After each surgery, her skin was slower to heal, and finally a surgeon asked me if i knew about wound-packing. Advertisement - continue reading Below "no i said. "you need to learn he said. Each night, nicole would lie naked on the bed and, using tweezers, i would extract a piece of ribbon from the wounds in her abdomen, sometimes several feet long, which would uncoil in the air above her like a pus-covered tapeworm. Then I would repack new pieces of ribbon into the holes, folding them in, spiraling them inside her, while she wept and begged me to just skip it, please, this one time. Since we had met, when she was still a teenager, i had loved her with my whole self.
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"I think maybe i should just move in with you guys he said. "Just to help out for a couple of montana months.". That meant leaving his job, his city, his friends, his apartment, his life. we readied ourselves for the physical horrors of death. Nicole seemed especially practical about. She told us, "Just don't let me stink.". She shed weight, but we expected that. Dane and I could hardly see it, because we never left her. When visitors came, though, we could see it reflected in their faces, or when her shirt slipped to the side, exposing her collarbone. It looked wrong, like resume something alien implanted under her skin. The most obvious manifestation of her illness, aside from weight loss, were the wounds.
The night after Christmas, our pug, Gracie, threw up something black and putrid on the floor at his feet. He put her in a basket with a blanket in his car and searched for an open animal clinic. When he found one, he explained our situation to the veterinarian, and after some testing she blurted, "I'm so sorry, but this dog has cancer and I think she's going to die. Actually, i know she is going to die." And then she burst into tears. I sat in the blinking red and green lights of our hospital room, listened to the news, and offered, "okay.". Gracie's death didn't move. She was forcing me to have a talk with my daughters that would link cancer and death, and I wasn't prepared yet. Dane came to the hospital with a bottle of wine. We sat on the floor and drank amid the wrapping paper life of the girls' Christmas presents.
There is no force under heaven as mighty as a band of middle-aged Baptist ladies, and from inside the room we could hear Dane wage a battle of kind intentions. "They are resting right now he said. "I'm so sorry." "Well, we came by to pray for them one of the ladies said. "Yes, ma'am he said. "But I feel pretty sure god can hear you out here in the hall.". We spent that Christmas season in the hospital. Friends came and decorated the room, and our two little girls curled up against Nicole in her hospital bed while she read " 'Twas the night Before Christmas." we all tried to ignore the clear tube pumping feces up from her bowels and out her. Advertisement - continue reading Below, dane had come to visit after Thanksgiving and never ended up returning home. He burned through his weeks of vacation time, visiting the hospital during the day and sleeping at our house each night.
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Ha ha!"—i knew she meant it in global the most competitive, gloating way possible. "no one ever told me the truth about dying says teague. When it happened to my beloved, i lost my footing in more than one way.". Advertisement - continue reading Below, in a season of butchery and wreckage and defeat, she had triumphed. I asked Dane later why he had done.
He didn't understand the question. "It was more fun than me just shaving my head bald he said. It had never occurred to him to do nothing. Later that year, i remember him standing sentry at the hospital. He had driven from New Orleans—we were living in a small town called fairhope, alabama—to stand guard for hours in the hallway outside nicole's room so that she could word sleep. One afternoon, a group of church ladies arrived.
I sent a photo of her to dane, and a few minutes later he sent one back. He had carved a mohawk of his own to match hers. We had met Dane fifteen years earlier, when we all lived in New Orleans and they were in college together. Men trailed Nicole everywhere; in grocery stores men would follow her from produce to dairy and out into the parking lot. When she smiled, men imagined she needed them, and she smiled a lot.
So i had developed a pitying skepticism of other men's motivations. But even when Dane didn't know I was watching, he averted his gaze from her body, and he accepted her smile as nothing more than a small gift. He offered us his friendship with such humility, such deference to our marriage, that I trusted him from the beginning. I'm not sure nicole ever forgave us for both being men, because over the years it allowed me to grow close to him in a way she never could. His expressions of affection were, for her, tiny victories. So when she held up the photo of him with a mohawk and laughed—"look!
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"go ahead she said. I sawed at it patriotism with the scissors until it came free in my hand. She looked up with wet eyes and smiled. Advertisement - continue reading Below. Advertisement - continue reading Below "I might as well rock this she said. "give me a mohawk.". Afterward, we stepped into a bathroom so that she could look in a mirror. She was Creek indian, and I had never seen her cheekbones so proud, her eyes so defiant.
Almost all of that year is lost. Nicole had ovarian cancer, which had metastasized to her stomach, and she endured a series of physical insults that, taken individually, would have been shattering; a single trip to the chemo ward, watching what looked like antifreeze flow into her veins while the nurses offered. Taken together, though, the surgeries and chemicals all form a smear that can't be taken apart and examined. I do have a few recollections from that year, and Dane appears in each. For instance, when Nicole started finding hair on her pillow, i braced for her agony, because she was so young and so beautiful. But she asked me to meet her in the living room with a towel, scissors, and my beard trimmer. She dragged a chair into the middle of the room and pulled her hair—long and dark and cascading—into a ponytail.
truth about it, not once. When it happened to my beloved, i lost my footing in more than one way. The tiled floor of life—morals, ethics, even laws—became a shifting and relative thing. Hid money from the irs. I think i've hung on to the sensation of the hospital floor and being lifted away from it because it captures everything that followed in the next two years. The shock of mortality. And another man's refusal to let it happen. Advertisement - continue reading Below dane decided to move in around Christmas 2013, on the night our dog died.
And I have an image of the hospital floor, up close. I remember white tile and a hope: maybe i will never have to get. Maybe they will just let me die here. Advertisement - continue reading Below, nicole was thirty-four, and the doctor had been direct: "It's everywhere he said. "like somebody dipped a paintbrush in cancer and flicked it around her abdomen." I staggered down a hallway and then collapsed. I remember the tile, close to my face, and then watching it retreat as my best friend picked me up from the floor. His name is Dane faucheux, and I remember noting, even in the midst of a mental fugue: Dane's a lot stronger than I realized. I was in shock and stayed there a long time.
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