Recently, a friend suggested I should prepare to let Ebony go.
I think I know what they meant but I’m not ready to face that. Truly, I know that Ebony’s time is limited. When she was first diagnosed, her doctor said that, once treated, she could have at least 20 years. This summer that changed. Ebony kept this from me, from her mother and her friends, but she told my mother that her doctor had told her she was now looking at five. I asked him if this was true and he confirmed it. I’ll take five; but the way things have been lately, I honestly wonder if we’ll have that long.
Ebony has given me the best 10 years of my life. I think of all the incredible experiences we’ve shared and all the times I’ve spent with other women before I met her, incredible as they might be, put together, cannot compare. I was enchanted with her from the day I met her, the moment I saw her: I have witnesses and there is a picture of the two of us from that night that I cherish.
I have been thinking about that night a lot.
I remember our first date. I remember the night I first kissed her. She kissed like the world was on fire.
She still does. Just, you know, we’re not all tongues or even “Church tongue,” but just nice simple kisses that are okay in front of her mother or that no one would be grossed out by or shout, “Get a room!”
I remember everything.
I remember one night when we were in Newport, staying at my Mom’s. I was sick as a dog and taking every over-the-counter pill, remedy and elixir available at CVS. We were up in my bedroom and it was late afternoon and I was just out. She had put me to bed and I remember her telling me she was going downstairs to get something to eat and then come back up and read her book. At some point I woke up to this… loud, crunching sound. KRRRAAARRRKKK… chomp, chomp, chomp… silence; then: KRRRAAARRRKKK… chomp, chomp, chomp…
I turn my head and opened my eyes, and there was Ebony, sitting in bed next to me, reading her book and eating potato chips out of the bag. And the second we locked eyes, she was putting a chip in her mouth. She looked startled, like she’d been caught stealing and I just started laughing. It was funny to me about the chips – she loves chips – but she stayed with me, right next to me. That was really the thing. She could have sat in the comfy chair or on the couch in the front room where her chipping fiendery would have gone unnoticed: but she stayed with me.
I cannot, and will not, give up on her. I can’t, I just can’t. I won’t throw in the towel. I don’t want to prepare for the inevitable because if I do -- to me -- it’s as if I gave up. Like a stupid Boston Bruins fan when they’re down two and there’s, like, five minutes left in the third period. That’s me: I am a stupid Boston Bruins fan who is not going to stop hoping against hope that fucking Zdeno Chara is going to score twice in five minutes and force the game into overtime.
My friend wasn’t wrong or out of line to suggest this to me. They were right to do so and a good friend for having the guts to say as much. But they also need to know that I am in my late 40s and still bite my nails. I am a nervous wreck all the time and this has only exacerbated things. Clearly, if I was a relaxed, sensible, blasé kind of person, I would not bite my nails and I could prepare for the inevitable. But I’m not. I’m a hot-headed, Anglo/Irish-American Boston Bruins fan who listens to extreme metal and like, Fatoumata Diawara and wants the Bruins to win.
If you asked me, “What are you?” I wouldn’t know how to answer. I am this guy. I’m not that guy or the other guy, I’m this guy. And this guy will get up every morning and take care of the woman I love even that means I have to wipe her ass, help her brush her teeth, put that special secret black girls’ lotion all over her skin from head to toe, clean her ears, dress her, cook for her, feed her, make her take her pills when she doesn’t want to and do it all over again. Because if I don’t do that, then I’m that fucking guy. That fucking guy is the guy who walks in and people lean in to whisper to their friend and gently point, “That’s the fucking guy I was telling you about.” Nope. Not doing it. Not now, not ever. Not me. Like the line in the Motorhead song, “Stagefright/Crash & Burn” – “Not me, not me, not me!” In for a penny, in for a pound. And if this is what I get, then this is what I get.
