The drive to radiation is wet. Unseasonable rain pounds the windshield, causes semi-trucks to loom larger in the inconsistent traffic. Mike is tired. I am tired. The radiation fatigues his brain to the extreme, and his sleep is interrupted over and over again each night. I am tired because I do not go to bed until Mike is well and truly asleep, and I sleep with one eye open, jumping to action each time he stirs, supporting him when he sits, assisting him if he stands, pushing his legs back towards the middle of the bed when they wander to the ends and threaten to wake him by dragging him to the floor. Sometimes he sleeps through his waking, barely drifting close enough to the surface of sleep to respond to prompts. I am awake. I am awake until he is asleep again. I am awake until I am positively sure. I have slept, at best, three full nights since March 16th.
It is now May 12th.
When it’s possible, he naps. I don’t nap. I’ve found myself waking once or twice, after falling insensate on the bed without intention, confused and alarmed, missing important hours of the day, still exhausted.
I sleep two or three hours at a time, twice a night, maybe three times, and then I drive an hour to radiation, in the rain.
No matter the time of day, there is rain. At least one way.
Driving home, we encounter car accidents. So many collisions. Scattered debris of automobiles, wrecked across three lanes of the freeway. A tire and a chunk of an axel. An explosion of glass fragments. Tow trucks clustered around carcasses of metal. One night there’s a woman in the midst of the metal. She is thin, she looks cold standing in the rain, her homemade mask dangling under her chin, flailing and screaming at a figure beside one of the three cars wrecked beside hers. I wonder who she has lost, who is speeding away behind me towards the hospital Mike and I have just vacated, where she was going before her car vanished around her and her passengers sped back the way she had come.
I help him to bed and then spend hours putting the children down. We talk about Daddy sometimes, but mostly COVID, the other hard times I’ve seen in my lifetime, 9-11, the AIDS crisis, the Columbine shooting. I draw them graphs and charts. I tell them I never had an active shooter drill in school. I tell them I knew people who died from AIDS, and I know people living with it now, and that new diseases can be treated and cured and the whole world doesn’t end. This helps them sleep, but Mike is restless again.
“Stop moving your legs,” I tell him. “The blankets will all fall off, and you’ll freeze.”
“I’m not moving my legs,” he says, but the sound of his foot, dragging across the sheet, is deafening in the silence of the house.
When I help him sit and stand and sit again my back aches and I beg him to wake up more, be awake enough to engage fully in whatever he needs. When he is, he apologizes to me, for all of this.
“Don’t do that,” I tell him. “This isn’t your fault. You’re not making me do anything. I want to do this for you.”
“I love you,” I say. “Stop moving your fucking legs around and go to sleep.”
I listen until the sound of his feet against the sheets fades to the slow intakes of his breath before I rest my head on my own pillow.
I wake up when he stirs again, and the sun still isn’t up. When he’s asleep twenty minutes later, I’m not. I’m wondering what the point is if I’m already awake, and in a few hours I will need to get him ready for another wet drive downtown.
The number of cars on the road is low, but the volume of accidents is so high, and I wonder how tired everyone else is behind the wheel. Where they’re all going at 3pm on a Tuesday during a shelter-in-place order.
I wonder about the woman standing in the rain at twilight, in the middle of the freeway, in the wreckage of her car, screaming with a finger pointed to somebody’s chest, thin and brittle and young and alive amidst the violent chaos of her personal disaster.
If I could find her, I’d hug her. We have so much in common. We are alive. We are finding our ways through. We do not feel safe, but with something to rage against, we can tether ourselves to something important.
My legs are restless, and no matter how soothing the sound of the rain on the window may be, the night is long. And there is wreckage everywhere.
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