A young man returns home for a necessary visit.
The spring sun feels cool on my skin. It’s been a long time since I was here at this time of year and now I remember why. The dampness of the air is not really pleasant, though you’ll hear people talk about how much they love it and how they can’t imagine living anyplace else. Well, I can, and I do.
I’d rather be anyplace else than here, especially at this time of year. I guess it’s because I always find it disappointing. I go to bed early, but stay awake late, hoping against all hope there will be something on television to distract me from the fact that there’s nothing else to do, but watch television. There are only three stations that reach this town. Can’t they spell ‘cable’ here?
I pass out from boredom just as the sky is turning that sickening dark blue to grayish purple color that reminds you of why you should be asleep. The nausea is probably just some strange hormone surge that normal people don’t experience because normal people are asleep. I think others that are awake at this hour are probably drunk and I suddenly have the urge to be one of them just as my eyelids flicker closed.
I wake up early and of course, can’t go back to sleep because the sun is shining too brightly through unshuttered windows that no one seems to figure out how to cover appropriately with anything other than ratty shades or really unattractive curtains that should have remained in the store. Then just as I resign myself to rising early and partaking of the beautiful sunny day before it gets too busy to appreciate, I remember, “it’s too damn cold to go outside without long johns and a wooly parka.” What was I thinking? I hate this place. I hate where I am. I hate myself.
They say you can never go home again and I’ve always wondered,” Why would you want to?” To this day, I’ve never come up with a satisfactory answer and not for lack of trying. I’ve considered the fact that no one else from my immediate family has ever left here and I should want to see them. Unfortunately, the only time I return is for some type of family emergency. Grandma always says, “This family only meets up for funerals and other less blessed events.” Luckily she’s still alive, so maybe I’ll see the old woman this visit and let her tell me what a pathetic waste of one of her ovaries I’ve been. She’s so light-hearted.
I’ve never understood this family’s sense of success or accomplishment. I’ve gone to college, gotten several degrees, started a successful business, and all I hear from this family is, “Why can’t you visit more often if you’re such a bigshot? Why don’t you fly us out to see your place and hang out with your friends or better yet, send us all to the Bahamas?” I ask if those are rhetorical questions, but all I get are blank stares. They’re all such cretins, all of them.
But I digress. Why am I here? Why do I hate this place so much and who are these people? They look like me, but swear to God, I don’t know who they are. I have a sneaking suspicion they think the same thing.
As I nearly smother myself with my pillow trying to block out the sun, my cell phone rings. I gently consider the possibility of some generous compassionate friends coming to my aid when I recognize the number. It’s my sister; the one I can stand, so I answer. She asks if I’m in town yet and I’m so tempted to lie, but the planes fly over and she’s just sharp enough to note she hears it through the phone and over her house. The gig is up. I tell her I’ll meet her at the hospital in an hour. First, I have to try to get out of the house without my parents knowing I’m awake. “Come on down for some bacon,” I hear. I’m doomed to force decent respectable conversation with them. I pull the pillow to my face and scream, just a little. I imagine the fat from the bacon flowing to my brain and clogging up the works. I wonder if anyone’s considered powdered Lipitor that you can just sprinkle on your bacon and save yourself an operation. Whenever I tell them about proper diet, my Grandma always chimes in, “I’m ninety-eight years old, baby. Do you think I care? All my friends are dead. What do I have to live for?” I think she’s still here to torture me, but I don’t tell her that. I just smile and think it to myself. Then I remember, the old witch reads minds. She smiles a toothless smile.
Standing in the shower, I contemplate why we bother to shower before we go to the doctor. If anyone could accept a little stench now and then, it should be doctors, but I lather up just the same. Afterwards, I do remember to apply lotion. One trip I came to town and forgot how hard the water was and thought for sure my skin was going to just crack completely off my body. Duane Reade doesn’t know from Jergens. I figured I’d be arrested walking around draped in bloody muscle parts or something. Knowing the idiot police here, they probably know of some law against walking around ashy or skinless. I’d be arrested just for fun. Nowadays, I bring two types of lotion and a petroleum based product to try and keep the moisture in, being that I just spent twenty minutes trying to absorb it. My parents think I’m a sissy, but I just prefer skin that doesn’t hurt.
When they finally told me little Juju had leukemia, had failed chemo, and needed a bone marrow transplant, I tried to figure out why they were telling me. I couldn’t figure out why I teared-up. Surely, as odd as I was in this family, I wouldn’t match. I suggested they grab Grandma and just pull the bones from her body and let him have them. Amazing how humor can be wasted on people grappling with stunned disbelief. Later, when Grandma didn’t match, I suggested they take her bones anyway. For some reason, the joke still didn’t work.
I came to town to stand in line for the donor match. Everybody in town, and I mean, everybody, had attempted to be a donor for this kid. It was amazing. It was equally amazing that no one matched. I was their last hope. I wasn’t sure which I was more terrified of, being a match, or not matching. I deliberately chose the latter, but had a sneaking suspicion it was the former. If I matched this kid, I would forever feel a kinship to him, and lo and behold, I might have to re-invest myself here. I might even have to make more trips to town to visit, or somehow, start up a college fund, just in case somebody else in this town managed to graduate from high school and consider a college degree; some life beyond the factory.
While waiting in the coffee shop, my sister reminded me that I could have done this where I lived and had the cross-match done there. If I’d matched, they could have withdrawn the sample and just Fedexed it over. I told her that was too akin to sperm donation; a closet, and a zip-lock bag. I needed to know where the little willies ended up. It managed to get a smile out of her and I had the grim realization that she hadn’t had much to smile about for a while. I don’t know what came over me, but I took her head in my hands and placed it on my shoulder. She managed to have a good cry as I told her everything would be okay. Look at that, me; the eternal optimist.
I neglected to tell her that I had done the cross-match already and they had phoned me back with the results yesterday. I’m a perfect match, six out of six alleles. I’ve never been able to come home completely empty-handed and I never manage to do anything half-way. I’d have shaken the heavens themselves to get a match for this kid, but maybe God did it for me.