Welcome to this new way of communicating. A lot of you have said you’re thinking of me, and it honestly helps to imagine a warm light-blue web of well-wishing thoughts surrounding my woebegone head, to say nothing of your willingness to read what I cough up every day, which for me is downright therapeutic. If you’re really thinking of me, I’d like you to think of me this way:
I’m standing on the roof of my house. To the south and west rise the signature rock formations that Boulder calls the Flatirons. Over them, moving north and east, looms an enormous black cloud across which I’ve mentally superimposed the word “CANCER.” As it approaches, I face it with my shoulders squared and fists balled. And then I start yelling so hard that the cords in my stand out like bridge cables.
“C’mon, tough guy!” I shout furiously. “You want a piece of me?”
I jerk my shirt up above my nipples and thrust my belly toward the approaching cloud. “What piece do you want? Lungs? Pancreas? Liver? Colon?”
I begin bending back fingers. “First you took my only immigrant grandparent, kindly old Papa Louie. Abandoned by his Hungarian family in New York at age 12, he ended up with his own successful hardware store in Hoboken, and was so busy working and hiding candies around his apartment for me to find that he didn’t see you coming for his prostate and boom, suddenly I’m a seven-year-old on a first-name basis with Death! I’ll bet that makes you feel warm and fuzzy all over!
I bend back a second finger. “Then you made two runs at my dad, a sweeter man than whom never lived. One was on the very day his first grandchild was born! What was that supposed to be? Funny? Well I got news for you, Buster! Sy is still walking a mile a day through Manhattan at age 92 and never gives you a second thought!” So you can take your business elsewhere!
I’m getting a little hoarse now and droplets of sweat and/or spittle are starting to radiate from my head as I shriek louder and louder. I bend back a third finger. “Then you went for my big brother, Mike! Aren’t you brave, to take a doe-eyed, sweet-natured artist – who never did anything but take care of me and make art for strangers’ enjoyment! He never got to do anything else because you grabbed him, you motherfucker, when he was only 32. You must be so proud of yourself!” At the mention of Mike a sob comes up with my screaming and I almost lose my footing on the roof. I lower my voice to a growl and roll up my sleeves.
“And then you came for me. Just when Margaret and I were getting serious about having a child, you grabbed one of my nuts. Well, fuck you. I whipped your ass.” I give my chest one resounding thump with my right fist. “Cured,” was the word my oncologist used as he closed my chart for the last time! Cured! You think I can’t whip your ass again? Come on!”
That is the modest, unassuming way I’d like you to think of me.
“Sir,” says the officer politely, his hand resting nonchalantly on the butt of his holstered revolver. “Would you come down off the roof, please?”