I’m sitting at a table half asleep.
Everyone around me has their swim tops on, and their shorty shorts, the kind that shows too much butt cheek. And everyone’s covered in bubbles.
Placed strategically next to me is a big plastic see-through jug. You know the kind which holds five gallons of water for one of those water coolers in an office? But instead of clear water, it’s holding dollar bills, coins, basically pocket change. I notice a ten-dollar bill mixed in with all the rest. There’s a big picture of my smiling face taped to the side. This is what we’re collecting, peoples spare change for a car wash run by high school students.
And it’s all for me.
Or because of me.
The dying girl.
Over there, standing on the side of the street, with a cardboard sign expertly decorated as only a high school girl can, is the most popular girl in school. Sarah. She’s the one holding the sign above her head and yelling as cars drive past. Most of them slowing just enough to get a good look at Sarah in her bikini top and her short-shorts which are cut too high. They don’t care about throwing their change into the plastic water container for me. They would rather look at the young hot, high school chick. Because let’s be honest. After high school, it’s all downhill physically for us women.
And since we’re being honest, Sarah is way more interesting than me anyways. I’m nothing. I’m Cali. The loner. The girl nobody ever spoke to or heard of three months ago.
Ok, that’s not entirely true.
In grade school, I was known as ‘Bob’ for a brief period. It’s not a name of adoration either, but only because I saw a movie one time with some actress, honestly, I don’t even remember who it was, anyways, she had the cutest bobbed haircut. So, I thought, hey, why not get cut my hair like her, because then people would notice me.
Because it was horrible.
Not in the way your grandma cuts your hair in a style not current to the trends type of horrible. But in a way when you’re ten years old, you don’t realize how difficult it is to see the back of your head in the mirror, kind of horrible.
Even my sister will admit the front didn’t look half bad. But the back was cut so uneven, I had to go to one of those places where they look at you like an idiot for trying to attempt such a complicated procedure. I mean really, it’s not like its rocket surgery. Which I can’t do either. But hey, if this overweight, frumpy lady who uses only one hand to trim my hair can do it, why not me?
So, I sit here next to the jug with change in it. Trying to smile as strangers come by throwing their hard-earned money inside.
It’s more difficult than you think. Smiling. Do people even realize how hard it is to die? To sit in this hard metal chair, excepting everyone’s pocket change in exchange to ogle the high school chicks in their bikinis? Giving practically free carwashes just to try and get enough money to cover my medical bills? It’s not easy being sick.
In the last three months, I have perfected the sad puppy eyes, the sick girl persona, the ‘oh, thank you, kind sir, for giving me your penances’ line.
I’m a pro. Sorrow at its finest.
…and the Academy Award for dying from cancer goes to…
Amber, my best friend, is sitting next to me, trying to sneak dollar bills out of the jug of money. She’s the only one who’s truly accepted my fate. Not even I’ve accepted it yet. I still feel like something will rescue me from dying, something will happen to cure me. But so far. It hasn’t, and so, I still lose parts of my day from the constant seizures. I’m still wasting away and pale, and I still have a tumor.
Turning back to my mother, I give her a sad nod in thanks. This car wash is really for her. I’m doing it for both my mom and dad. Seeing my father in the parking lot who is actively scrubbing every car coming through. As if the more he washes, the less I’m sick. I can see him cleaning a Corvette as the owner flirt’s a with a girl who can easily send him to jail if he lays a hand on her.
Seeing him out there working in the hot sun I realize, he probably has tears in his eyes. Because since hearing the news three months ago. He’s had tears in his eyes almost every moment I look at him. Talk about guilt.
The worst part about all of this. What I don’t say out loud.
I’m sort of happy I’m dying.
Wait, just stick with me for a moment.
It’s mostly because this is the most fun I’ve had in ages. Excepting people’s money, getting free food, not having to worry about homework. I even have a boyfriend. I’m soaking up their attention like the sponges in people’s hands.
I know this is all because I’ll be dead soon. Not the way we all will be dead someday. But in the way if you were to look under a microscope at my brain, you could actually see the cells dividing on top of one another, there’s no way I was going to live another two weeks.
As the sun gets higher, and the cars roll in, I just wish I could go home. Spend my last few days on this Earth listening to The Cure, eating whatever I want, maybe sneaking a glass of wine at dinner. Or maybe even try to do some of the things I’ll miss when I’m not alive anymore.
Neil Young said it best,
There’s one more kid
that will never go to school
Never get to fall in love
Never get to be cool
Keep on rocking in the free world, Neil. I hear you, bro. I feel you.
Sitting in silence, trying to look like I’m dying. I can’t help but think this wouldn’t all be possible if it wasn’t for Toby.
Toby is my tumor.
I know what you’re thinking. Who names the tumor slowly killing them? Well, it’s more common than you realize. It seems if you name it, then you have something to blame. My therapist told us about it in my cancer group. I Googled it, and it’s true! Try it and see. Something to blame. It’s not your fault your dying, it’s cancer’s fault.
So, I blame you, Toby.
My little glioblastoma. The ever-growing pain in my brain giving me seizures, projectile vomiting, and all this attention. Without you, I would still be a nobody. Nothing. Nada. Rein (French for nothing). But now I’m someone, I’m something. I’m the dying girl everyone now knows and loves.
The girl everyone has started saying ‘hi’ to in the halls, the girl who doesn’t have to do homework, who doesn’t care what people think about her. The sideshow attraction.
But don’t worry, I will be forgotten soon enough.
When I’m dead.
Let’s back up.
To the beginning.
Before the car washes. Before my mom and dad cried all the time.
Before I was dying.
Before I had brain cancer.