, which is finally attained but it takes three and a half days and during that time, I am forced to sleep on a cot on the stage. 23People take pictures with my sleeping form and the images later become the most valuable possessions of this realm. They are hung in churches. 24Finally, the autographs start and I sign everything – I sign books and posters and mugs and pencils and I even sign a lady’s arm and I kiss two babies and one man. 25Then Michael approaches the table and his jaw drops open, unhinges, snaps, pops. I hear it break. I hear the bone snap in half like a dried twig and for some reason the first thought I have is about how expensive it’s probably going to be to replace that. 26His tongue sprouts from his mouth and then splits and wraps around my face. It sizzles and then melts through the flesh but I can still see. 27My eyes are blocked but my cognitive understanding is clear. 28He says, “All is vanity,” in a high pitched woman’s voice and then melts into the floorboards and I follow him. 29The auditorium flashes past me and I see the feet of a crowd of people and I remember thinking how dirty each of their shoes were. 30Don’t they care about the clothes that they wear? And where have they all been that their shoes were so dirty? 31One man has the face of a lion. It’s fantastic and majestic. His mane is enormous and golden and I want to touch it. 32Something inside of me wants to run my fingers through his mane. 33He stands against the bar and he wears a tuxedo. He holds a martini glass in his hand and the liquid sparkles. There is an olive on a toothpick in the cup. His sleeves are rolled up, which is an odd look to have with a tuxedo but somehow he pulls it off. 34Clearly a confident man. His shoes are brown loafers but man, they shine. 35He is the only one that can save me and then he is gone. 36My heart cries out for him and as I fall I see him look over the edge of the hole and he is wearing a red robe with white trim and black dots. The shoulders have strands of gold and His eyes are so blue. 37“Why do you look like that?” “This is what you think God looks like, isn’t it, Aslan?” “Hold me.” “No longer.” “Did I make a mistake?” 38“You failed to love,” and I keep falling and then I think I hear him say, “…anyone but yourself.” And [SEQ. X] 1my truth sits out in front of me and I am naked. 2My clothing is on but my brain is exposed. My deepest thoughts are laid out in front me. 3The lights in the darkness of this slow motion fall flash on and I see them all. The greys. 4The creators, encircled around me like a very intimate Roman Coliseum. There are two hundred of them. 5Each wears a different colored robe. Each means something different. 6Who are they? Who are you? 7And then I feel their presence. It reaches out to me, stronger than a language. No body speaks.

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THE SPIRALING CORNUCOPIA OF PALE LAVENDER [SEQ. 7 – 8]

 The Spiraling Cornucopia of Pale Lavender is  a 10-part series of fiction that explores faith and reality. Below is part 6. To read the introduction of the project, click here.

To read part 1, click here.

To read part 2, click here.

To read part 3, click here.

To read part 4, click here.

To read part 5, click here.

Otherwise, begin scroll.

 

