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chemotherapy

We had been drinking homemade sangria all day and then we took naps with the fans on.  It was Saturday, late in the day.  The sun was still up.

When we woke up, the sun was just starting to set.  For dinner, my wife and I grilled fresh jumbo shrimps, a sliced eggplant and a green pepper, everything brushed with oils and spices. We ate and washed it all down with more homemade sangria.

I was clearing the dishes when the door rang. Marc walked in with his girlfriend, Lee Ann. My wife, Pam, asked them to take their shoes off, but they didn’t.  Pam was always doing that, trying to bend people to her unnatural customs. I felt like Marc was being a dick though, but I couldn’t get mad at him or Lee Ann. I suppose it’s possible, but at the time they just weren’t on my radar, the insult of indifference.

Marc had been working all day like usual, and his hands were always scuffed.  He matched my kitchen floor.  Lee Ann and Pam were always complaining about his dirty hands.  My wife, Pam, said it made her anxious, like his dirty hands reminded her of something unspeakably unpleasant.

Marc was complaining about being tired. He worked for a company that repaired machines, big machines that fixed things, other big machines, which meant that his hands were always filthy, because they didn’t stand a chance against those grease-spitting monsters. I admired him and also feared him. I asked if he wanted a beer, and then handed him one.

Lee Ann and Pam went into the bedroom and shut the door. From within the kitchen, Marc and I could hear them, Lee Ann’s muffled whine and Pam’s reassuring responses, which to me sounded vague and unreassuring.  Marc and I laid back in the kitchen ignoring them, like dirty pirates focused instead on gold and land, money and homes, jobs and security: this ordered way of things.

"You guys fighting again?"  I asked him.

"More than ever.  It’s, uh, getting me thinking… I think we’re on that long road to… dee-vorse-ment.”  He struggled to get the words out, this big man with tarred fingers who spoke about as well as a cartoon baby.

Marc had just put his dog down, too. He was upset about everything. I knew a thing or two about euthanasia myself.  I told him the story to try and console him.  

"My wife at the time—we’re divorced now— we borrowed cash from her parents to afford a cheap cargo train to Southeast Asia—I won’t name the country—so that we could put down my mother who had developed aggressive brain cancer. The chemotherapy had not reversed the growth, but only made her puke green at the dinner table."

"Green?  Man, what the fuck are you telling me this for?" said Marc.  "I might get brain cancer one day, asshole.  I don’t wanna know what color my vomit will be." 

"Maybe that’s why I never told you about this.  Just listen.

"My ex-wife’s parents were initially against the procedure, morally.  He was a war vet, a combat photographer turned conservative local politician.  His name was Hank O’Carey, an Irish fuck, who married Susan Jenkins, a receptionist for an orthodontist office practicing in Great Neck.  I hated her mother.  We called her Sue, with her melted thighs, those brown fat cells—when I thought of her I imagined mammaries, the glands that grandmothers have instead of breasts, you know?"

Marc laughed at that.  Every man I’ve ever known likes to talk about boobies.  Even the gay ones.  ”Yeah, man,” he said.  ”That’s shits icky.”

"You wanna know icky?  She also often had these bed sores underneath her caboose that smelled horrific, like rotting animal innards and wet cheese or feet."

He stopped laughing. 

But I continued, “the first eight months of Barbara and I living together, we stayed in her parent’s basement, which had been converted into a musky cave of sorts. We came up for meals, other than that we’d use the back door to enter and exit (thankfully). Try holding your breath throughout an entire conversation with a woman’s stinking, rotting skin-wounds. One time, just when I couldn’t hold it together any longer, I excused myself mid-gag, out the back door. I found garbage bins outside against the side of the house.  When I lifted the lip up to open one, I smelt this horrible stench of shit or something, and saw the can had been filled with used kitty litter, and the bags had been torn apart by neighbor hood strays or something. I fell against the can and let it rip, all of it out of my body past my teeth, one hand right above my knee for support.”

Marc put his beer down.  He looked up at me with some anger in his eyes.  ”I’m gonna leave, man.  Thanks for having us over.”  He got up from his seat and called for Lee Ann.

"Hey, I did not invite you.  Isn’t that right?  Now, let me finish.  You’ve got to be more complacent about these things, Marc."  He already had his coat halfway on, but paused for a moment to hear me out.  

"It was all that for nothing, anyway. It didn’t last with Barb. She found a fleet man, some dude home from the Navy for the weekend, and I caught them together. They were walking for ice cream in the middle of the day, when she was supposed to be in another city. It was a total accident.  The marriage lasted four years though, and that’s not too bad."

He got real mad.  ”Lee Ann!  Let’s go!  Now!” he screamed.  Then she came scampering out of the far bedroom, one shoe on, one shoe off.

They left, and it felt normal again, like a great pressure had just been released from the room.  Pam finally emerged from the empty bedroom.  I asked her if she had any medicine for the bends.  She laughed.  She knew exactly what I meant.  I opened the fridge as she sat down at the kitchen table, and pulled out more homemade sangria.