A man is laying on a gurney in the hallway of a west Texas hospital. He’s wearing a flimsy little hospital gown and he’s covered by a flimsy little sheet that barely covers what’s left of his manhood. People walk by him not noticing him at all. Doctors, nurses, orderlies, the guy that waxes the floor, they all parade by, avoiding eye contact with the man who has the stubbly face and the far away stare.
The man thinks about how he got here. He’s been through it all. Surgery, radiation, chemotherapy, and every test known to man. He’s in that particular hallway on that particular day because another CT scan was required to see if his tumors have gotten bigger. Or spread. Or do whatever it is that tumors do.
It still seems like a dream to him at times. Once a healthy human working on a construction site swinging a hammer like he was born with it in his hand, he doesn’t relate to the shell of a man that he’s become. He’s laying on that gurney next to a sign on the wall that says “nuclear medicine.” He thinks to himself, well, if I’m gonna get medicine, it might as well be nuclear. His life seems like a bad country song.
And that thought gives him an idea. He stops a pretty little blonde nurse walking by and asks her for a pen and some paper. She smiles sweetly at him, pulls a pen out of her pocket and pulls a sheet of paper off a clipboard she’s carrying tucked under one arm. She hands the items to him with a sad look in her eyes that says she’s sorry to see him where he is right now. He says thank you, and starts writing some stuff down.
As he gets wheeled from test to test, he thinks up a line, and writes it down. Somehow, even though he’s never written a poem in his life, he gets it to rhyme. It’s a country song about his struggles with a disease that unfortunately sometimes rules his life. He calls it, “The Lonesome Cancer Blues.” He uses the word cancer, because he can’t think of a song that actually mentions the proper name of the malady from which he suffers from.
There are plenty of country songs about sickness and death, with words like,
“Momma got sick, and then Daddy was all alone,”
“Daddy got sick, and then Momma was on her own.”
He almost wrote those words in his songs too, but he doesn’t like to think of his disease as a sickness. Getting sick to him was laying in bed feeling like crap watching daytime TV, or kneeling in front of the commode after too many whiskeys with the boys after work. When you’re laying on a gurney in the basement of a hospital in the nuclear medicine department, that’s not a sickness. That’s a disease.
And that disease’s name is cancer. No need to pussyfoot around. It is what it is.
When his day of testing is done, he pulls on his shirt, jeans and boots, and heads out to his truck in the parking lot. He sticks the piece of paper with the words of his song on it into the back pocket of his jeans, and laughs softly to himself as he starts his old pickup. He ain’t a poet, and he ain’t a country singer, he’s just a construction worker who has a disease he wouldn’t wish on his worst enemy.
Halfway home, he turns into the parking lot of a local watering hole. A whiskey sounds good after a day of testing, and maybe that pretty little blonde waitress will be impressed with the words that he wrote. He parks the truck, pulls on his best Longhorns hat, and heads towards the door.
It’s not the nicest place in the world, but it sure beats a gurney in the hallway.
Thanks for reading,
If you want to read the words that he wrote, go here to The Lonesome Cancer Blues.