Raw, adjective: 8. brutally harsh or unfair: a raw deal

noir (nwär)

1. Of or relating to the film noir genre.
2. Of or relating to a genre of crime literature featuring tough, cynical characters and bleak settings.
3. Suggestive of danger or violence.

[Short for film noir + Sense 2, short for French roman noir, black novel.]

N's cancer is back.

Ironic, really, this bleakness. It's the longest day of the year, or was, until several hours ago when the resilient sun finally, finally sank below the horizon. We were out in the park Sunday night til 7:15, still light, still warm, no fog, no chill; remarkable, to be sure.

And yet.
So noir.

Because the cancer is back. Because I knew it would be and hadn't the heart to say so. Her hair had just started to come in again, finally. Darker, yes, and coarser this time around; more Mia Farrow and less Marilyn Monroe, no more of the bombshell blonde, ever, perhaps, but older and sager and wiser, more scarred, for sure; but the chemo was over and the life force was surging and she was ready to take on the world once again with that fighting spirit that I'd always known and loved.

And then there they were across the bar again and this time I could see it in their eyes, without even speaking it: the defeat, the dejection, the shock, the weariness, the trying, trying, trying to get it up again for another battle, 18 weeks, chemo again, that puts us at the end of the year, fuck, FUCK, they're supposed to be flying across an ocean to celebrate 30 years and once again, should they go, she'll be wearing someone else's hair.

What the fuck.

Saturday evening. They came straight from the airport, fresh from Pasadena. I knew it immediately; she didn't have to tell me. She just said: FUCK. Under her breath. The angriest whisper. And I wanted to scream FUUUUUCK at the sky. And I couldn't. So I clasped her forearm and bored my eyes into hers and tried to show her how my heart convulsed. She was wrapped up, sweater-clad, not trying, not bothering.

She was weary. He was hovering.

(He doesn't hover. She hates hovering. She doesn't need it.)

They're so desperately in love. It's mind-blowing to watch, really; these nearly-30 years together this January, and still, still, that sexual chemistry that lights sparks from across the room. En fuego. He'll be lost without her.

The knowing that this is how she will die.

2 pea-sized tumors. Taunting the ovaries. FUCK. YOU.

("It's a blessing they're just on top, not embedded.")

Fuck that. Fuck this all. Noir. Dark.

And suddenly, density, for the rest of the evening. It was early yet, still so light, maybe 5:30, six o'clock, hours left yet of flirting and shaking and twisting and flitting, and yet I felt the heaviness sink in, felt the gravity seeping into my heels, pulling me under, that heavy sorrowful awareness that this is such a short ride, that this moment is all there is, that we can't take a goddamned second for granted.

And it stayed. And it lurked.

And I slept restlessly, tossingly, Saturday night, in spite of an early morning Sunday, and it was Father's Day, and I was so glad to be busy, so grateful to be preoccupied, because I didn't even think about it, I thought about redwoods and paper plates and wine openers and Sarazino, and then there was the cabbie who cared, who spent 20 minutes advising me on the details of my work and writing and love lives, and then there was the day, perfect, and then there was the sun, and then there was the wine, and then there was the beat,

and something about the beat reminds you that you're still here, you've still got a pulse, that in spite of the 2 pea-sized tumors looming on those fragile ovaries you are here and you are breathing and you are feeling and you are smelling and you are tasting and it is enough and then the concert ends and the fog doesn't roll in (the fog doesn't roll in, impossible!) and there are bongos down in front of the stage and you dance with some dude and he has a sense of rhythm and he's named Demetrius and shorter than you and he asks how you feel about height, right off the bat, and it's ridiculous, but you're alive and barefoot and secretly wearing a really ridiculous red satin bra that matches your equally ridiculous red lipstick and it's twilight on almost the longest day of the year and the trees are still growing and you're still breathing and N is resting at home because she was too weak to make it out today and your heart breaks at that weakness because it is so very much not her, she the force of nature, she the fiery spirit, she the Kali embodied, and you dance harder for it, because she can't, and you open the Malbec, because you can, and you know this is it and there's a tomorrow coming and it's a solstice and that's the longest day of the year which means sunshine and air and summer

and yet


so much darkness
so much gravity
so much awareness that the end really is near, you can't assume she'll be able to stretch this out much further, and he so vulnerable with love for her, he a shell of a man at the thought of losing her, her fire and his fire and their equal prana lifting one another, my god, what beauty, what grace, what horror to think it'll all end sooner than they'd expected,

and you laugh about OJ Simpson in a white Bronco in 1994 and pretend, play-acting together, making light of the Big 10 and talking bullshit about golf but you all know really you're just trying to stem the tears because she's dying in front of you and that stupid piece of cake you brought to try to assuage the existential angst and the deep, deep disappointment will do nothing even with that lovely vanda orchid on top but you try anyway because it's all you have and you know that in spite of the hopelessness and the uselessness

it matters

just as hours in the sun in the fresh air eating homemade quiche bumping to that African beat with Michael's sweet blond Bodhi remind you that

it matters

the breathing
the moving
the baking
the dancing

it all matters

especially in light of the knowing

Rusty sang tonight, sang to Shiva the Destroyer, and I thought, oh, how apropos, and it was his last class before he leaves for Greece Tuesday and he spoke about reincarnation and life and what we do and how we love and who we love and I don't remember what else he said because I was fighting not to cry, because I was remembering N and her fight and her end being near and the fucking solstice and the irony that this most favorite of days, this long midsummer's evening, this stretched-out sunshine that is so much my heart, might be her last

will she see another solstice?

would that I could preserve it for her, stretch her days out the way this day stretched out, evade the dark, lift the density, lighten the gravity that darkens her days prematurely, in spite of her best efforts at humor and levity and self-deprecation and those goddamned fabulous sexy jokes in spite of the pain the horror the loss the fear

how little we know
how little we can plan for
how much we must live here, now, in this breath, this sunset

because the days grow shorter
and the hair will fall out again

it's just a matter of time now, six more rounds of chemo
climbing the Sisyphean mountain again
pushing up that goddamned rock
strapping on the boots
buckling the toolbelt

it's a wild ride, this

and thank god/dess for the beat and the sun and the sweat and the breath that remind us we're here

for the time being, at least
awaiting the inevitable approach of that shortest day


Autumn said…
Amen girl....what a tribute and celebration of your friend. The energy you are sending her way means more than you know! You continue to inspire my friend!
Kerri Gagne said…
I dance when I read your words. Literally. Fly across the room and back again because you just sweep me away.

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