The Big C

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ng to save Sean is a slippery slope. I have wasted precious time on that project." Rebecca cedes the point, and moves on. Apparently they're downsizing the Chicago region, so she's locked into Minneapolis. Cathy assures her that at least three months out of the year, in Minneapolis, are almost completely bearable. We're coming to the end of them now.

Marlene enters, snapping at them for cackling, and gives Cathy her mail. "Either the mail guy screwed up again, or he's just real invested in getting us to talk." She makes fun of them for drinking; it's an elaborate fa├žade to see Cathy, but they both know that. Cathy invites her to sit with them -- Rebecca will love her -- but Marlene invites them instead to lunch. It's a place with a free buffet, with coupons, all the things old ladies love, and so Rebecca laughs. "Fuck Sean, I'm in!" Marlene smiles less widely than she feels it inside.

Paul knocks softly on Cheryl's wall, near the lightswitch. She's a Director, in HR. He works in Creative; she's trepidatious as to why he's visiting her, but friendly. She has no idea what he's talking about. "I heard about what you're going through and I just found out yesterday that my wife has cancer and I was wondering if I could talk to you about it." She nods, sadly, still confused. He admires her husband's hair, in the picture on her desk.

"I just thought it was so great that there's two people here in the office that are going through this at the same time. Not great, but you know, convenient. Not even convenient, serendipitous. Is that the word I'm looking for?" It still isn't. She nods, faster and faster, itching; she scoops papers off her desk and runs to a meeting, the sadness in her eyes eclipsing everything but his need. "Maybe later this afternoon? Could I come by later this afternoon?" She lies, and says okay; he leaves his number on her desk. He feels less alone. Cheryl feels more alone than ever. They don't share a story.

Marlene's lunch spot is a strip club, where the men wear complicated thongs and dance in the half-light. A young man greets them with a basket full of lollipops shaped like penises: "We put the buff in buffet!" he grins, farmer teeth shining brighter than the Minnesota sunshine. Marlene's confused, for a minute; Cathy and Rebecca giggle and try to avoid touching them. "Lollicocks!" he says, beaming, and Marlene takes all three samples in her arms before leading the way: "I just paid a $5 cover, I'm not going anywhere until I get something to eat." She heads for the buffet, while a large man dances toward Rebecca; she's delighted by Marlene. "Lady's gotta eat, you know?" It is the best day she's had.

There's a girl with black hair and eyeliner, a skirt and boots, sitting at the bus stop. She explains to Adam that the busses are always late, when they're not early; in the summer the schedules are "like, really fucked." His black eye is fading; she can tell he's not a bus person. He admits Cathy's out with friends and Paul's late; her first question is whether they're divorced yet. He shakes his head. They're only separated. She thinks he's cute so everything she says sounds stupid, to her.

"I hate to break it to you, but that's code for they're never getting back together. Once they move out, they never really move back in." It happened to her, this is anecdotal. This is an epidemic. "Now my mom's marrying some total hand-job. Whatever, they're so into their new lives I can basically do whatever I want." The tattoo on her neck, beneath her hairline: She's had it for six months and they've not yet noticed. She rolls her eyes to herself; he claims to be thinking about a tattoo for himself. She shows Adam the top of her breast, where the dragon will go.

When he can speak, he nervously suggests they'd notice. It's all he can think about: The nape, and then the breast. She draws a sword on his arm, on fire, shaped like a lollicock. "Hey," says Adam, "You're a good ... drawer." He thinks she's cute so everything he says sounds stupid, to them both. She asks him if they should ditch the bus and walk, and he agrees.

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The Big C

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