Real Live Bodies: I Have the Coolest Friends
Today on Facebook (#GenXer),
I bemoaned the fact that I had been a willing participant
in the connotative destruction of the term “burnt out”
because now I have no accurate or clever word pairing that feels
linguistically satisfying enough to convey what I am feeling today,
May 24th, in America.
I am a public school educator with metastatic breast cancer
so one of my jobs (and I do mean “job”) is to manage my breast cancer care
in the wild, wild American West. Right now, I’m in the process of moving
my care from northern Arizona to Mayo in Phoenix. In an effort to do this before my insurance lapses (I am changing schools at the end of my contract year), I have had to spend, on conservative average, five to seven hours
calling pharmacies, organizing my appointments, calling doctors’ offices, sitting on hold, driving, and if I have time researching breast cancer (my specific type) to make sure I’m not missing out on anything.
If I was a Baby Boomer with a pension or a woman of means or a Musk Jr.,
I would probably say, “Gruber, you’re a lesbian in her forties with metastatic breast cancer. You’ve been through so much. Maybe you take a year off for yourself, for your health.” Alas, in America, everyone works.
Not everyone earns, but
Suck it up, buttercup.
Get back to work unless you wanna lose that sweet, sweet health insurance.
Being Chronically Ill in America is a tedious, serious, terrifying, confusing, upsetting exercise in the basic need for survival.
If you don’t have lots of Paper Money, prepare to claw your fucking way through this For Profit System. (Please spare me the notion that Healthcare in America is some benevolent, altruistic “nonprofit.” As a Professional Patient, I’ve been trapped in American Healthcare’s maw since the 1970s, and I know better.) Oh, and I have breast cancer:
the most infantilized, trivialized, hand-over-fist profited from disease
in the fucking world for women (yes, some men do get it,
but this is rare, and sometimes in order to make a salient point,
one must generalize). If you read my posts here then you know
I try my level best to speak the Truth so I’m just going to go ahead
and say what we’re all thinking: If men got breast cancer
at the rate women get it, Benjamin Franklin
would have cured it while he was off
being a pervert
Given that Franklin has been dead for hundreds of years,
I am going to assume no one was offended by that comment about him.
I’m not judging Franklin’s character, I’m simply saying if I were a parent, I would not leave my girl child in the care of Benjamin Franklin.
Now that I’ve shat sufficiently upon one of the “Founding Fathers,”
to the main of this post: I miss my Real Live friends.
When I was up in Flagstaff, last week, it felt like such a treat
just to be able to pop in to a friend’s classroom
— even if masked and distanced — just to be there together.
No Zoom glitches. No internet crashes. No cats.
(I was going to say “no dogs,” but the school is in Flagstaff, so . . .
there absolutely were dogs.)
I cried a lot last week partly because of how it felt
to be back on campus, in the classroom, with real, live bodies.
And how it felt to be among my real, live friends:
Betsy, Mike, Janeece, Kim, Katie, Micah, Deidre, Annie, Laura . . .
I have amazing friends. Amazing friends in Flagstaff, Milwaukee, Chicago, New York, Los Angeles . . .
Everywhere I’ve gone, I’ve found these fascinating, talented, real fucking cool and generous people. And I miss all of them. Online is not enough. The phone is not enough. I crave proximity. I want to walk into a room and see you.
Last week, I stayed mostly with Betsy
and her husband and their son. Before that, I stayed with Deidre and her husband and their big, silly dog.
Both couples gave me all the space and privacy I needed,
and sometimes I needed a lot because seeing so many people,
being back in the classroom, moving about so often after more than a year
solitude and Zoom and couches and chairs,
I was exhausted by certain aspects of my “old life.”
Anyway, one morning after showering, I put my pajamas back on
and returned to the guest room at Betsy’s.
I flipped my computer open, texted Mike: It’s Saturday. Let’s hang out at Betsy’s, and rattled off a Medium post.
When I closed my computer and emerged from the guest room,
there was Mike sitting at Betsy’s kitchen counter, talking to Betsy.
“What are you doing here?” I asked him.
“You texted me,” he said.
(Now, like a normal person, I assumed
that Mike would first reply to my text,
arrange for a specific meeting time,
and then arrive.)
What I’m trying to say is that even though it was weird
(and that was weird), it was mostly just wonderful
because there Mike was, and there Betsy was:
actual live human bodies in space and time,
laughing, talking, drinking green juice. No screens
between us. So when I feel sad today, and I’ve felt sad today,
I remember that soon, hopefully, I will be seeing more friends
and more friends and the best part of that is
I have the coolest friends.