Did he always know he was going to die, or did he think there was a chance?Did he believe me when I told him stories of the people whose tumors had shrunk to nothing, seemingly by magic?
Two years ago, I was on autopilot when I changed his diaper or scrubbed the smell of urine from the armchair he sat and slept in.
I didn’t question how I found the strength to support his crumbling frame as we hobbled to the bathroom.
The ease of our everyday interactions is what kills me. The first surgery, a deep lymph-node dissection of the left groin, and its subsequent days-long hospital stay, spanned the first week of April 2008.
The way we spoke to each other about what I’d bring home for dinner or whether it was a PBR or a Grolsch kind of night. The second surgery, which removed the cancer’s recurrence from underneath the tender flesh of the first, was June 11. I spent a lot of time after his death looking at photographs of us camping, at a friend’s wedding, with my family at our first Thanksgiving.
Nearly four years later, I sometimes type his email address in the search box in my Gmail.
Hundreds of results pop up, and I’ll pick a few at random to read. Me: yep it’s a buddhism thing I can break down Clark’s illness into one diagnosis (metastatic melanoma), one prognosis (between 4 and 14 months to live), three surgeries, three clinical trials, seven hospital stays, three doses of chemotherapy, and five weeks of hospice care.
My eyes sting as I read a newspaper article describing the latest study to come out of a cancer conference, which involves a drug trial that Clark was too sick to participate in.
I slink off to the bathroom with my head down, ignoring my friends at the bar, when I catch a glimpse of his obituary, which hangs on the back of a door at the Black Cat, the bar where we met.
i was reading testimonies of people who have been cured by the treatment, this was a few months ago, and the one guy wrote that absolutely nothing compares to IL2. Clark: i can’t stop crying its hard to read the computer i’m so happy Me: yes baby Clark: :-D we are going to do it baby Me: i’m so happy too i know we are Chemotherapy was our last-ditch effort to beat back the cancer. If all went according to plan, the chemo would shrink his tumors to manageable levels, and we’d return to the NIH to participate in a different clinical trial, the one with the best success rate.
Clark: I would go to my mothers chill there u can start having a life again Me: baby, my life is being with you and fighting this cancer that’s what it is i do not resent you, and i never will| i love you and we’re in this together After three weeks of chemo, it was clear we were losing. Clark: email coming um, the message said that she understands our concerns and thinks they are still able to provide us the original treatment and just wanted to talk to us more about it Me: WHAT! on Tuesday Me: oh my god Me: got her email oh my god they’re going to do it Clark: whenever Kitano does something totally rad i play that “Are you ready for the sex girls” song from Revenge of the Nerds in my head Me: HAHAHAHAHA tell her that.
Without even thinking about it, I’d roll my jeans halfway up my calves and get into the bathtub to pull him up.