The Big C

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The Three Cathy Jamisons

Sean tells his sister that, while the bicycle is green transport, thus laudable, you should never ride them alone. "It's kind of pathetic." It was built for two. And will he accompany her, climb aboard her green tandem transport, grab a soft serve, celebrate the summer? Sean says he can't think of anything more embarrassing, unless they were to sport matching Tyrolean hats on the way.

"You wear baggies for shoes, Sean. You are so not allowed to say I'm embarrassing."

He sends her back to her son, but she's given up that fight for today. Her popularity wanes. Sean's not surprised, but Cathy points out a very true fact: She is perfectly likeable. Sean laughs, calls her a "closed system" and "shut down" and constipated. Says she didn't take a shit through most of high school. He brings her the world, like a king on his throne, and once again she is disgusted. Gifts of the body, from the king of garbage, still wearing a pair of brown corduroys her son has outgrown.

She swears she has friends; if that is so, why did she bring him her bicycle? She disinvites, rides away with middle finger extended; he tells her to enjoy her swirly chemicals and laughs at her. Cathy and her sudden enthusiasms; Cathy who ruined her son's summer and wonders why he's angry. Cathy who drives them all away and then wonders why she was so lonely.

The swirly chemicals are delicious. In her purse as she is paying, one of Dr. Miller's brochures, endlessly passed between himself and his future bride: Need A Friend? You Are Not Alone. Cathy Jamison thinks about telling the truth. This thing that divides her from the people that she loves, alone on a bicycle built for two: Wouldn't it make sense, wouldn't it be fair, to build a connection with someone new, based entirely on this thing that keeps everyone else away? What would it feel like, to tell someone the truth?

Inside the session they are welcoming, all smiles, all stages, all the different ways to die; the walls bear troubling cheerful messages and she smells, she knows, like cigarettes. She smiles and acts as if; back straight and eyes gleaming, friendly. When they ask her who she is, this is what she says. It is almost the truth, in fits and nervous starts.

"I'm Cathy Jamison. I'm 42. I have a husband and a child, neither of whom are speaking to me."

They stare. Even this, she'll learn, is too negative. "So... There you go."

But they didn't ask why she was there, alone on a bicycle built for two; they didn't ask why today she needs a friend. They asked her who she was. They asked her why they should accept her, which is a very different conversation and one she never thought about having to have. They ask the question.

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The Big C

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