When offered an impossible choice between HIV & cancer
by Corey Saucier
In most cases I am a sane, calm, and rational person who realizes that there are limits to what is possible in the real world. This is not true. I just lied. I am completely irrational most of the time. I am rarely ever calm. “Normal” is a word that I can barely even tolerate. If you say it more than three times in my presence I break out in purple polka-dot hives and start to sweat. I would say that when it comes to my natural demeanor, I am somewhere between jittery, too loud on Tuesdays, and staring intently into a stranger’s open face while whispering in a made-up language (that sounds like Tagalog and Portuguese were pureed into a blender) the words: “Gosh, you are beautiful” over and over without breaking eye contact.
“Gosh, you are beautiful,” I say from across the crowded room.
“Gosh, you are beautiful,” I say while we are being introduced in Starbucks.
“Gosh, you are beautiful,” I say from the next stall over while tapping my foot way past the point of it being “normal.”
Most people usually just pretend like it’s not happening, so I’m not too bothered. But at least I am 99.98 percent reasonable. (Unless I’m in the middle of a psychotic break, which obviously only happens .02 percent of the time.) But deducting the rare occasions that I’ve grown iridescent blue butterfly wings; or angels are knocking outside my door at 3 a.m.; or I’ve confused a homeless person with God, again…I’m complete grounded in logic and reason.
Call me Bill Nye the Science Guy.
This is not exactly accurate. I’m lying again. I don’t believe that logic and science have anything to do with each other.
But I do take my pills every day. I have seen a therapist every Wednesday for more than a third of my adult life. And I fully understand the importance of doctors and nurses and hospitals, and showing up for my weekly “medical board-approved” chemotherapy and radiation.
But sometimes you just want a miracle!
Cedars-Sinai Samuel Oschin Comprehensive Cancer Institute has an impossible full five stars on Yelp.
The multiethnic nurses have perfect blond highlights, names that remind you of your favorite aunts and “play cousins,” and they genuinely laugh at ALL of your jokes. And for the last six hours I’ve been laying in my own private room of a very high end “infusion center” with an IV beeping every ten minutes as it drips deadly lifesaving poison into my system.
An “infusion center” is where most oncologist stuff the chemo patients with no other options into a sad little room hoping that they don’t notice the death, desperation, and loss that is mounted on the walls like so many beheaded beasts.
One hour of intravenous hydration.
One hour of “pre-meds”
Two hours of Chemo.
One more hour of hydration.
And then they tie me down, blindfold me, and lock me into a thin caged iron maiden that bombards me with radiation until my flesh boils.
So many more beeps!
I’m nervous but I shouldn’t be, because this “infusion center” is a white and wide temple with private beds, and high ceiling, and invisible glass walls that bathe us in healing light. There are oranges, and bananas, and sugar cookies and ice cream, and applessauces strewn freely at my feet. And everything is as beautiful and diaphanous as the tinnitus ringing like church bells in my ears.
And it’s so glorious here it’s almost like I don’t have cancer. Or AIDS. Or HPV.
But the chaplain is in my room smiling warmly, and he wouldn’t be in my room (smiling warmly) if I didn’t have cancer.
He’s cute and nondenominational and broken-down around the edges in that sexy way that married men are.
He’s talking to me about what I think I will learn from the cancer. He’s not flirting with me. But he’s cute and grounded and one of those souls who can hold intimate space with a stranger. So, I am flirting. (I flirt with everyone. It’s a problem.)
But the chaplain is distracted. He keeps pulling out his phone and looking at something there and then back gazing at the large bag of cisplatin dripping into my veins….
And I’m just about to throw my juice in his face and scream “Pay Attention to me! Tell me I’m pretty!” And devolve into a three year old’s temper tantrum. Because I have AIDS AND CANCER and can do whatever the hell I want!!
When the impossible happens.
Something shifts inside of him. And he very solemnly lets me know that the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris is on fire.
I take another sip from my juice, “Because so….”
“No you don’t understand,” he says in hushed tones. “This is miracle moment. When something of such spiritual value is destroyed, the clergy of the world are called to balance the harm with good.” He opens his hands and there are rose petals falling from his palms like stigmata. He smiles that warm smile and asks, “What would you have me heal my son? HIV or cancer?”
“Are you stupid? Both!” I scream.
“Shhh…I’m only a hospital staff, I’m not the freaking Pope! Choose one.”
I close my eyes to make my wish. And when I open them there is just the fragrance of vanilla and rose and two finished juice boxes.
Now, none of this happened, obviously. But what if it did?
And since miracles can still happen out of make believe…
I’m choosing to be healed anyway.
Love and Light
Corey Saucier is an artist and writer living in Los Angeles. He is a Lambda Literary Fellow in Fiction and Non-Fiction and is currently looking for a publisher for his first novel. His musings and wanderings on Love, Life, and Nonsense can be found at www.justwords.tumblr.com.