42The Painter says, “You have to do this part alone,” and I turn around to find him standing at the top of the steps. 43“I’m afraid.” And he says, “I know. Everyone is. You are not alone.” 44And then he shuts the door and I’m left in the starlight. 45I witness a shadow descend from the ceiling – a shape about my size but darker – its features a shadow. Not cloaked in shadow. But actual shadow. The form of a man. 46His clothes are baked of darkness. 47I can see Him but I cannot contain him with my brain. 48I see a figure but not a form. 49His structure is both tall and narrow. He slowly descends through the air until he lands on his hands and knees. 50I watch his face rise and think that the lack of light must be playing tricks on my eyes. “Who are you?” I ask but there is no response. “Hello,” but still nothing. 51HE stands up and says, “Don’t think of me like that. I do not deserve capitalization.” 52He walks to me, cracking his knuckles as he does so and I see that a silvery stream is being left in his wake. It fades. His shoes are black and 53his socks are red. “They are not red. You only perceive them as such.” I perceive his shoes to be black and his socks to be red. My mind also perceives him to be wearing a soiled black suit and a white shirt that has been covered in dried sweat. 54He speaks, “If you mean to converse with me it is because you have come a long way. You have come a long way to find me and so you deserve certain truths. 55First, understand that you do not see me. Understand that this is a form your consciousness gives you in order to process my vastness. 56Understand that I am not a HE or a she. Understand that gender binaries are beneath me. 57To be a singular male is to have weakness for you cannot repopulate alone. 58Your species is destined to die without your counterpart. 59Likewise, I am above it as well as you would place value upon it. I am not an it, lacking in sexual orientation. 59I am above sexual orientation because it serves no function to me as I live outside of the parameter of time, your greatest enemy. 60Time plays no role in my existence. 61Day and night are just different points in one long stream of consciousness. Time holds no value for me and as such, I will never die.” 62The question comes tumbling out of my mouth, “Are you God?” and the creature stops and smiles. “You always ask the same question. And I always answer the same way. 63Why do you wish to know? When will you cast aside your simple curiosities and step forward in conscious decision? 64What would you do if I said, Yes. I am God and you are my great ejaculate, formed in my image to wander the earth seeking truth. 65Does this help you? Does this give you forward motion? Why are you here?” and I tell him (it) that I want to know the truth. 66He laughs and says, “There, there. You’ve made it. Great job.” And he places his hand on my shoulder and I cringe at how much emotion radiates from it. 67I feel the complete spectrum in one complete charge. The happiness and the fear are tangled and braided together. But I can also sense something else. Something bigger. 68There are emotions beyond my spectrum. I can see them at the edges of the color wheel. I can see that the spectrum continues on but it all goes black and white and then it starts to fade. But it’s right there and I’m on the edge of it all. 69I almost ask what it is but I know what he’ll say. He’ll tell me that I already know and he’s right. 70Everything is coming back to me. Whatever I knew before. Whatever I used to understand, it’s all coming back. 71I know that I used to know something else and I know that I’m hatching into it. 72Have I been here before? When this creature said that I always ask the same question, did he mean me personally or did he mean all humans or did he mean everyone / thing that has ever come up here and the man says, “That is right. But I am not a man.” 73I look at him and think to myself, “Who are you? What do I call you? How do I think of you?” 74“My name is not important and what you call me is not important. 75For the sake of our exercise, you may call me Uncle. You may associate that term with the male side of your species but understand that I do not. I tell you all of this to help you understand. 75First, elevate your perception. 76I am beyond sex. 77Second, your language lacks proper words and I would like to be represented as closely to my true form as possible. 78Your personal emotions are very closely tied to the word ‘Uncle’. I see why but I would like to hear you tell me. 79I find your voice pleasant. Do you ever go to the park to listen to bird’s chirp? It’s quite nice.” 80“My Uncle Andy raised me when my dad left.” “Uncle Andy. I appreciate the transgender element of the name. Would it help you if I were to dawn the glamour of Uncle Andy?” Uncle Andy asks me, sitting in front of me, in his leather recliner. 81I try to pull back what The Shadow Thing looked like before – before he was Uncle Andy. Did I see his face? 82All I can bring to the surface is pock-marked skin the color of fabric softeners, a scar of red lips and black, featureless eyes that hold universes within them. 83“Does this help you, son?” Uncle Andy asks me and pops a small powdered donut into his mouth. 84“We can talk about ultimate consciousness if you think it sounds cool.” 85“No. I don’t want this. I don’t want the pony show. I want the truth. Not a version of it. Come back to me as you are – as close as I can understand you. Help me understand you more.” 86“Oh, lonely boy. You will never understand me. The Big Bang was earlier in my afternoon. I have seen the rise and fall of cultures before brunch. I have witnessed countless evolutions. I have seen life crawl from the seas and descend from the heavens and I have watched it grow and breed and destroy itself over and over in many places, in many realms, on many plateaus. 