A Month of Julys

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Thunderstorms mark us, on the way to another store. Marc Miller once LOL’d at me, because I dreamed of this world long after the government-mandated switch turned off. We heard His voice: Home and Death, Destruction and Remembrance. I hope he’s cured before the tender hand reaches down to smash our lights out.

How many years did I lose on this Prozac trip? “Just take the medication,” Carol said in her nightly prayers. She’s dead to me now, taken up by her art friends and her refusal to stay with me well into the night as the demons breathed fire and familiarity in their gossip chambers. I championed her cause as she turned me away, because “you refuse to let go of your pain.” Mae-B would know; she did the same thing.

The raft only holds one.

Every night when I can, I listen to the vaccines of the late-night conspiracy theorists, the lost saviors, the psycho-tropic drug users stuck in a 9/11 homicidal ideation Mandela Effect hip trip. Buy thred-up on Etsy after your devil’s horn selfies.

Today, I tried to capture the sun between the blackened pine trees looming high above the chem-trail heavens. If I did, I might save myself.

The tricyclic antidepressants after the day Terri died stole the subsequent years. Birthdays, funerals, vacations, your precious holy birth are a blur to me now, as fleeting as the emotions I continue to chase like fireflies in the dying summer.

I can’t remember what it’s like to feel.

Why don’t you care about me?

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José Martín

Today, a stranger flipped me off on the freeway.

I’d been driving well within the speed limit, my mind on an upcoming colonoscopy, the cold, hard reality of a doctor’s My Chart response — after I’d asked why I needed to have another one so soon:

“Last colonoscopy was 10/2015. Rationale for 1 year follow up was that polyp removed from ascending colon had precancerous potential (sessile serrated adenoma) and the hemorrhoid that was resected also had a precancerous polyp (tubular adenoma). We do not know if the tubular adenoma was completely removed. Since we are almost 2 years from last procedure, it is reasonable to repeat colonoscopy. I do not anticipate that Carol will need colonoscopy as frequently after this. Subsequent exam will likely be in 3-5 years.”

The stranger had no way of knowing. But even if he/she had, it wouldn’t have mattered. Even if I managed to stop them further along down I-405 North, the person would’ve shrugged, stared through me, and told me to go fuck myself. Believe me, I know these things.

I told a few friends a few days ago in an email. They never responded. I texted another woman, someone I thought would— well, never mind. She texted back, “So frustrating!” and went about her day with her new friends. Only one cared enough to spend some time talking about his own health issues, conveying his concern, on Facebook in a PM.

My mother, my brother, and his wife in Hawaii wouldn’t care at all. So, I’m not going to tell them.

What I’m going through is more than the upcoming colonoscopy. I was supposed to have my one-year follow-up in Oct. but I kept putting it off because of this doctor. She scared me to death the first time. When I tried to look for hope, she shut me down, couching her words toward cancer every time. Even when I was sure it was just a prolapsed hemorrhoid I’d been dealing with for most of my adult life — I’d already had three surgeries to remove my hemorrhoids, but they just grew back — she kept insisting it could be something worse.

Even after a surgeon removed the suspicious mass, confirmed it was a prolapsed hemorrhoid but with a tubular adenoma (she said benign polyp — aka, “no cancer”) at the apex, that wasn’t good enough. The colonoscopy doctor needed to keep an eye on it, since she wasn’t sure the entire polyp had been removed.

The other reason I avoided another colonoscopy is my fear of losing complete continence if more polyps/hemorrhoids needed removal. I can’t afford another hemorrhoidectomy; my sphincter walls are already weak from the many hemorrhoids and that one anal fistula doctors removed/dug out.

After the first anal fistulectomy (circa, 1995), I had to quit my job as an assistant editor of a trade publication. I couldn’t leave my apartment. I couldn’t eat or drink anything without having an accident, and not the small kind.

I remember taking two spoonfuls of Campbell’s Chicken Noodle Soup the day after my surgery, rising with a sense of unease, and watching a flood of liquid bile pour out of my rear, through the sides of my underwear, down my legs — in a horrific gush.

I would spend about five to six years running for cover, admitting defeat, buying adult diapers, hating myself in the mirror because everything I wore bulked up embarrassingly from behind. Even the adult diapers didn’t help when I had an accident. They weren’t enough.

So, my next colonoscopy (because I’m precancerous, you see) is July 17, four days before my son, my only child gets to play his first soccer tournament with a new team since his last MCL tear that took him out of the JV season this spring.

I’m deathly afraid the new colonoscopy doctor (I had to switch to the one my husband sees) will find cancerous polyps near the rectum, remove them, cut into more muscle, weaken my already weakened sphincter, and I will never be able to see my son play soccer again.

But wait, there’s more.

When I had my first colonoscopy in Oct. 2015, nobody went into any detail about the polyps they’d found. The doctor and nurses only focused on the suspicious mass sticking out of my butt — stuck on the prolapsed hemorrhoid (previous doctors and surgeons repeatedly told me was a prolapsed hemorrhoid that would just continue to grow).

My husband and I remember them dismissing two or three other polyps as benign, not even that large, but making a big deal about my prolapsed hemorrhoid. Nobody said precancerous. Nobody pointed out the dangers of sessile serrated polyps, which can be especially aggressive if left untreated and the reason for “interval cancer,” or the even more dangerous cancer source, that tubular adenoma.

I had to find out on my own.

While desperately searching my online records, I stumbled on the surgeon’s notes from an appointment, where she mentioned an ovarian cyst from the CT scan they’d ordered right after my first colonoscopy.

Ovarian cyst?! Could that be the reason I’d felt sharp, stabbing pain in my lower right (that’s where the cyst was) pelvis area? Why I can only eat a few bites of food before I feel full/nauseous a lot of the time?

