"You used to dance around, all the time, remember that?" He asked. "That's the Cori I want back." I mustered up the faintest smile as I sat across from him, feeling the weight of disappointment rise up in my stomach.
"Don't you get it?" I wanted to yell. "Don't you think that I want her back too? No one hates this version of me, more than I do. No one. I know I have disappointed you all. I know I don't deserve the few friends I haven't pushed away, I know!"
But instead of coming clean, I sat there with a smile, as if I was remembering the same distant memory he was.
It has been over a year and half since something felt wrong in my body. It wasn't healing as properly and quickly as I anticipated. 48 hours after being in the hospital for the night, I climbed a mountain -- because my body was resilient like that. It drank in all of the sun rays, thirsty for more with each step upwards. Back in 2011, my legs took me on a run for the first time in months. I hadn't been to physical therapy in months and my ability to walk independently was still unreliable after a back injury. All it took was one November night for it to heal. My body has been a very good, forgiving home for me.
This is different though.
My hands began to shake, "If it is a tumor, will you be there?" Nothing is definite yet, and there is a good chance this is a fluke, but I needed to know. I needed to know because the past two months have been lonely. More days than not, I have been bed ridden. I wake up tired, and before bed I throw up from exhaustion. To process it all, my body waits until I am asleep, unaware of the anxieties that reside in the veins that curve and straighten throughout my body; at twenty-three you just don't expect the possibility of your heart failing because of a doctor's mistake.
It took a month for my body to feel functional after that mishap. But for the doctor it didn't explain A B C and D that was still happening. It has become a daunting task to drive across town, at times I have to drive with one eye open and one eye closed because I am so dizzy, I can't bare seeing out of both of my eyes. My appetite no longer exists, and while I keep losing weight, my body has struggled to put weight on for the past year. If I get too excited, my chest fills with pain and I begin to lose the ability to breathe properly. She asked me, "has anyone talked to these different diseases," and she began to list them as if she were reading them off of a grocery list. I know my body well enough to have known it wasn't the first several she mentioned. So we began the tests, and as the positive tests and abnormal tests began to come back, I began to feel overwhelmed -- my body is failing.
My body is failing and I am twenty-three.
Was this my fault? Did I become so reckless in my own numbness?
"I'll change, I promise," I have begged God late at night and throughout the days, sobbing. "I'll slow down and I won't push people away. I'll care more. I won't work as much as a way to avoid relationships with people," and with no right to ask I ask anyway, "please just don't let me be alone." "I am scared," I finally admit.
After Dan died, we began to play this came of, "I'll love you, but won't care for you," because loving was fun and temporary. When you care for someone it is much different. It feels more entangled and permanent. We figured that eventually life would give us the white fence, adoring partner and little kids just as excited about saving the Earth as we were. But while we waited for it to happen, we weren't going to be the suckers who sought out that plan; because we knew there was always the possibility of dying unexpectedly. Why would we leave behind a partner and children? We would prevent heartache if we didn't care and didn't ask for anyone to care in return. As we crawled into beds and tents, and piled into random cars with booze in the backseat with each other we convinced ourselves it was enough.
I suspect my parents worry with one another at night, that their daughter will never get straight head on her shoulders. They talk about how I'm wild and too independent for my own good. They think I will be the only one that doesn't give them grandchildren to spoil on Christmas morning.
Now, what if they are right, but not because anything in my control?
We knew the rules began to change, a while ago. Sitting on my front porch, we became silent over the second bottle of wine. I imagined Christmas Eve, with him in the picture and how one of my favorite sides of him is the side he shows when he opens up presents. I could see he and my mom sitting across from each other laughing. "What are you thinking about?" he asked, and I was too embarrassed to tell him the dream I dreamt up, it didn't fit inside of the rules. Instead I told him about our family tradition on Christmas Eve, with a smile he soaked in memories for his own, "I like when you tell me things like that," he whispered.
"If it is a tumor, will you be there?" I asked him, and he didn't respond. Maybe I already knew the answer because the rules changed last summer.