My grandfather, who was more like a father, died the day after my second 9 to 5 week of chemotherapy. I watched him take his last breaths in a tiny, bare room at a nursing home then I went on a date with a girl who turned out to not be strong enough to date a cancer survivor.The River of Night
The last time I saw him, I didn’t know when to stop talking
and fell asleep in a chair in the corner.
He never once woke to go to the bathroom or readjust his socks.
Our bodies were too overtaken by the silence of sickness.
The tubes had been taken from the port in my chest
so I didn’t have to worry about jiggling the needle
connected to a vein leading to my heart.
My body belonged to a nurse who had four thousand chemicals,
including one that made my body burn, and another that turned me so cold I shook.
You would not know it was summer,
that the grass stood like flames even as night fell around it and the sky spread above it,
and the stars looked bigger than they should have been,
Nobody mentioned it.
It was something you didn’t feel like bringing up.
I stared at the wind, and all I saw was the dust dancing
off an old house where the man had spent some time,
only to sell off every piece of furniture and sweep the floors blare,
then let the neighborhood watch as he moved from room to room, cutting off each of the lights,
then getting up and walking, not out into the stars, but into nothing.
Until he was gone.
I went out the night with a woman I had kissed but not dated.
It was the last time I would see her.
We walked down the hill in town,
and wandered into a coffee shop.
She drank black coffee and we held hands
because we didn’t know what to say to each other.
It was night. It was the end of August. It was the week of the county fair
and the clerk called last rounds.
And the woman said: sixty five percent survival, that’s a good number.
And there was some music playing,
And I was scared,
And I won’t forget being there with that music and that woman,
wondering what would become of the river.
What was one memorable moment you shared in the hospital?
Photo courtesy of Teddy Kelley.