My sister, Jessie, was diagnosed with breast cancer several years ago at the ripe old age of 37. This sent our family into a tailspin as our mother died from breast cancer about fifteen years ago. She underwent a bilateral mastectomy and endured several bouts of chemo and radiation. She has had two years of completely clean check ups since then.
She called me last night. In a sudden twist to the conversation, she asked me if I remembered that day in July when we had our "Carter adventure." This is what she calls it. I said that I did.
She will turn 41 next month. She is one of the most complex people I know. She is a total Catholic, does the whole Catholicism dance with perfection. She goes to mass EVERY SINGLE DAY. She goes to confession once a week, although I have no idea what she has to confess except maybe that she can be pretty smarmy about non-Catholics going straight to hell.
Here is her complexity: She is obsessed with Carter Falco. He is a singer, played with a band called Starguns or something, I don't know. Dive would know. Ask him. He knows all that shit. Bing would probably know too, but she is at school helping out with a class reunion. Anyway, I kid you not, Jessie is like an obsessed groupie about this man, has his picture in her bedroom next to her side of the bed wall. That is how crazy she is about him. Her husband is a good sport about all of this, tells her that Carter can be on her list of men that she can sleep with if she ever has the chance. He has Angelina Jolie on his list. As if.
Anyway, back when Jessie was receiving her chemo, she was so sick. I mean, it killed the rest of us sisters, it really did. Jessie was the baby in the family. She was our baby sister and we were all responsible for her. And she could hardly get out of bed. She came down to stay at my sister's house to recuperate after a bout with chemo and I went in and laid down with her in the bed for awhile, asked her if I could bring her anything, what she would want.
Something to make the nausea go away and Carter Falco.
I lay there for awhile, thinking. Then, I said, "Well, I think I can do both to a small extent, but you have to have an open mind. No coward heart, promise?"
She wearily promised.
I left and returned about 3 hours later. I told my sister that Jessie and I were going to go to my house for awhile to um...get some fresh air on my deck.
Patrice, my other sister, stared at me. "You are planning something that I would not approve of," she said.
I assured her this was true. She didn't say anything for a moment. Then she said, "You went out and got some illegal drugs for Jessie, didn't you? You are going to go smoke some Mary Jane, I can see it all over your face."
I tried not to laugh, but good hell...hearing my sister say the words Mary Jane was just too much. I chuckled. Nodded.
"Well, is Liv out of the house?" she asked.
"Uh...no..," I deadpanned. "I thought she'd join us...OF COURSE SHE IS OUT OF THE HOUSE! FUCK YOU."
Patrice's face reddened. "I'm sorry. Just...go ahead. But, I am counting on you to make sure that she doesn't do so much that she seizes or something."
I made a face at her. "We aren't cutting heroin, Patrice," I told her. "I have exactly two joints. Just enough to cut her nausea."
I went in to the spare bedroom and asked Jessie if she was up to a very short drive to my house. She said she thought so.
It broke my heart to actually have to support my bald little sister as she walked to my car. It was nearly 90 degrees out but she was shivering.
I got her to my house and sat her down on the sofa.
"Okay," I told her. "This is the part where you lay aside the cob that usually resides in your ass and open your mind."
Jessie sat up. "Please God, don't tell me that Carter Falco is in the next room, because I will tear your hair out to match my bald head, Maria. I will DIE if I meet him bald."
I assured her that he wasn't here. I'm good, but I'm not THAT good that I can get obscure singers to come sit in my living room.
I showed her a cd. I had his cd. It was actually her cd. She had left it at my house a few months ago when she had brought it over to show me just how "sexy and hot" Carter was. I hadn't bothered to listen to it. I don't even think Bing did and she listens to everything.
She smiled. "Ok, good. Put him on."
I held out my other hand. It held two joints.
She stared. "Are those what I think they are?"
"You want me to smoke dope and listen to Carter Falco with you?"
She peered closely at the joints. "Where did you get those?
I didn't answer. No use telling her that I actually knew several people who could have easily done this for me. I mean, I hadn't smoked since Liv was born, but before that I was not that girl from Go Ask Alice or anything, but I did know how to work a bong. And, really, she shouldn't be surprised. I mean, I'm the rebel of the family. I'm sure my reputation is much worse than my real life, but I kind of like having them think that I can bandy around words like toke and weed with a familiarity.
She sighed. "Never mind. Let's just do it...but...on one condition...you can NEVER tell my children that their mother smoked marijuana. Deal?"
It was a deal.
I turned on Carter and lit up the first joint. I showed her how to smoke it.
Don't take a deep drag, just a little one, just enough to glide into your lungs. Now you....hold it for a second and.....there... I exhaled.
She took to smoking weed like a pro. I told her she looked like she had been a teenage rebel party girl, just like her big sister Maria.
We went through the first one and then sat and talked for awhile. She admitted that her nausea had abated. Carter kept singing his metal banging, country ditties and we nodded our heads like the two middle aged stoners that we were. Groovin to the beat. Oh yeah.
Jessie lazily admitted that she had always been jealous of me.
"You were always just...you. You didn't care that Mom disowned you, just lived your life and you were so cool. You were like Stevie Nicks, all gypsy girl with a big career and you always knew enough about politics to take on Bob (Patrice's husband, our family bigot and Nazi goose stepper) and make him look like an idjit."
I gawked. "What did you just say? Was it idjit?"
She lay her head back and laughed. "An idiot! I said idiot!!"
"No sirree Bob, missy," I retorted. "You said idjit! You sound just like Mom!" (Our parents were both from Ireland.)
I admitted right back to Jess that I had always been jealous of her. You tried out for cheerleader and made it your freshman year! I was just pretending when I said that I didn't care about being a cheerleader. I wanted to be one SO bad. And then you go and meet the love of your life when you are a fucking sophomore, marry him and settle down and have three perfect children lickety split. No trouble with commitment in you. And here I am, going through all these um...idjit women until I am in my forties! It takes my slow ass self THAT long to realize that I can too fall in love with someone nice.
Jessie looked around. "Um, you got any chips or something crunchy. I am like....sooooo hungry."
I cawed. Yup. She was getting there.
I brought out a bowl of chips and what used to be my favorite thing to eat when high as a kite: peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.
We pounced on them like the last two people on Survivor.
The cd ran down, Jessie fell asleep on my sofa after we smoked the second joint with her feet in my lap. I giddily painted her toenails bright red while I watched her sleep.
She would wake up a few hours later and we would drive back to Patrice's house. Later that evening, her husband and daughters would come to pick her up to take her back to her home in small town Iowa.
She would recover.