Thursday, September 26, 2013

Sweet basil.

The room was mostly quiet and so were you. Head sinking into the top of two pillows that I personally stacked under your head because it's how you said you liked it. A man was building an herb garden on HGTV over your head and he was really into it.

"There's nothing like cilantro!" he says in this fluffy, tv-man, sing-songy voice. "And basil!" He sticks his nose straight into that finished garden box and inhales an exaggerated breath. "Aaaaah."

With your eyes still on the television you said, "Cilantro. I ain't never been much of a fan of that at all."

And me, I was just sitting on a chair next to your bed that afternoon. Not really for anything necessarily medical but just because you'd been here for some time and it was the only thing in my arsenal of internal medicine tricks that I thought might make you feel better. "Cilantro is like that, you know. There's no in between."

This time you took your eyes off of the television and rested them on me. "What's that you say?"

"Oh. I was just saying that cilantro is one of those things that you either love or you want nothing to do with. When you love it, you can't get enough of it. When you don't, even the smallest piece is too much."

"Yes!" You chuckled at my take on it. You gave your head a hard nod and then repeated yourself. "Yes!"

"You know? Sometimes I think people can be like that."

You were with me. With me 100%. "Like cilantro?" You jutted out your bottom lip and narrowed your eyes. "That's actually kinda deep. But yeah, I can see that. Definitely. Either you can't get enough of 'em or you don't want a thing to do with 'em." You released a soft laugh once again.

"I sometimes wonder what's best. Like, to be cilantro or to be basil. You know?" I really did wonder that. But you had a quick answer.

"I'd say basil. It's kinda pleasant in just about everything, don't you think? But you know it's there."

This time I was the one with the slit-like eyes taking in that analogy. I cocked my head sideways and raised an eyebrow. "Hmmm. But you know it's there. Hmmm. I like that."

After that we sat in silence for a bit. The HGTV man was now on to building a wooden gate for tomatoes. He kept pronouncing it tomah-toes which made us both smile in unison.

You spoke first. "Something 'bout calling it a toe-MAH-toe make it sound better, don't it?"

"I think you're right."

After a few more animated instructions, the show went to commercial. You pulled the covers under your chin and sighed. "I sure don't like cilantro. But I'd take it over radiation treatments any day."

I reached out and squeezed your hand. That was my only response because there wasn't any words for that. Your diagnosis sucks. You getting baked like a casserole every day and being in pain sucked, too. Especially since it was all just for symptoms and not for some foreseeable cure.

You closed your fingers around mine and returned the gesture. Your eyes filled with unexpected gratitude. "Thanks, hear?"

And even though I hadn't seen that coming I knew you meant that-- not for some specific pinpoint thing-- but just for sitting there and not being in a rush. And that made me happy because that was my goal. "I'm glad I'm here," I said.

"Me, too."

"What else can I get for you? What do you need that I might be able to help with?"

You tapped your lip for a second and squinted one eye. "Aaah! I got it. If you see that man building that garden, get me one'a them toe-MAH-toes, hear?" And that made us both laugh out loud. But only for a moment since we both knew that with such low blood counts a fresh tomato couldn't come anywhere near you.

I thought about those big, red tomatoes that the HGTV man plucked off of his homemade fence. I wished I could get you one right that second. I tried to lighten things up some more. "Ha ha. . . those things didn't even look real, did they?"

"Sure didn't, did they, doctor? Looked too good to be true."

Too good to be true.

Something about that statement made my breath hitch and my eyes prickle. I took in a drag of air and stood to leave. "Okay. I've bothered you enough. You try to get some rest, okay?"

You nestled under the blankets and turned on your side to face me. All that I could see was a portion of your nose and eyes and the hairless top of your head. I reached down and tucked you in as tenderly as I could. "You comfortable?"


I tip-toed to the door and turned to wave one more time. "I'll see you tomorrow, okay?"


"Alright then, pretty lady."

"Alright then, sweet basil."


I paused with my hand on the handle and then turned to look at you once more. You lifted your chin and moved your smiling face out of the mounds of sheets to let me see your soft expression. And then you closed your eyes and drifted to sleep.

And all I could think was this:

I am so, so glad to be here. Right here, right now. I am. Damn, I am.


Happy Thursday.


"Tell me something good. . . tell me that you like it, yeah." ~ Chaka Khan

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