I went out the other night with some friends. We went to hear a swing/lounge type act and because my girlfriend is glamorous and loves to dress up (much as I do), I put on the dog. Nothing too fancy, mind you, but simple and classic: black pencil skirt, black V-neck shirt worn backwards to hide my radiation burns and a vintage cream sweater with a fur collar (a gift from a sister, who works in antiques).
Plus fishnets and black patent leather platforms. Plus fake boobs. Plus a wig. Plus powdered on eyebrows, etc., etc.
And I had a lovely time. Probably drank a little too much (i.e., one and a half martinis), but then I’m in my sixth week of radiation and alcohol helps take the edge off the pain. Right now, my chest – especially the V of my neck — is lobster red and aches and itches and throbs all the time. One of my armpits is also deepening from a lovely tan to a dark brownish red and I’m starting to go about with my left arm a bit crooked all the time, as if I’m a pirate. Or just feeling rather jaunty.
I guess you could say I was feeling jaunty the other night. Loved the music. Loved my friends. Loved the venue, although considering the talent, it should have been packed (Hey Seattle, what gives?). After the band shut down, I got a lift home from my buds, then got a phone call and spent some time with a recent suitor. Nothing too scandalous. We sat in his car outside my building talking … for the most part. It was a lovely night, a tipsy night, and thankfully, a night when I was able to forget for five minutes the cancer and the daily radiation blasts and the fact that I’m bald and that my chest looks like somebody dropped a piano on it.
At some point (midnight, perhaps?), I left my suitor in the car and hurried upstairs. Where I took off my wig to reveal my ashy gray stubble. And stripped down to my skivvies, unveiling my flattened red chest. Then I put on a camisole, nothing too fancy since I have to grease up every night with special Eucerin cream that’s made for burn victims. Days back, I’d mistakenly used some of the cream – or my other standby, castor oil – with a lovely black satin nightgown and it had loosened the dye from the cloth so I woke to black smudges all over my sheets. As if I’d cleaned a chimney before bed.
This night, I looked into the mirror at the end of it all and the glamorous blonde from earlier that evening was gone. Disappeared — as if by magic. No sexy black silhouette, no halo of blonde hair. No hair at all, except for the wig perched on a white foam head on my dresser. I was the ash and cinder girl again. Complete with chimney stains on her bed sheets.
In some ways, it feels Grimm. In some ways, it feels grim. But for the most part, it feels like my life. And on nights like this, it ain’t no fairy tale.