Silhouettes 1: Wolves in the Throne Room
A long, thick needle with a voluptuous body of red chemicals emerged from the nurse’s bag. She flicked on the side of the tool as Phase I of treatment began for my stage II lymphoma. Two weeks of Prednisone prepared me for my first session of chemo as the anti-inflammatory meds shrank the size and shape of my throat from a baseball to a golf ball. I was also given an assortment of green, white, and blue pills for pain and nausea in a water cup smaller than a baby’s fist.
The prick in my forearm made my mind hiss, successfully penetrating the skin and the green exterior of my vein. The syringe was set to rebuild the architecture of my cardiovascular constitution. A warm, woozy sensation crept from my arms to my torso as the nurse plunged down in a slow and steady manner for exactly four minutes. After she finished, another needle with the same red liquid stuck me. And then a third and a fourth.
The treatment was called RCHOP: each letter representing a different chemical that tackled the bulbous mass from a different angle. I remember the Prednisone and the four red syringes, but the other three all blend together in my memory as a six-hour chemical bath. Two IVs were stuck inside me, over-saturating me with an acidic napalm. An anti-nausea stream also flowed through me, along with a relaxing painkiller, and a chair that seemed too comfortable to leave. The Benadryl was quite powerful due its ability to lull my synapses and calm my heartbeat to a sluggish thump.
My blurred eyesight could only make out the crackling of roots in a dying, autumn evening, somewhere in Washington or Oregon. I was in New York City, but it was the sounds of the Pacific Northwest that soothed me from my MP3 player. I heard a wolf’s howl echoed in the distance, and the motion of air sauntered in waves, above the reverberating amplifiers that appeared to be submerged in aqueous soil. The chaos in motion bellowed brief moments of respite with the guttural cry of a human, ringing dissonance in the woods.
Silhouettes 2: Alcest
The busy buzzing of yellow passenger cars swoosh through wind tunnels Monday morning. The alarm stops, but the clock ticks incessantly, dragging one second after the other. My once-runner legs shake off the stagnant dust of my uncle’s apartment. Tenth-floor vertigo overtakes my vision; my morning nausea increases in magnitude.
I carry my gaping throat towards the toilet, achieving a bout of dry heaving, but nothing comes out. My 7 a.m. ritual is broken with an everything bagel. Thank God for the sesame, onion, poppy, and garlic morsels lathered on—the cream cheese delight would be too saccharine without them. Orange juice and walnuts complete the pre-work routine. I swallow, hard and deep.
Shower, towel, khakis, and a blue-stripy ready me for corporate work. I head to Wall Street with headphones on—the ethereal quality of sub-arctic shoegaze gently drapes my skull on sound walls, numb. The subway train is filled to capacity with other khaki, blue-stripes drowned in their preferred psychoacoustics. Some wear suits; some actually carry a briefcase.
I enter the cubicle walls and wave awkwardly at the grumpy man on the computer. He never waves back. Does he hate his job or is he sick of people looking down on him? My eight-hour shift begins with the New York Times and a merry smile from my cousin.
Translating documents from Spanish to English to Spanish in a loop, lifeless and clinical.