Tuesday, May 3, 2011

An Actor prepares for test results

I awake nearly every morning with a feeling that there is never enough time to cram all this living in. I have almost forgotten what it feels like to sit still and take in what is happening around me. I try to remind myself that all this hurrying around is meaningless if I can’t absorb the beauty of that flower over there -or contemplate the history of a certain building or why the young boy riding the bus with me is looking so wistful at the moment. It feels to me that -in an instant I will find myself sitting in a wheelchair, staring out of a window in a nursing home wondering -how the hell did I get here? Wasn’t it yesterday that I was an excited 25 year old man boarding a plane for the very first time, and moving to the the Untied States biggest Gay Mecca?

Now, nearly 25 years later, I have found someone to help me slow down and take a moment. My partner Orlando and I were strolling down a San Francisco street, late Friday afternoon in the NOPA district, while fervently seeking a place to grab a bite to eat. I had been fasting all day due to the CT scan I just had and was ravenous. I emailed my Doctor the day before and asked if there was anything else I needed to do to prepare for the CT scan -other than just show up. He wrote back that I probably shouldn’t eat anything and water should be fine. I interpreted that as- I shouldn’t eat anything for the whole day.  My Doctor was trying to determine the cause of my headaches that I had been experiencing for nearly a month since I had moved to Oakland from San Francisco. The headaches had begun to occur just prior to the move. (For those of you thinking that my current environment may be harmful to my health, be aware that the mold situation in the place I had lived in for over 10 years was potentially far more harmful to me.) Orlando hustled me along and then slowed down. “Sorry.” he said, “ I was in New York mode.” 

“It’s okay” I said and stopped to peruse a Vietnamese restaurant Menu.

“Do you want to eat here or the Sushi place that’s  supposed to be just on the next block?” he asked while consulting his phone. I pondered this a bit wondering if I should adhere to my “Flat Belly Solution Diet” that I was currently on or just make it a “cheat day”. I figured, if I just avoided wheat gluten and sugar, I would be fine in nearly any Asian restaurant. I had been eating like this for almost 2 weeks and already was noticing my pants were more comfortable around the waist. The eating plan began due to two reasons: my Doctor had noticed it one of my earlier visits to him. “ I see you have gained quite a bit of weight since I last saw you Paul-Andrew.” He lowered his little chin and adjusted his glasses which seemed to convey non-verbally-”and what do you plan to do about it?” I explained that Orlando and I liked our pizza, and ice cream-particularly Ben and Jerry’s Cinnabun Flavor. We had both deemed it one of the most wondrous creations on earth-worthy of worshipping. Yet Orlando went on a diet first-dropping a dramatic 40lbs in just 30 days. It was the same program that he had done before he had met me and dropped an even more jaw dropping 80lbs 2 years ago. Somehow during the nearly 2 years we had been dating - he gained 40 odd pounds back. It could have been all those pork roasts and pasta that I fed him...maybe. Now it was my turn to find my waistline back to it’s 33” circumference. He measured his weight loss in pounds and I kept track of mine in clothing sizes.

We chose the Vietnamese restaurant. Unsure what oils were being used and what -if anything-was organic, it became a semi cheat day.  I was allowed rice, and chicken on my plan and I ordered a green papaya salad. The most incriminating item was an appetizer of small fried egg roles. I didn’t consider the spring rolls since my calorie intake for the day had been zero thus far. Orlando and I shared everything because it was only 4:30pm and there was a chance we may eat dinner at 8:00. He had asked me if I had wanted him to come down to be with me while I had the CT scan the weekend before. Originally, I had thought it was silly for him to do that, but then I chose to play the needy-boyfriend-card and asked if the offer was still on the table when we Skyped earlier that week. He agreed to meet me at the hospital.My last memories of a CT scan or CAT scan as they are also called-was at age 13.

Debilitating eye-watering headaches had begun when I was outside playing croquet with my foster sister in the summer of “76”. My brother Matthew, 5 years my senior, had been diagnosed with a brain tumor at 14. He died at 15. That was sometime in “74”.  My parents became numb with the thought that they may lose another child to this disease. My mother couldn’t bear to go through the testing required to determine the cause of my headaches, but my father called upon his stoic New England reserves to bring me to the  same hospital that Matthew had been to so many times before. I do recall that the old man had a devil of a time that day. He was unaccustomed to showing grief-or any sign of emotion indicating weakness. He also had great difficulty showing physical affection. (That all changed when he hit 70 btw) 

I don’t remember much of it but I remember the technician explaining everything to me in a clear calm voice. They injected a liter of something into my arm that would give them a better x-ray picture. I thought my arm was going to freeze and break at the shoulder. I was slowly moved by some conveyer belt like thingy and there was an awful lot of light and an awful lot of noise. I was truly frightened. The results yielded nothing out of the ordinary. My headaches had to do with turning 13 and extremely competitive croquet games with my foster sister. I suspect my parents were quite irritated with me for putting them through that hell but I don’t recall being treated differently.

My recent CT scan was a piece of cake. The only discomfort was starving myself for an entire day. The tech was a sassy black girl who had a sense of humor and was young enough to be my daughter. She must’ve thought I knew all about CT scans because all she told me was “ Now Don’t move” after I stuck my head into the washing machine. It wasn’t as loud as I recalled but it wasn’t all that quiet either. I shut my eyes the whole time. Orlando’s eyes flew open in surprise when I emerged from the room that housed the machine. “That was fast!”
I enthusiastically agreed.
“They didn’t make you wear a hospital gown?”
“Nope..They just scanned my brain”

After the Vietnamese mini late afternoon break-fast, we headed back to this car. Orlando and I were quiet. The next day he would have a job interview that hopefully would land him a job here in the Bay Area. This would mean we would live together. Huge changes were on the horizon for the both of us and I was of course imagining how or IF the results of the CT scan would affect our futures. A ridiculous vision of Greta Garbo coughing weakly on a bed came to my mind while Orlando sobbed hysterically at her bedside. Greta Garbo??

“Hey.” He said softly as he grabbed me gently by the elbow. “I feel like I rush you too much. I don’t want you to feel rushed or hurried.” He kissed me on the temple. “I love you.”

“ I love you too” I said almost before he finished saying it. I never ever wanted him to question it.

“ So the traffic will be pretty awful.”( I now lived in Oakland ) He asked, “ You wanna go have a drink until it dies down?”

“mm No..not really” My belly was full of food and we were meeting ‘Drew the next night for a Happy Hour extravaganza anyway. I didn’t think our livers could handle two evenings in a row of cocktailing. “Let’s just go home.”  I was grateful to have him to curl up with on the couch that night. The traffic wasn’t all that bad either...oh and the latest CT findings were as unremarkable as they had been 34 years ago. No croquet and adolescence to blame but simply being middle aged and neurotic...and not finding enough time to do all this living and loving.

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