“What do you mean ‘bad’?” I asked.
“I think it’s self-explanatory.” He said.
“Nice bedside manner doc!”
He reached into his lab coat and produced a flask and two plastic shot glasses, “Cheers!”
“Ha, we’re celebrating my terminal diagnosis?” I said with a hastily shaken tone cocktail of irony, indignation and false bravery.
“We all have a terminal diagnosis, my friend. I love you, and this shot is to celebrate your life. The life behind you, that left before you, and most importantly this moment, when we here together face the inevitable; the heartache, the confusion, the freedom, and the truth, that we all try so desperately to ignore.”
I found myself smiling in spite of the dour news, “I love you, man.”
Doctor James had been my college roommate freshman year, and my best friend for the last thirty years of my now seemingly bookended life. Together we had surfed the waves off the Santa Barbara coast, chased the same woman at parties and fought over the outcome, ridden a motorcycle through the courtyard of a dormitory with frantic RAs chasing us. This was the man who knew me better than anyone on the planet. He had supported me every step of the way. He knew when to say “I’m sorry,” and he knew how to forgive. He was the perfect person the usher me onto the crowded tarmac for those awaiting passage to the hereafter.
“So by ‘no’ you mean there’s no cure?” I asked.
He looked me in the eye, raised his plastic shot glass to offer a toast, I obliged with a shaky reciprocal gesture.
“There is only one cure for life, and as mortals, we will all one day be cured. May you rock the fuck out of the days, months, or years left to you. May you know that I love you like a brother with all my heart and will ride this last wave with you wherever it may take us.” He held his glass and my gaze.
Damn him; the fucking bitch made me tear up. I killed the shot and immediately put my cup out for a second.
“How long?” I asked.
“I don’t fucking know…six months, six years, it’s so fucking random. Let’s see, no sugar diets, kale, and on the uh-oh side, hidden guilt, self-hatred, or an emerging heretofore unseen badass extreme will to live. I could tell you some number, but then that number enters your reality and who the fuck am I to shape your perspective on something like this? I’m just a doctor.” James laughed as he filled our little plastic shot cups.
“Let’s go to the mountains and hike.” He said. “I’ll clear my schedule; we’ll go to my place in the Sierras, spend a couple of days and let this percolate.”
“Are you coming on to me?” My super thin, false bravado wavering.
“Ha, fuck you, I’ll bring coffee, be ready by 8 am.” Doctor J. hissed with a shit-eating grin.
“Thanks?” I had to laugh. Hiking would be good!
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