(While I have been working on a few different things this week, I couldn't really get anything to stick. I wrote Sponges about 8 months ago in my last semester of college, it's gone through a few versions and been turned into a half spoken word piece but this is the first-ish draft. Figured since noone but my classmates had read it, it would suffice for this weeks posting, enjoy.)
Your cancer turned us both into sponges. We picked up everything, contempt, submission, distraction, scars, skeletons, grief; everything. This was partially because we didn’t know how to ignore it but mostly because we didn't know how to prepare for a permanent goodbye. Our eighteen year old selves, face to face with odds that could leave you behind heaven's gate, like jail bars and me hugging your casket like a tree. Your doctor explained the 50/50 survival rate, your life became a coin toss. You used to promise me you wouldn’t die; wearing a smirk on your face and every good intention in your heart, but you still had your epitaph written out and I still got on that plane when you needed me most.
Earlier that year, I made your 18th birthday card out of the movie ticket stubs we had gathered over the last two years. American Gangster was your favorite, Lion King 3-D was mine. These were the days when you would walk me to the bus stop, fingers interlocked like shoe laces, only for me to ‘miss’ it just to be together for another 20 minutes. These were the days we couldn’t see beyond each other, when we made life plans but still had a curfew and allowance. We treated each other like privileges.
When I got to college you had just finished your chemotherapy treatments. The desks I sat in never quite felt right knowing where you were, where I should have been or where you would have been if it weren’t for black lungs and paling skin. I blamed it on the distance but death was always much further away from Seattle than New York City. We were still like sponges, just separately and secretly. You hid the emergency room visits and the treatment plans; I hid the booze and failed classes. I would find out weeks later about “close calls”, you would find out months later I had lost my scholarship. You kept me out of the loop but I pushed you out of my heart, both thinking we were acting in my best interest, as if I was the one who needed to be saved.
You were scheduled for surgery one day before your 19th birthday. You said there was no need for me to come home, you promised to live. During your six hour procedure I walked circles around campus. It was night time but it felt more like a shadow.I talked to you through the constellations that watched me, knowing that if you didn’t make it you would become them. I waited for my phone to ring like it was a pregnancy test.
“They wheeled him out and he gave a thumb up”, your Grandma told me.
When I came home for break you had my name tattooed above the scar on your chest. You were happy and eager. I was transparent and lost. The problem was I loved you before I knew how to. My ears were too small for your heart.
This is an apology letter to the both of us. I never meant to quit so easily and I never meant to leave closure’s door open. Cancer never deserved you, but I’m not sure I did either. Today you turn 22. With miles of silence between us, I can't help but wonder what you regret most; the tattoo or our relationship.