Friday, July 27, 2007

The Golden Age (Part I of III)

Welcome to the beginning of "My Cancer Story." Continue reading and following the links if you wish. Enjoy.

It was a cold, dark December night when I hopped in my car alone for the first time. I filled my 12-disc CD changer my parents me bought for my birthday with all-time favorites. It was my sixteenth birthday and I just wanted to cruise.

I wound through the curvy streets listening to Dave Matthews Band’s "#41" and U2’s "With Or Without You." There’s something special about sixteen, which is weird since it’s just one year, or in this case, one day past fifteen. The freedom was a powerful thing. I no longer had to wait for my mom to drive me to Best Buy to buy that new CD. I no longer needed a ride to hang out with friends. I was no longer just a kid.

Usually I drove my friend Colossus to school. He made us late almost every day, but my homeroom teacher didn’t care. Once Colossus was nearly an hour late, so we skipped first period and ate breakfast at Burger King. Once I wanted to see if we could still make it on time, and passed a car on the double yellow. She flipped us off.

Since I turned sixteen before my friends, I became the permanent driver. They started inviting me to events with people I didn’t used to hang out with, including females. Back then I was too shy for my own good, scared of girls and large groups. The hottest girl in our grade, Orange, once called me “the man of few words.” So when I just cracked a joke here and there the girls probably thought I was Ben, the mysterious friend of Zeke and Big Easy who drove them everywhere and never said much. And I loved it.

Most of our fun involved teenage silliness: blasting ‘N Sync while driving 95 miles per hour with Zeke sticking his head out the window; trying to get into R-rated movies (and getting caught); forcing our religious friend, Crest, to listen to the Methods of Mayhem song "Proposition Fuck You"; and making bets. We once bet Crest five dollars that he wouldn’t drink the water from a flower vase off a McDonald’s table. We added chewed pieces of M&M’s and French fry. He won.

I bet Big Easy 30 dollars that he wouldn’t wear a colorful serape he purchased at an antique shop around school for a day. “I almost got beat up in the bathroom,” he said the day he wore it. Though, I heard from an inside source that he briefly took it off, thus breaking the rules for the bet.

When school ended and I passed through the lobby to get to tennis practice, everyone was there to see him cash in. “I don’t know Big Easy, I heard you took it off one time in the hallway.”

There was too much pressure. When Orange chimed in that he deserved his money, it was over. No way could I hold out on a request from Orange.

Tennis attracted the kids who weren’t athletic enough to play baseball or soccer. That attitude made practices informal and fun, though we played hard and we played to win. My doubles partner was Froddy, and we annihilated opponents even after I started experiencing pain in my left hip. On our last match together before the coach paired him with somebody else, I was totally and completely unable to run. Other players had jokingly been calling me a pussy, and now I started to wonder if I was a pussy. I also wondered if my tennis skills were diminishing, or if the new $80 racket I bought was worse than my old $20 one.

Later in the season my teammates stopped calling me a pussy because I was diagnosed with a heart murmur. Before my echocardiogram I thought it was a big deal and tried to garner sympathy, though the ultrasound showed it was as benign as heart murmurs get. It's funny that a massive and aggressive tumor made me a pussy, but an almost undetectable heart murmur made me a badass.

My pain was substantial and worsening, and I had a permanent bruise on my lower back, right on the pelvic bone. A couple teammates mentioned cancer, but we all laughed it off. Cancer was impossible at our age—something reserved for the “sick kids.” I was young, strong, healthy and active. There was no chance I was a “sick kid.”

Keep reading: The Golden Age (Part II of III)

1 comments:

jon said...

It’s ironic that a massive and aggressive tumor made me a pussy, but an almost undetectable heart murmur made me a badass.

haha wow...