Sunday, March 18, 2007

darkness and light

1. sometimes the balance came out wrong

Turns out I am not fluent in vet-speak. “The full mammary line” actually only means one side—in this case the three left boobies, which would make her lopsided if she weren’t an A-cup anyway.

And, it turns out, “the X-rays are clear, but her tumor was big and nasty and bumpy” means there’s a fairly good (meaning very bad) chance that it has spread in some small way and could recur, which wouldn’t give her all that long. After Friday’s cautiously optimistic blog post (during which I was secretly feeling very optimistic), I came crashing down and stayed there for 16 excruciating hours.

I was feeling strange and stir-crazy, and since T-Mec was scheduled to be at the hospital overnight, I decided to meet AK in Hollywood for a movie. She indulged my need for the lightest of light fare and let me drag her to (she even suggested it) Reno 911! Miami, which I’m pretty sure was pretty funny. (On Thursday, the first of what’s shaping up to be the monastic life of a cat caretaker, I rented A Prairie Home Companion, which, despite being billed as a comedy, is actually all about how people survive loss after loss until they are wise and kind and a little archaic, and then death comes for them too.)

Before AK arrived on the red line, I wandered around Hollywood Boulevard, something I haven’t done in a long time but used to do a lot as an undergrad. Back then—when there were more graffitied empty lots and about the same amount of homeless people—it seemed weird and magical, a promise that the world beyond graduation held more beautiful and terrible things than I could imagine. I even got a tattoo, eventually, that related to this passage in Cynthia Kadohata’s In the Heart of the Valley of Love:

I thought of Hollywood Boulevard as a place that made you all of a sudden crave both darkness and light, and feel satiated with neither by itself. But you couldn’t be sure what the right balance was that you craved, so sometimes the balance came out wrong, and you ended up with middle-class white guys in shiny black boots, or right-looking girls who were somehow wrong.

On Friday night I wandered through Sephora, with its rainbow aisles of lip gloss and its pristine black-and-white exterior. I watched teenage girls glide their hands across nail polish displays and try to impress each other with sarcastic comments about anything they could latch onto, including the music pumping forgettabley through the speakers: I hate remixes, and I really hate techno remixes. I watched a woman, who may have been high and who may have technically been a man, apply layer after layer of tester makeup to her already mask-like face: orange-bronze skin with white-silver eyelids and pink-silver lips.

I felt like a rag that had been wrung out, and, newly dry, I was able to absorb more of what was around me. Happy and Busy were so far away. So was Kind, but so too was Judgmental. In their place was a floating intensity that was new but also ancient. That, if I wanted to be cold about things, was probably good for me, useful in some way I could not use right now.

2. transition to normal

I snapped out of it a bit when I saw AK emerging from the hole in the ground that is the Metro station. She too looked brand new—even cuter and friendlier than I’d remembered—and also familiar, of course, the person who could save me from all this.

The other face that saved me was Mec-Mec’s. All my worrying, my quickly shamed optimism and superstitious pessimism—all of it more or less dissolved when I went backstage at the vet’s Saturday morning and saw her in her interim cage. Yes, there was a big, meaty sewn-up gash running the length of her shaved belly, but there too were her blue eyes and sudden purr, saying, Hey, where’ve you been? Save me from all this, will you?

I scratched the side of her face and whispered that I’d do my best.

When I’m sick, I like to keep my routine as normal as possible, because then I feel less like a Sick Person and more like a Person Who Happens to be Sick. Either Mec-Mec is more intuitive than I give her credit for, or she and I have very similar personalities. Although Dr. Wong suggested all sorts of sicky measures, like feeding her with a syringe full of cat food and keeping her in the bathroom, T-Mec made it very clear that things would be business as usual.

She immediately climbed out of her carrier and used the litter box. She scratched on the door to be let out of the bathroom (and OC cried to be let in), so we ended up spending the rest of the night on the bed watching six episodes of the Sundance Channel’s TransGeneration on DVD.

The documentary series chronicles four college students (two FTM and two MTF) at four universities across the country who Happen to be Transitioning Genders while in school. The show is candid and, while it does provide some Trans 101 info, for the most part it just lets the kids be themselves, who are very different people: Geeky, self-involved anime fan Gabbie; sweet and wise Armenian grad student T.J.; Lucas, a southerner who finds himself one of the only guys at Smith (“I’m going to have to explain that on my résumé for the rest of my life”); and, Raci, a hearing impaired Filipina immigrant who shares a bedroom with her aunt in East LA and is too busy giggling and styling her hair to realize how much she’s up against.

There was something comforting about watching a journey so frequently portrayed as heart-wrenching at best unfold on the gorgeous, unlined faces of kids who, sure, have a lot of serious shit to deal with, but who all have the necessary support (from the sheltering environment of college itself to surprisingly accepting relatives to empathetic queer friends) to get through it just fine.

For every reverent nod, I also cringed when they tried on academic lingo like a too-big jacket and rolled my eyes at their youthful ploys and preoccupations. It was especially fascinating to watch Raci sob, “I’m so all alone” to her concerned drama teacher. They were both clearly playing roles—the “I’m here for you” adult and the desperate but charming freshman—and yet those roles were as genuine as they were practiced.

I have two more episodes to go. Another cold compress, another dose of antibiotics, a load of laundry. Then it will be time for bed, and then it will be another weird normal day.


Claire said...

Nothing wrong with cautious optimism. Odds are meant to be beaten. My best to T-Mec.

Cheryl said...

The Klein family brain sometimes has trouble wrapping itself around that concept, but I'll give it a try.

erin said...

fast-healing wishes to t-mec... i'm going with cautious optimism, too. (of course aidan and isabelle send their best, as well).

Cheryl said...

Thanks, Erin, and give Aidan and Isabelle a big tuna-flavored kiss for me.