“Wow! It’s great to see you! Haven’t seen you in ages!” Mighty Small Strong Woman grins and stretches, catlike, as Pretty French Teacher plops happily into the hot tub.
“Yeah. I haven’t been in like a year.”
“You mean this year? 2007?”
“No…no….”PFT shrugs shyly. “All year….last year….I was hoping that I’d still see some regulars around.”
“Yeah, we’re still here. But what’s up? Is everything ok?”
PFT puts on a happy smile, but MSSW knows it’s a cover. Stares at her seriously.
“Well….it’s been kinda a tough year…..”
“Really? You ok?”
“Oh, yeah, I’m fine…..but my boyfriend… he’s been pretty sick.”
“He’s gonna be ok, isn’t he?”
“We hope so. He’s on the upswing…. I mean…..he does have Lung Cancer….” PFT shakes her dark wet hair sadly.
“Damn! How old is he?”
“Shit….was he a smoker?”
“When he was younger.”
“Weren’t we all!” MSSW chuckles in morbid sympathy.
“Exactly….but the doctors were flabbergasted when the cancer was finally diagnosed. At first they thought he just had bronchitis so they gave him some antibiotics and sent him home…”
”How did he discover the cancer?”
“He had this cough….. and it just wouldn’t go away. Of course, we’re all sick in the winter. I know I am. And so he didn’t go to the doctor’s.”
“Yeah…I wouldn’t either.”
“Exactly….so when he finally went they said bronchitis. And then when it still wouldn’t go away and he went back they said pneumonia and so I thought ok, pneumonia is bad, but he’ll get better so I took off for France but then I get this call like a month later that it’s not bronchitis-- it’s Lung Cancer!”
“So, of course I came right home and he had already started the chemo and the radiation….’
”How’d that go?”
“Well, he did okay with the radiation…. (Or was it the chemo? PP can’t recall now. Cancer talk in the hot tub is so overwhelming that her hearing ear forgets the vital medical details. So let’s just say radiation for now. But the following description may be vice versa.)
“That’s good, isn’t it?”
”Sure…. they can control the side effects pretty well now with medication. As long as you take the medication before the symptoms get too bad.” PFW reaches up behind her head and squeezes a long ponytail of water out. “But the chemo. Now that was killer. No pun intended.”
“I mean, he was in so much pain! He couldn’t even take one sip of water without excruciating pain swallowing it. And no complaints. He would just grin and bear it. But he’s better now. He’s back at work and on the upswing.”
“What’s the prognosis?”
“Well, it is an aggressive cancer, but he’s so young, and they’re treating it aggressively. So the hope is for a complete cure….but….” PFW wipes her eyes. PP can’t see the tears from her dark eavesdropping corner, but she knows they’re there. She can hear them.
MSSW nods sympathetically. “He’s young. I’m sure that …..’
Her voice trails off. PP swallows hard. Damn. What’s her problem anyway? At least she doesn’t have lung cancer. Though she still, in the back of her mind, can’t get the melanoma scare out of her frame of reference. Which doesn’t really make sense. But cancer doesn’t no matter what kind or what outcome or who gets it. PP sighs. She’d been away from Mills for 3 weeks and had so looked forward to coming back but it’d been a harrowing drive up highway 13 with the Geo mysteriously overheating. Fortunately, she’d made it to the 76 station across the street from Mills where the very kind Hong Kong Buffet Server (they’ve replaced the garage with Chinese food) helped her. Checking the oil. Discovering the overflow water container was empty. Running back into the buffet and getting a big plastic pitcher of water to pour into the geo. Thankfully, it had worked. At least temporarily so PP could still go to the pool. She had felt so relieved and lucky. But now…..cancer talk? All PP wanted to do was get away from cancer and it was surrounding her. She’d just found out that the favorite number one cat, Owen Hill’s, Mina Loy, had inoperable kitty breast cancer. This was too sad to comprehend so PP had made herself go to the pool.
Now, PP watches as the two women climb out of the tub. Steam rising deliciously offa PFW’s smooth olive skin and navy suit. She doesn’t seem unhappy. Glad to be at the pool. She’d said this. How she hadn’t been in a year and now here she was and it was so great to be back.
PP understands this. How swimming can make everything better. Even the most daunting and uncontrollable things can melt away for a little while gliding through the turquoise lit lanes, the sky a dark warm dome over the pool with a few dim stars and a single small plane droning overhead.
Climbing out of the tub herself, PP shivers a little as she follows the two women still chatting, heads together, the PFW laughing softly.
Yes. Swimming is the answer. At least for a little while.