It's Friday, March 18 and I’m finally hanging out in San Diego.
It's morning and I’m sitting at a café, sipping both chamomile tea and lemonade. My best friend is across from me doing homework. I’m holding a Mary Karr memoir while actually engaging in a medium-grade text argument with my girlfriend in Massachusetts, which is taking up most of my mental space, until the phone rings.
Aunt Coral. I let it go to voicemail.
I don’t always listen to my messages right away. This time I do.
“Hi Kia, it’s Aunt Coral. I just talked to your mom and I wanted to say how sorry I am that you’re going to have to go down this road—“
I stop the message. What road? What does she know that I don’t know? My stomach drops, chest starts pounding.
I immediately call my mother. What has she not told me?
“Did you get the test results back?”
“Not yet sweetie,” she says.
“Well I just got this message from Aunt Coral about the long and lonely road I’m having to go down, and it sounds like she knows something I don’t.”
And then she is breaking down and admitting that they did get the results back, that they were just going to wait five more minutes to call me, and saying words like lymphoma and leukemia and bone marrow.
I can’t believe we are talking about me, and that I’m sitting here in this backyard café hearing my mom tell me that I have some kind of cancer while all the other people sitting around me (probably) don’t have cancer and don’t realize and can’t realize that this is the news I am getting on my phone right now. And would they care if they knew? How would they feel to know that someone in their midst was having this very life changing conversation while we all sipped our breakfast drinks and sat around in the sun?
I guess most people don’t usually find out they have cancer in the middle of backyard cafes.
There is usually a doctor’s office, right? And a stern looking doctor with papers in his hands.
Then Abby and I drive downtown for our hair appointments. We had made them days earlier. Should I not get a haircut because I now have cancer? I can’t find a reason why not.
My mom appears on the phone again with far more information than I can process and the grim suggestion that maybe I shouldn’t waste money on a haircut since, after all, I’d be having chemo within a month.
“Find a new angle, mom,” I tell her, completely put off by her perspective, yet worried somewhere that I’m being an ungrateful brat. Cancer or not, my relationship with her is never without it’s conflicts.
Then I’m sitting through the longest haircut of my life, and I’m bluffing through all those generic conversations you have to have with people who cut your hair and clean your teeth and such. She’s asking where I live and what I do, and she heard I was getting married and when was that happening? And the whole time I’m describing the life that was my life yesterday, but is no longer my life today, or tomorrow, or any day I can yet forsee.