87And now you’re wondering if god created you in his image and I’ll tell you that god did create them in his image but “they” are not “you” and “you” are just a nucleic acid in the petri dish of a greater intelligence. 88How does that make you feel? How does that answer make your heart cry out?” 89and I feel hopeless and tired and everything turns grey. 90“If not for god, what is my purpose?” and Uncle Andy says, “But what has changed? Do you not feel your simple curiosity for the zest of life any longer? 91Does your compassion for your earth bound brothers and sisters dissolve into mud? Do you no longer desire your favorite foods or yearn to take part in your favorite past times? 92Do you not desire to have a career that feeds your soul? 93What difference does your origin truly make to you?” 94I stare at my hands and at my feet and realize that I am a cosmic joke. 94I stare into the sky and wonder if a technologically advanced microscope is staring into this lighthouse and if it sees me and I wonder if, worse, it can actually see into me? Can it peep into my brain? Can it stare into my soul? 95Do I have a soul? 96“What do you mean when you say soul?” “I mean something inside of me that makes me live.” “Like your heart?” “No. Something deeper.” “Your brain holds many mysteries.” “Not my brain. My soul. It is the thing that makes me tick. It’s the thing that brings me life.” “But your organs bring you life.” “But what brings them life?” “Your blood.” “And what gives me blood?” ”Your bone marrow.” “But – ” 97“What is it you want me to say that will put your silly curiosity to sleep? 98If I told you that I were god and that I created you, would you next ask me…” “Where did you come from?” 99“And if I told you that I were burped from a black hole you would say…” “Who put the black hole here?” 100“Yes. And at risk of sounding rude I am going to tell you that your simple curiosity is stupidity cloaked in false intelligence. 101Do you know what I am? That is a rhetorical question. 102You have come to my realm and crawled up the steps of my tower and you have found me and you could ask me anything and you waste your time with trivial brain vomit.” 103I apologize and tell him or it or THAT or THE CREATION or Uncle Andy that I am sorry and feel insignificant for wasting his time or its time. 104“You are not wasting my time. Time has no bearing on me. It is a box that does not confine me. Time is an element that I do not have to acknowledge. 105Do you understand that you are a projection? 106“What? No. A projection of what?” 107“You are a projection of your true self. This place – this world – this level of consciousness – is defined by laws and rules. Time being one of them. Gravity. The elemental forces. These are things that are unique to this level and your being – your present form – is being projected onto this surface. 108Who you see is not who you are. Who you see is just the version of yourself that most accurately suits this realm. 109I will tell you what you need to ask because it is clear to me that you are drowning in a sea of thoughts and anxieties right now. 110What you need to ask me, while you still have time is who is your projector? What is your projector? What and where are your projections coming from? 111If this is just a version of yourself that is meant to fit into this world, then what is the true version of you? 112Is it in your brain? Is it in your heart? Is it in this soul that you speak of? 113Do you exist on another realm? Is your real self aware that it is projecting an avatar onto different worlds? 114Are you being controlled by someone else? Is your projector a part of you? 115Or are you just a tool that someone else mentally controls to complete tasks? Are you a defunct program? Have you gone rogue? Are you a virus? Are you a cancer? What are you?” 116A heavy silence falls across the room that causes the windows to shatter. The breeze blows in and brushes my blonde hair out of my eyes. 117“I just want to know the truth.” Uncle Andy shakes his head slightly. “No. You don’t.” 118“You don’t know what I want.” The words sound childish coming out of my head. 119“If everything in this world was breathed into existence by The Painter then aren’t you and your Eternal Power also subjects of another’s creation?” 120Uncle Andy smiles and asks if he may touch me. I don’t answer but he reaches out regardless and places his palm against the center of my skull. “Are you ready for a glimpse?” 121A tear runs down my cheek and my stomach and heart fill with fear. 122I don’t know what’s about to [SEQ. VIII] 1I see a giant black orb floating in a sky of absolute white. Small streams of red pulse through the white like rivers of blood. It reminds me of photos I’ve seen of Earth taken from outer space. The white stretches to the horizon. 2A rushing wind hits me and tears my skin off, peels it back until I am just muscle and blood myself. 3My skin flaps in the breeze and disappears like a pair of lost pants. 4I hear a voice that is a loud and booming whisper. A spring breeze that will destroy a city. 5Voice says, “Look upon me and be in awe.” 6And it is in this moment that I realize I am not looking at a giant black orb and the sky is not white and the red is not rivers. 7I understand that I am looking at an eyeball. A singular eyeball. An eyeball that is so large that I am dwarfed by the pupil. 8I look down and see that I am standing on a platform made of flesh.

 

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Part 7 premieres next Monday the 27th. We become a food source of God, travel through the holy G.I. tract and find ourselves evacuated into a living memory.

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