MUSIC IN THE ASHES OF A LONG WALK HOME

Chemo travels on your stomach. I’d like to say I’m always swinging through the fences not at them. But when food begins to taste like food, then the flavor statrts getting soaked with a gray, bland taste, where a coconut macaroon drsaw you out to life with the taste of coconut, but then while its in your mouth the coconut is gone and your chewing on a dirty sidewalk, or cereal taste like spent fireplace ashes in milk. But first it tantalizes you with the flavor—the zang of health, the zip of life, and then I’m left feeling soaked with heaviness and lost with a full plate in front of me and a longing for emptiness inside me because I don’t want to be disappointed in the taste again, and again, and again. I belch and it reminds me of the breath of a sick old man.
 
“I’m sick, I’m sick, I’m sick,” I say to the dog, who is clearly excited she’s getting nearly a full plate of half-a-portion of food.
 
The lack of flavor weighs me down. I’m walking through a long march, and dreading another chemo treatment, facing an operation I could die from, then a long rehab, and then chemo again—and all this was unjust suffering because my oncologist at Stanford missed this tumor during all my follow-up exam. I can’t say it makes me mad. I’m neutral—it’s more like when you’re waiting for someone to pick you up, and they’re not going to show, and you have to walk, and you know how heavy your luggage is, and how far you have to walk, and how long it’s going to take. But you can’t sit still, and have to march.
 
And with each step, I still have remnants of food’s failure on the back end. And a belch comes and a gaseous-like sulfur seems to come out.
 
Laurie is upset and tries to get me to look at the bright side ahead. But I can’t. It would deter me from facing the reality of this horror show, I can only see what’s in front of me—I can’t imagine my foe down, all I can do is get ready for a counter punch, or duck, or strike, but it’s every other second in front of me. Looking on the bright side is a drug I can’t afford. I’m mired in this syrup of deadening spider webs trying to wear me down, and I have to keep tasting bad food, coughing unpredictably, and suddenly out of balance or losing focus—sometimes the two tag team me, and I cough and it’s like my skull is a parachute turned inside out and I’, enmeshed in it, and falling through it because gravity decided to change directions. And so I’m spinning, dizzy, and preparing for hitting the ground.
 
Boooooooom! And I land twisted, unbroken, trying to untangle my legs and arm into a progressive backbeat—and failing. A collapsed star in a black hole. And I try to crawl out, metallic taste singeing my mouth, large black vultures landing on my shoulders, preying upon me giving up. My internal organs seem like one giant collapsed bladder, that is dry and irritating me and it rubs against itself without lubricant, just black pepper.
 
It’s defeat without a loss.
 
I don’t want to eat, and I can’t read because of chemo brain shifting the lines, and I’m tired but can’t sleep, and I glumly say to myself, “I’m suffering, suffering.”
 
And I cough, and stagger, and swallow, and cry, and move another foot forward onto the longer march ahead.
 
Oh, how I want this to end, when you’re suffering is due to human error, its like I waqs leaning against a railing of a ship, and it gives way, and I’m left adrift. I don’t sink or float, I tread, and I see no sign of land, but I slap one arm into The Big C, wiping away some dead cells, knowing the water and food is leaving my system with dead cancer cells and high-octane chemo.
 
Hope is putting one foot in front of the other, and hoping no one hits you when you walk in front of a shooting gallery
 
But, in this monotone grayness of a flat terrain without flowers or rain or sun, trapped in chemo overcast, what do I reach out for…music, whether it’s jazz or Bowie, or Bruce, or Beatles, or Charlie Parker, or or or…music, I will not give up on music, I’m sick, but not so down I CAN'T hear the music—and zI reach for it on each swipe of my arms and feet, and I know it will fill the void. How marvellous music! Imagine if you walked through the woods and saw a bird singing like Stan Getz playing a ballad, or the bird hitting a certain beat and chorus—and we do that that with trumpets, guitars organs, bongos. Beatlemania in the stars. No reason, we have to, have to—play. Animals hear a different music.
 
So do I—and that’s my victory for today over bodily organs. And so I reach for a hidden note, a note play to keep the one-celled strangers away.
 
Music is the spark in the ashes that I shuffle through, trying to stir the flame.
 
It burns.
 
I welcome its heat in the darkness.