It’s not right that Kim got diagnosed with cancer. First, in the breast, and about ten days later, in the bones. Stage fucking four. It’s not right and it’s not fair.
But it is reality.
Kim and I met back in 1990, the summer we had both fled the towns of our youth for the wide-open spaces of Colorado. She came from a small town in Tennessee, and I, from Connecticut, where I decidedly did not fit. At the time I was waitressing at a place in Boulder that touted itself as a high-end natural foods restaurant. The owners, and many of the staff members, were members of a Hindu-ish ashram. Each night before the busy madness of the dinner shift began, the owner and main chef lit a stick of incense near the statue of Ganesh. I liked that. People didn’t do that in Connecticut.
I had just moved to Boulder. I was 27 years old, and free. I laughed a lot and was a badass waitress. Life was fun. The typical pre-dinner set up scene in the kitchen was usually very mellow, but sometimes I just needed to let out a huge laugh. One summer evening, Kim walked in the back door. With her slightly southern accent, huge blue eyes and a big laugh herself, I noticed her right away. Kim was a food delivery person, picking up an order. We became insta-friends. For a few years we did everything together. One winter, we decided to road-trip to Mexico only to be told in San Diego that the road to Tijuana was flooded out. So instead of lying around like sloths on a Mexican beach, we headed north to Los Angeles, and stayed in a pink youth hostel on Hollywood Boulevard that we later discovered to be a heroin den. We went to a bunch of live tapings of televisions shows. After we had seen several, the novelty wore off. During intermission of some Burt Reynolds show, we asked a show assistant to be excused.
“Really?’ he asked, looking incredulous.
“Yes, we’d like to leave. We’re so bored.”
“Well, that’s a first,” he said and proceeded to escort us off the Universal Studios lot.
Back in those days, Kim infused my life with genuine lightness. I had left the east coast behind, and was living a life that felt authentic, open, free. The early years of the 90s were all about fun, running rivers, climbing mountains, trying new things, pretty much all of the time.
Now, 25 years later, I sit with my dear friend at the Cancer Center as she receives the medicine, an “infusion” that we pray will allow her to live well with cancer. I had been nervous, to tell you the truth, I didn’t know what to expect in a chemo center. Would everyone be slumping down in his or her chair, sleeping, depressed? Would there be a smell of not-life? I look around. Almost every chair is taken, about 30 of them, filled with folks hooked up to various IV medicines. Some are snoozing, ear buds in, still others knit, read, play Travel Scrabble quietly with a friend. Kim has brought her homemade green drinks (made of kale, spinach, carrots and lemon) in old jam jars, and a huge bag of popcorn. We sip our healthy drinks, grab fistfuls of popcorn and laugh instead of cry.
When Kim gets up to use the restroom, bringing her IV pole with her, I sit back and take a deep breath. I’m in a type of holy land. Everywhere around me people are reaching toward life, light. These folks are not giving in to a dis-ease. If that is not a holy ground, I don’t know what is. It is a privilege, actually, to be here, that I was asked to join my friend here. Mostly it’s a privilege to watch her move through this with grace, humor and unbelievable strength.
Its funny how life-long friendships work. We get to witness each other at our best, and our not so best. We weave in and out of each other’s lives, offering up tea, movie dates, mountain snowshoe adventures, our ears to listen, shoulders to cry on, our hands to hold, our prayers. We infuse each other.