When I asked the colonoscopy staff about the ovarian cyst, a nurse directed me to pursue the matter with an ob-gyn. So I am. My first appt. is July 6. Fingers crossed.

I came home today after a stranger gave me the finger for not driving fast enough on I-405… to find my husband busily making Caesar salad for an office potluck tomorrow. He casually said he’d gone to a walk-in clinic for his irregular skipping heartbeat.

The doctor there diagnosed him with PVC (premature ventricular contractions), but not to worry since he believed it to be benign. An EKG is in order, just to rule out the worst-case-scenario.

My husband also starts the next round of BCG treatments for his bladder cancer, July 18 — one day after my colonoscopy.

Alas, nobody cares. It’s summer. They have their own problems.

Dealing with scary issues like health is an utterly lonely proposition. All of the people in my life I thought loved me… I don’t know anymore.

All of the things I’ve done for them, all of the times I said I love them, all of the times I dropped everything for them… All of the goddamned effort I put into each and every relationship was for what?

Do me a favor: Keep your eulogies to yourselves.

I don’t care about you anymore.

Trash Artist

I think one of the worst feelings in the world is to suffer alone. Yet, so many of us do — at their convenience.

I watched “Grace and Frankie” on Netflix tonight when I should be asleep. The story drove home the point that I am insignificant in this big blue world and that there are a lucky few who dare to chase their happily ever after at the expense of others. (Remind me one day to tell you about Mark.) They destroy innocent lives of good, decent people (enablers), the hop a jet to paradise, dropping a few choice photos on social media for their millions of followers hanging on every word.

Doesn’t seem fair or right, does it?

Those of us left behind stew in silence, going on about our day serving and helping, cooking and cleaning, chauffeuring and gigging, bowing and scraping, bending over for more. We save time late into twilight lying alone in our beds trying not to choke on our tears.

It never ever ever occurs to us to band together for support. Well, it occurs to me. But who the hell do I think I am?

Gut me, bleed me dry, then sell the cannibalized parts in the Temple of Jesus to the highest bidder. Not one trace. Not. One. Trace.

I want to scream, “What the hell do you want from me??”

I’ll have a Cheeseburger Deluxe and a pitcher of beer.

Stones

I watched them gather around her, Stonehenge in twilight before the tourists, signs, and gates 20 feet away. She’s a goddess, dropping love bombs. I wish, I wish, mommy why don’t you want me? If I appropriate Aphrodite, slather on your Cancer, drape my shapeless body in your cheap cologne, would you cover me?

I stay up all night to stitch a blanket from scrap yarn, pretending the stars are my friends, my only friends. They glare with universal oblivion, catch them when I can.

Alone on a slab while the instruments of ego and torture dissect my every move during the 7th inning stretch. I am utterly alone in this echo chamber, that you claim is your own.

But I have been sitting here for centuries. I am, your naked cast-off, waiting for the shield that will never come.

beachside

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Elly Filho

the open mind, they fall in — the star chasers, the stars —

there is no music in this place, a small, quiet beachside town abandoned decades ago, these are Instamatic echoes of my childhood, strangers, friends of friends, my parents’ conquests… Stephen King rejects, I suppose

rain as I walk through them into this empty room, a pocket of complete understanding

his shadow stands over me, across the expanse of offices in this warehouse from hell, the same empty basement basketball court school auditorium I once found myself in after Britney Spears 5150’d

I can’t read him, he’s as empty as this room overlooking a graying beach outside these smudged picture windows

bin laden hitler miscavige madness

he’s coming closer

my mother’s old Toyota, the one that ran out of gas in 1983, starts immediately, taking me out of this dusty old town in the nick of time

I pass these tourists with their tinsel hats and greasy faces running for shelter, none the wiser

flee from the dark ones

Hummingbird

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“My Life Through a Lens,” Unsplash

Hummingbird, it was. I will touch you, wing to flesh. See my inner world in your outer.

A moment’s hesitation but brief respite from the inevitable climax, as if a curtain parted somewhere in the vicinity of heaven and earthly bliss. I am your safe lens. You won’t be harmed.

My quiet, unspoken assent, its descent on my shoulderarm, the small of my cheek, the side I favor when I run through countryside. Barely a brush, a whisper — the feel of rain on an empty shore — as if it belonged there all along, before languages, fatal hand to an angry dirty girl.

The moment we touched, the world opened up, a magical world of log people and superlative infinity sky. A brief second in life’s history books. Then, gone, as if in a dream. Because it was.

I am back in an empty hollow of my childhood. The children have grown and moved away, stationed elsewhere, in pieces on a pillar to American freedom, spokes on a sea. It is black and white, infinitely lonely — the home of the damned.

There are no birds.

when we walk

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“Bottled Up” by Andrew Bui, Unsplash

suddenly, you wait for me just outside Mrs. Hao’s door — a rewrite in your best English Honors (even though you never took the class) —

you, Michael… take my hand, and we walk toward the glimmering dimming light of the 1,000th high school reunion but this time, together, this time, I float on a shimmering glittery path

we pause as I look up into your incredulous face, a beam of yesterday’s sunshine between us, a what-if before our lips meet and the stars align

you linger on the corner of my mouth, and I smell spaghetti Wednesdays, pikake and maile lei proms (I never attended), the puff of soft linen snow on your New England winter coat — the one before business

“Why are we together now?”

“I always wished I had the courage to say yes to you.”

as I look away, two others gather behind the one, as bashful as hormonal freshmen on a Dungeons & Dragon late-night bender

“Did you ever go to a dance?”

“No,” I tell him, holding his hand a little longer.

“Band?”

“—and Bullies.” They’re dead now.

Michael Iwatake, come home.