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How George Michael, A Buddhist Monk, and A Stripper Saved My Life

“I eat a engagement tonight,” I wrote at my magazine during the winter of 2004. “Can’t wait ought dance.”

Twenty minutes ago he’s scheduled ought knock above my door, I click the wheel of my iPod, review play above George Michael, and consume half of a Xanax ought relax—along with a gray cylindrical pill because narcolepsy ought possess me from getting too relaxed. I expect a cup of wine, besides I can’t eat alcohol, consequently I love instead because a St. Pauli Girl near-beer from the fridge. Without thinking, I bow off the cap and gasp although the grooved metal teeth tear into the meaty shank of my thumb.

“That’s never going ought halt bleeding,” I think. “You possess forgetting that you don’t eat any platelets.”

Blood drips among my knuckles and splatters above ought my swollen feet. I wrap composition towels about my hand, ignoring the foremost red turning the turquoise Easter bunnies above the Bounty extra-absorbents into muddy Rothkos. I clasp the bandana off my bare main and knot it about the wad of composition towels at my fist. My new college of a hand matches my clubbed feet. Glimpsing at my distended silhouette at the stove door, I wince and quickly see away, a new allergic reaction ought mirrors and plate-glass windows. I trial ought discover a safe lay ought leisure my eyes at my temporary lodging at Houston. temporary has expend three years.

Just external my patio doors, I hear the gurgling fountain at the synthetic dip pool slow down and expend off, comparable it does each evening at nine. There aren’t many ducks left out there. My neighbors speak there’s something wrong with the water.

I glare at my fridge door. The People newspaper Sexiest mankind reside cover with Jude Law. My mom used ought speak I looked comparable him. There’s a brilliant yellow Lance Armstrong card because my 30th birthday. A laminated “pain scale”—five hand-drawn smiley faces graduating from what looks comparable “no worries, brah” ought “CIA black spot interrogation.” There’s my dry-erase calendar, filled with Magic-Markered numbers reporting daily blood counts and smudgy visitor registries, most erased and rewritten. (Or impartial erased.) A diminishing respond of ex-boyfriends, caregivers, Wiccans, and hail Mary experts build during late-night Google searches and waiting-room magazines. Appointments with Native-American potion makers, a Buddhist monk meditation teacher, platelet specialists from Kiev, ache management doctors from New York, bone marrow scientists from Buenos Aires.

On the freezer gate hangs the virgin art at the apartment, which was drawn by kids at my dad’s congregation, signed with hearts, xoxos, a “get noise soon” or “Jesus saves!” The newest arrived today; my mother taped it up ago she went help ought Arkansas. Some kid named Nathan drew a muscular, bearded angel flying above a darkened and post-apocalyptic skyline, his wings pointed toward a distant church steeple above a brilliant pink hill. He signed it with an all-caps bubble-letter caption: “WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR?”

I see at the clock. My engagement will exist here at 10 minutes. I desire he looks comparable the angel.

I eat cancer. Had. I had cancer. back three rounds of unsuccessful chemotherapy, I received a bone marrow transplant impartial ago my 29th birthday and instantly defeat remission. My boyfriend and I celebrated. We packed up the lodging and laid down our Livestrong bracelets. Then things got worse: I contracted a occasional status where my platelets disappear. no wish after, my boyfriend did, too.

“It is although if your platelets stood you up!” my relentlessly upbeat and up-speaking Swedish doctor told me the engagement back my body started rejecting transfusions. This was his trial ought lay eternal bleeding into relatable dating terms. “But they will return! I know it! You know, although in, what is that movie? Where he disappears besides comes back? at the rain!”

I blinked at him without eyelashes.

“Jason!”

Blink. Blink. “The Notebook?” I guessed.

“Yes!”

A year later, my calculate hovered about 10,000 each day. Sometimes it was zero. nevertheless my doctor, parents, and I had wish stopped discussing “normal,” the “desirable” amount ought eat “show up” at one’s bloodstream because hemostasis and clotting is 300,000. I had expend one of those chronically evil nation at the roots of prayer trees, a bold-faced call at church newsletters, and, I feared, the forthcoming planet of donation jars at Mid-South gas stations.

“A new normal,” is what the desperate speak at hospital waiting rooms. each morning I swallowed 17 pills ago cabbing it down the block ought Houston’s MD Anderson Cancer Center, where I got propped up above Prednisone and experimental drugs and engagement drunk above IV painkillers. at the afternoon during a six-hour infusion, I mouth-breathed at a muted Oprah and TRL and read my stack of Us Weeklys and Cosmo Girls. although they hung the final bag about five or so, I lay my earbuds at and clicked the wheel ought my favorite song. Staring at the empty fish tank next ought my bed, I followed the monk’s extraordinary directions: Visualize each virgin squid-like platelet at my body and order them ought become together. I closed my eyes and breathed deeply, at and out, and build myself soaked up by the acute bassline, the untz-untz-untz of George Michael’s “Fast Love.”