This girl, the love of my life, dressed up in my handmade Adam Ant Hussar jacket to see Adam Ant with me on his first US tour in almost twenty years, even though she only knew “Goody Two-Shoes” and “Stand and Deliver” and would much rather have been seeing Judas Priest or Carpathian Forest or the Suicidal Tendencies. This girl, the love of my life, sat next to me eating chips when I was sick – from the fucking flu – because she didn’t want me to be alone… this girl, who stood by me and held my hand when I was out of work and managed to scrounge some money and take her to dinner and a show at the Comedy Cellar the night Chris Rock showed up and excoriated me in front of a full house for not having money and wanting to marry a black woman… this girl, who is not a sports fan, who sat with me upstairs at Flo’s in 2011, the night the Bruins won the Stanley Cup in Game Seven, for the first time in 39 years, and cheered them on the entire time like she loved Bobby Orr…this girl who loves INXS and hung on every word when I told her about the two times I’d seen them live… this girl who took me to New Orleans when I’d never been and said I would love it… this girl, who walked next to me in Jamaica when I wanted to leave the designated cruise ship “safe” area and found the awesome jerk chicken place… this girl who read The New Yorker and The Atlantic of her own volition, when all I read was Vanity Fair…
I don’t have a lot of friends, especially ones that would kiss me, but I don’t fucking walk away from that. And I’m not ready to sign off on Ebbs.
Ebony is resting now and will be resting all weekend. Doctor’s orders. I managed to change her on while she was laying down, which was a first. I prefer to get her up, get her into the bathroom, get her cleaned up in there, showered and changed; but even though it’s “a minimally invasive procedure,” yesterday was still a long day for her – for all of us – and I’ve seen them do the change at the hospital, so I gave it a try.
I had the Rangers game on, Rangers v. Edmonton, and she stayed awake long enough to see Nash put it in on a power play but she’s been out most of the day. Her mother and I sat her up for a bit to eat – I ordered pizza for her –and then to give the meds she doesn’t want to take and then put her to bed.
I have been saying to people, and to myself, that I should not focus on what I do not have but learn to be grateful for what I have. I have Ebony and she is here and this is how she is. So I’m coping with that. It’s not easy. There’s no days off and I rarely get to sleep in. I’m not perfect. I am certain that I am a failure and a fraud and there are far better men than me. And God and Satan both know I could use a drink. But here I am.
One thing I figured out: since the recovery from her lumbar puncture (Spinal Tap) I have decided to move Heaven and Earth and bring Ebony home to Newport for Thanksgiving. Her mother, Sundai, is still here, and since our Moms have never met, this is going to be historic. I have to rent a car, figure out some shit about packing for the drive up, as it pertains to Ebony and her needs; then, ah… I have no idea. I am going to ask my bosses if I can have Tuesday off so we can beat the traffic and drive up that that day, which will give us three days in Newport if we come back on Saturday (I work Sunday nights). If that is cool – and believe me, ABC has been fucking cool so this will really test the waters -- that’ll give me Wednesday to run errands. So if you see me in Newport, running around, the day before Thanksgiving, well… I have a lot going on. Her mother has NEVER had Clam Chowder, by the way. The first time I brought Ebbs home, it was the same thing. She had never had clam chowder before and once she tried it… well, I turned her into a Chowdah Monstah. I hope her Mom enjoys it as much. No time to take her to The Black Pearl, but I will have to get down there and get some chowdah for the occasion. I mean, right?
On Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, while others are out shopping, Mom and I usually put up the tree and out, all of her crazy Christmas decorations. The tree, the ten thousand Christoper Radko ornaments she’s been buying on QVC since 199-something, the ten million ready-to-march nutcrackers. The Spode Christmas Tree collection dinnerware. All the shit. So that’ll be fun. Mom will have all the weird holiday nuts out, the port wine cheddar ball, Goldfish… I’ll put a fire on and blast Christmas tunes by old-timey crooners and with any luck it’ll be a fucking Hallmark Christmas movie in 2018 starring Christian Slater and Brandy Norwood.
Never a day off, but I don’t care. But you know what? IDC. On Thanksgiving I will get to have wine.
So yay. Bring on the fucking holidays!