I ran away from the cancer about a year ago, when the word chemo first started to be used by the doctors.
I’m surprised it took Lola as long as it did to find me, after all, it’s not like I ever went into hiding. Do you know what the survival rate for stage-four lung cancer is?
“You look good Lo” I say.
If there’s a woman that can pull of the bald look, it’s her. As she remains straddled on top of me, her head almost seems to glow as the fluorescent hospital lights race along her scalp. She’s wearing a pair of faded cutoff jeans and a tight wife beater that seems to have been chosen specifically to highlight her thin frame. Combine that with the lack of hair and pierced eyebrows and she could pass for the lead singer of a punk band.
“Really. It makes you look bad ass.”
“Sure it ain’t the gun, Charlie?” She taps my chin with the barrel and I wince. Can’t tell the make or model, but it’s not like it makes a world of difference this close up.
“It helps,” I agree, trying my best to ignore the gun as it lazily traces the lines of my face, the caresses of a lover I’d rather not have.
“I got scared.” I could try to push her off me, but the truth is, I can’t. I don’t have the energy, and her body does feel good pressed against mine. Her ass shifts slightly as she speaks, rubbing against my groin and making me hard.
I’m relieved that not everything about my body has failed me.
“No shit.” She reaches into her pocket and takes out a pack of Marlboros. I admire her as long graceful fingers work on tearing open the celluloid wrapper. It doesn’t take long to get a cigarette in her mouth, all while the gun continues to be pressed to my face.
“You suck, you know that?” The words come out of the side of her mouth out as she lights her cigarette. “You knew the score from the beginning.”
How could I not? Our time tables were the first thing we announced back in the support group her doctor recommended. “I probably got half a year left” she said, “so you better not get too attached to any of this.” Back then, she’d motioned to a fuller body, plumper breasts, and long black hair. Back then, I taken it all in and assured myself that it would be easy to let go.
“You were supposed to die” I say.
The gun stops being a caress and gets jammed into the fleshy pool of my cheek. I must look like I’m giving it the world’s worst blowjob. “Fuck you” she says, “fuck you if you think I’m going to apologize for not giving up.”
Like you. The omission of those two words bothers me more than the gun ever could.
She takes a deep breath and I watch as the anger slowly washes out of her. “You suck,” she mutters again. And with a carefulness that I don’t expect, she shifts her body down and gently lies on top of me. After a few minutes, my right hand skims along her ribs and moves to her chest, exploring the new emptiness. Lola shudders when my fingertips touch the scars right above her armpit.
“Mastectomy” she explains, offering me a cigarette. It’s been so long since I had a smoke that I cough uncontrollably with the first drag. At least there’s no blood. Lola watches me from her position at the crook of my neck and then takes the cigarette away.
“Where were you twenty years ago? Maybe then it would have made a difference.” It’s supposed to be a joke, but neither of us laughs.
“You want me to do it?” Lola asks, the sound of her gun being cocked mixing with the beeping of the machines they got me hooked into.
I shake my head. It would be unfair of me to rob Lola of the second life she got out of the surgery.
Plus, I find that I’m not so scared anymore.