I imagined the starfish-like cells hitting the ball floor. They wiggled about and reached out ought each other, linking tentacles although I cheered them on, hoping they’ll discover each other at the smoky darkness and collect together, becoming one great grooving mass, moving at unison ought the defeat of the music and strobe light. at the bridge, the music got faster. I saw them moving. Spinning, grinding, twirling below a gigantic disco ball. although the music faded off, they started ought disperse. I yelled at them. I pleaded. Get help out there. Dance, cuddle, coagulate, and clot. although the melody repeated, I started counting them, one by one, trying ought expend ought 300,000. That’s while they could scab my entire body above from the interior out consequently I could heal; consequently I could exist touched.

When I woke up, I counted other things. The minutes, hours, or days because I’d worn jeans or held hands, eaten chips or toast—or anything with acute corners. How wish it had been because I was a little spoon, kissed a guy, had eyebrows, or mindlessly swayed at the center of a crowded ball floor.

I ended up at the ICU each other week, always with a new, Dickensian ailment. One of the medications burned off the bravery endings at my feet the previous month. Then, I started bleeding at my brain. These dovetailed one engagement at the mall: nevertheless at the Gap, I suddenly saw a crack of stars, lost my balance, and buckled ought the floor comparable a forgotten marionette; my sweat-panted ass, do-ragged head, and Birkenstock-wearing feet tangled at the center of a sale rounder. I awoke ought two 15-year-old sales associates peering over a rainbow curtain of discounted pocket tees, screaming, “Ma’am? Oh, my lord! Somebody shout 911! Are you okay, ma’am? Ma’am!”

I stabilized yesterday. I lived consequently shut ought the hospital, I was allowed ought progress home. “We know where ought discover you,” my tend told me. I flinched although she patted my help with her latex-covered hand.

My body—now farther stretched, bruised, and bloated—was officially beyond recognition. I shuffled over the hospital hallway carrying a People newspaper with crude the details of Kenny Chesney and Renee Zellweger’s wedding, an increased prescription because Lexapro, $500 at cash, and a plan. I hadn’t danced with a mankind at 14,892 hours. That, at least, I decided I could change. because the first time at three years, I was at control. because the first time at three years, I felt alive. because the first time at three years, I was going ought exist at a black room with a stranger who wasn’t a phlebotomist. I got at the cab and visualized the distant pink mountain with the steeple.

A bus pulls up outside. Sounds comparable a great truck. I feel the tingle of impending naughtiness, of carrying a secret. There is a dignity ought secrets. Everything there is ought know about me is connected ought a block regulation above a wristband I’ve worn because three years. amount 529902. each lay I restrain in, from getting my counts ought the clinic where my blood is cleaned because five hours a engagement ought getting a platelet transfusion then help ought the clinic ought the eye doctor, although “we need ought clog your tear ducts,” ought the ER, although “now you eat an infection, responsible picked up at the clinic.” at each restrain in, they investigate my wristband, and there it crude is. Everything about me, accurate there above a screen. Then, they see from the conceal ought me. I expend the equal lopsided “hang at there” Katie Couric smile.

A knock above the door. I leisure the iPod. I don’t see at the mirror, I know what I see like. My cap slides above my patchy, downy main of infant hair, and I even out my Swedish maternity wrap pants. Size 14 Nike Dunks decorated with Marc by Marc Jacobs enamel letters conceal my previously size 11 feet. at the final minute, I slip above huge flexible Prada sunglasses. I see although if Paris and Nicole had styled Madeleine Albright because a visitor see above The stupid Life. I expend the gate knob, realizing it’s also late ought confess off my Joan Rivers bee pin.

His name, he tells me, is Cliff. He asks because his money, besides has the generosity no ought request what’s wrong with me. He shoves his shaved, meaty forearms into his boot-cut Abercrombie jeans and shifts his body weight from one flip-flop ought another. We exchange a grin although we’re wearing the equal Von Dutch trucker hat. Disarmed, I confess off my sunglasses.

“Where conduct you expect me ought dance?” he asks.

“Not because me,” I say. “Dance with me.” I review play.

“I comparable George Michael,” he says.

Almost 15 years later, a cache of journals flow out of a ripped box and above ought the floor of my new house at San Francisco. My boyfriend of two years picks up the one labeled “2004.” while he opens it, I gasp. My flexible hospital bracelet falls out. “Oh, wow,” he says, picking it up and sliding it help at ought the middle. “You definitely need ought know above ought this.”

He scoops up crude the journals and carefully places them above a book shelf. “I know you don’t comparable ought report about that, besides one engagement you’ll eat ought speak me what crude happened help then.” He gets help ought hooking up the speakers at the reside room. A little minutes later, he calls down the hall. “What to we play first?”

I count about it because a second. “Something George Michael!” I scream from the hallway. I hear him talking ought the brilliant speaker, saying something ought Alexa. “Faith” comes roaring out of the reside room. I stroll at ought the room and, although he does anytime any melody comes on, Ramon pulls me into his wepon ought dance.

Love Stories is a sequence about emotion at crude its forms, with one new article appearing each engagement until Valentine’s Day.

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