There is always that one constant in your life,
that person or thing that is always there,
that never grows tired of soaking up your tears during the late nights when everything seems to go wrong.
My rock solid anchor is James.
He is my best friend of two years and boyfriend of six months.
He never fails to pick up the phone,
never hesitates to wrap his arms around me when my atoms start falling apart and making combustions in my own brain,
he always texts me in the morning,
never shows up late and always makes sure I am okay.
He is my 100 year old willow tree,
sturdy and safe,
branches that shade my head from the rain and hold me high in the sky when the sun is out from behind the clouds.
Needless to say he never fails me.
Over time I grew used to having James around,
to him replying to all of my texts and always picking up the phone.
One day he didn’t pick up.
Didn’t respond to my ‘good morning’ text,
or my ‘sneaking away at lunch to tell you I love you’ message
and when he hadn’t got back to me by the end of the school day I knew something was wrong.
Every hour I called him,
every 30 minutes I texted him........twice.
At eight o’clock I had given up,
decided he was ignoring me and turned my phone off.
As though he was reading my mind I heard the phone in my dorm ringing so I went up to it and saw James number flashing on the I.D.
I picked it up freezing my vocal chords,
preparing the ice queen voice I’ve been practicing my entire life.
I took a deep breath and right as I was about to say something I know I would regret
I heard a shaken voice say my name.
Any semblance of anger or hurt dissipated from my body as I told the man,
whose voice I never heard so much as shiver,
that I was there.
I sat silently in the suddenly too hard chair as I heard him struggle to spit out the words I realize he has spent all day practicing
and finally I heard in a voice more tears than sustenance say
“Alex, I might have cancer.”
I never knew how fast your world could turn upside down.
Now I am not a weak person,
I have lived through more than most of my friends,
I survived a mother’s suicide,
a father’s absence,
and a stepmother’s abuse
and more destructive bonds than I can count.
But in that moment I felt my stomach sink like I ate a thousand pieces of osmium.
I didn’t know what to say,
so I didn't say anything.
I just sat there. Listening,
hearing James tell me he might be dying of testicular cancer
and hearing him break down for the first time in years.
I remember knowing I had to be strong,
having to accept the role of the calm optimistic girlfriend as I sat there assuring him he was okay,
that the doctor would just say it’s just a bump,
not a tumor,
not a deadly thing that could rip my best friend away.
For the next few days I was in a daze
simply floating through classes and waiting until I got to talk to him next,
waiting until he got the results back.
He was a wreck and so was I
but I never let him know how scared I was,
I just sat there and promised him I’d be there no matter what
no matter what the test results said.
I never let my voice quiver when we were on the phone,
but right when the call would end
I’d walk empty to my room and let the tears slide down my face.
I’d stay there for a couple minutes,
fix my makeup,
then go back and text him
and act normal with friends.
I love him too much to show how scared I was
I knew it’d scare him.
A week before I got the call James and I were talking about words,
when he asked me what word I despise,
and when he asked why
I explained to him that
almost means that us humans came to the brink of something amazing but fell short just so many times that we made a word for it.
The day I got that call I officially changed my least favorite word to malignant.
Malignant is the reason my sister died three days before my birth,
malignant is the reason my mother killed herself,
malignant is the reason I own my uncles Rv,
malignant is the reason I dyed my hair pink for a 12 year old girl
and the reason Sierra stopped attending school
Malignant is the reason my stepmother doesn’t have a daughter.
Malignant means I spent three weeks vomiting every morning while I waited for the doctor to finally get the results back from the tumor that sprouted over the summer
as I worried at age 13 if I would end up inheriting my families genes,
ones with holes where being healthy is supposed to be.
Malignant is the cause of almost,
because every cancer patient I’ve known has come so close to something beautiful but just fell too short.
A few days later I learned that almost can be a beautiful word
when I heard in a voice more sunshine than sorrow
“It was almost bad,
I’m okay though,
it’s not cancer,
it’s just a weird blood vessel.
I don’t even need surgery, I’m not going to die.”
and I remember laughing like the joker
as every feeling of
doubt was ripped from my body in an instant,
and I remember him laughing along.
I learned a lesson that day,
that no matter how strong someone is and how much they care for you
there will still be times when they need you to be strong for them.
When you have to shove aside your feelings and simply tell them that
everything will be okay,
because in the end sometimes that’s all someone needs to hear.
an essay I wrote for English that kinda ended up like a poem.