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Without even thinking about it, I’d roll my jeans halfway up my calves and get into the bathtub to pull him up.
Clark and I opened presents at his mother’s house that year. “There’ll be plenty of other Christmases,” she said. She told me this after he was gone, and it haunts me.One time, after I held up his body so that the nurse could change the sheets, he shit as soon as I placed him down. It was the only time during his illness that I elected not to sleep next to him.During this stint at the hospital, the fourth dose of drug sent him mentally over the edge. When I arrived at my friend Alyson’s, I had a text message from him that said, “You left me, so I’m leaving you.” Two hours later, he called me sobbing, apologizing.The ease of our everyday interactions is what kills me. The first surgery, a deep lymph-node dissection of the left groin, and its subsequent days-long hospital stay, spanned the first week of April 2008.The way we spoke to each other about what I’d bring home for dinner or whether it was a PBR or a Grolsch kind of night. The second surgery, which removed the cancer’s recurrence from underneath the tender flesh of the first, was June 11. I spent a lot of time after his death looking at photographs of us camping, at a friend’s wedding, with my family at our first Thanksgiving.Nearly four years later, I sometimes type his email address in the search box in my Gmail.
Hundreds of results pop up, and I’ll pick a few at random to read. Me: yep it’s a buddhism thing I can break down Clark’s illness into one diagnosis (metastatic melanoma), one prognosis (between 4 and 14 months to live), three surgeries, three clinical trials, seven hospital stays, three doses of chemotherapy, and five weeks of hospice care.
My eyes sting as I read a newspaper article describing the latest study to come out of a cancer conference, which involves a drug trial that Clark was too sick to participate in.
I slink off to the bathroom with my head down, ignoring my friends at the bar, when I catch a glimpse of his obituary, which hangs on the back of a door at the Black Cat, the bar where we met.
I go looking for evidence of our partnership that’s not tied to a memory of me sleeping on two chairs pushed together next to his hospital bedside.
My Gmail is a priceless hoard of us making plans, telling inside jokes, calling each other “snoodle” and “bubbies.” I type his name into the search field and enter a world of the unscripted dialogue that filled our 9-to-5 existence. In hundreds of chats automatically saved to my account, we express our love for each other readily and naturally in our own private speech.
I watched You Tube videos of his band, Statehood, scanning for hints of what his voice sounded like, afraid I’d already forgotten.