I was having an asthma attack at a guy’s house when I found it. I was standing in the bathroom, staring at myself in the mirror, not wearing a shirt of course, and there it was, right between my nipples, in the middle of my chest. It was in an oddly long shape and dark in pigment, unlike anything I had ever seen before, except in books about the first signs of cancer.
And it might as well have been glaring back at me with one eye.
Overnight, I had somehow managed to grow a freckle that hadn’t been there before. I stared at it in the mirror, concerned, titling my head like a dog when it pretends like it’s listening to you. But it was clear, on my pale body, about three inches to the right of my blue and gray star tattoo I had gotten when I was eighteen and stupid, was a dark and oddly shaped freckle.
Cancer, I knew it. Suddenly my life flashed before my eyes. It would figure, I said to myself. I have been off of Meth for just under two years, survived a near fatal overdose, a near fatal MRSA infection in my heart valves, and a broken heart. I had moved from Arizona, to New York, to Virginia, and then back to Arizona, to get a bisexual lady elected to Congress, and here I was, certain I was going to die.
He knocked on the door. “You okay, baby,” Arkansas asked. I snapped back in reality, my life stopped flashing me for a moment, and I looked at the closed door. I had forgotten what I was doing and why I was in there to begin with.
“Uh, yeah, sorry, give me a second,” I said. My voice cracked, and to this day I am not sure what he thinks I was doing, but a gay guy in the bathroom too long probably meant I was not going to be getting any more action that morning. Or that I was preparing to. It’s really tricky to be a gay man sometimes.
I threw on my clothes, took a puff from my inhaler, washed my face, and walked out of the bathroom. I then announced I needed to go home.
Arkansas looked at me with his black Labrador like eyes, which were sad and helpless, and it was these eyes that had been how I got stuck coming here to begin with. Truth was, literally minutes before him and I met late last night, I was writing a blog post about how I didn’t need guys in my life anymore. I was over them; sick of them. There were too needy. But he was cute, and the way he talked, with his Southern accent and sad eyes – well it did me in. Less than 12 hours ago, I was completely over guys, resigning to being single forever. I had would probably own several small dogs, since I am pretty damn allergic to cats. I used my cat allergies as an excuse get out of this house and away from Arkansas.
“You do? I thought we could spend the day together.”
“I need to get home, I can’t stay here, the cat is killing me, I can’t breathe,” I half lied. I mean, it was obvious that I was allergic to the cat and that it was obstructing my breathing, but I could have dealt with it. I have in the past for a terrible lay, and last night wasn’t exactly terrible.
Reality was I needed to get home to figure out what to do about this cancer spot I had found.
Arkansas brought me home that morning, and once I got inside my house I rushed into the bathroom. I took off my shirt again, while my roommate’s dog watched me undress.
Oscar was a miniature dachshund who had very much fallen in love with me. Whenever he could, he would snuggle with me, he stared at me when I was naked, eating, cooking, or basically not in some place where he could snuggle. He was attached at my hip, and made me wonder why all guys weren’t as loving and silent as Oscar. Despite the occasional vomiting here and there, and the fact that he acted out when he wasn’t getting enough attention, he was pretty much perfect for me.
I turned to him, my face horrified. “I think I am going to die,” I said to him. He didn’t understand what I was saying, but looked sad right back at me. He might not have understood me, but he faked it well. I walked out of the bathroom, shirtless, scooped him up and sat on the couch petting him. That was the second time in twenty-four hours that my weakness for puppy dog eyes distracted me from what I was doing.
My laptop was sitting on the couch, so I could easily research skin cancer and odd looking and colored freckles without disturbing him too much.
Apparently, skin cancer was not the death sentence I thought it was. John McCain had survived it, and since him and I were both from Arizona, I had some sense of hope knowing that at least one of us could fight the negatives in living in the hot desert sun. But after some more consideration, I decided that Senator McCain was a complete mess. I mean, not only had he attempted to run for President a few times (and lost), he could barely lift up his arms, and was obviously going senile.
Nope, the thought of becoming someone like McCain depressed me, so I delicately picked Oscar up off my lap, and put him down on the couch and under a blanket, so he wouldn’t be too bothered when I proceeded to the kitchen.
In the freezer were these homemade peppermint patties my roommate and I had made the night before. There weren’t just a few of them, either. There were roughly two hundred of them, all in a heart-shape to celebrate Valentine’s Day. We had spent at least two hours a night for the past three days preparing them, and last night we dipped them all in chocolate. We basically set up an assembly line to make these things, and it was so elaborate and well crafted, I think it would have put Henry Ford to shame.
As I examined the heart-shaped peppermint patties, I smiled, making them was incredibly fun, and knowing my hard work had gone into them, I picked one up and ate it. Stress eating always made me feel better, and I was dying, so I didn’t mind the insane number of calories these things packed. I mean they were made out of pure sugar. Immediately my back molar hurt, as I was pretty certain I had a cavity or two, and even though I had dental insurance thanks to my father and President Obama, I didn’t have money to even pay the deductible.
I sat down on the couch and felt my breathing finally resume back to normal. The Albuterol was finally starting to work, and after the initial rush it gave me, I struck with a great deal of exhaustion, as I had not slept much the night before.
Three hours later I woke up to my phone ringing. I looked at the screen, it was my Dad.
Anyone who has met my father knows that he is probably the kindest man on earth. He is like a big teddy bear and simply doesn’t have a mean bone in his body. When I was little and he disciplined me, or at least tried, I would laugh and not take him seriously. Though he is direct, and often says what he thinks (like once we went to a new pizza place that opened in my hometown of Prescott, and when asked by the owner what my father thought of the food, my father held it up to his New York standards of pizza and said “I’ve had better”), he is honestly my best friend.
So him calling isn’t too out of the ordinary. I answered it immediately.
“What’s up,” I said.
“Hey, me and Susan [my stepmother] are wonderin’ if we still getting dinner tonight,” he said. His New York accent had faded somewhat, but it was still present.
“Sure, when are you picking me up,” I asked.
“We are leaving now.”
I said goodbye to my Dad, fed Oscar and went into the bathroom to take a shower. In all honesty, I should have taken a shower right when I got home to wash off any cat dander, but I was tired and Oscar seduced me.
I looked in the mirror, as I still wasn’t wearing a shirt and examined the freckle some more. It was so bizarre, and above my skin, not in it, like my other freckles. It had to be cancer.
I washed my face, and turned on the shower. Then I eyed the cancerous freckle one more time, and finally decided to touch it. Now, my father and my stepmother had always taught me not to touch things I didn’t understand. Like witchcraft. Or guns. These are things I don’t completely comprehend and so I never went shooting and only cast one spell when I was dabbling in the so-called dark arts in high school. It didn’t work, as I was still a little chubby and not very tall. Above all else I had been avoiding touching it for fear of it spreading to my fingers. I didn’t know how cancer worked exactly, but knew I didn’t want to mess with it.
Those words of wisdom from my parents, and fears were pushed aside, and my finger brushed against it, and would you believe the damn freckle came off in a goo-like way.
My parents had never said anything about putting things you didn’t understand in your mouth, so that’s exactly what I did, and immediately I knew what it was: chocolate. Apparently, from the night before, when roommate and I made a ton of peppermint patties and got chocolate all over the kitchen a small dot had landed on my chest, right between my nipples.