There I was, sat in a ballroom as though in a dream… the characters there seemed to be perfectly placed in that moment just for me, an accidental crossing of paths that was just a bit too strange to be true. My arm hurt.
Bowls sat on a white tablecloth, filled with Taytos and individually wrapped biscuits… no chocolate I noticed in dismay. Chocolate would have been really nice with the bottle of Guinness I was babying. Just in that very second that I noticed this serious lack of chocolate, a full packet of ‘Time out’ bars were emptied into the bowl right there at my elbow. Weird.
The woman opposite me was staring squints at the questionnaire in front of her, and scratching her short scruffy mop of hair. She was exactly the sort of character I’d like to think I am – she wore a baggy multi-coloured jumper and had a rugged, weathered sort of look, with a sparkle of earthly divilment in her eye. Turns out she was a vet. I wanted to be a vet too, once upon a time.
The form she was filling in was requesting all sorts of medical information pertaining to Bone Marrow Transplants. She looked extremely concerned… self-doubt hovered in her features, and I remembered the feeling vividly because I’m on the donor list too, I had read the same questions and advice and it didn’t make for night-time reading. Fear bubbled inside me as I filled in the particulars of my medical history, those horrible ‘What the fuck am I doing?!’ bubbles that need instant popping. It felt far too easy just to walk away.
The woman looked up from her project and spoke her mind to a total stranger. Me.
“What the fuck am I doing?” I smiled at her comical wide-eyed appeal.
“Scary, isn’t it?” I said it, but I knew that ‘scary’ was the wrong word. The right word escaped me.
“I’ve seen it performed…” she lowered her voice “… on a pig.” Her paling face wiped the smile from my own. “It’s really… it’s quite gruesome, to put it mildly.”
“Eeep.” I offered. “Recovery isn’t too pleasant either I hear. Life isn’t very sympathetic to time off for people like us… it’s a tough call.”
“The odds, though – the chances of ever being called are slim-to-none. I’m just going to fill out this form and hope that I never get called!”
My sentiments exactly, missus.
The man next to us turned around. I’d seen him earlier with one sleeve rolled up and he had caught my attention, my inner curiosity as to what he did for a living. It surprised me to find him sitting so close and undetected all of a sudden.
“My son has leukemia.”
His words trapped us in limbo for a second – the knowledge that we’d been overheard, caught rapid, in flagrante delecto baring our petty fears – it tortured us. The glance we shared spoke volumes. It was a glance that said simply; “Shit.”
This gentleman then launched into a story – a horrific tale of torture and tolerance, the kind that no human being should ever have to suffer. His kid, his young son had a 27% chance of survival without donated bone marrow. With an exact match and a willing donor, his chance rose to 65%. Being amongst five brothers, you’d think he was sorted but he wasn’t, his sister was the only match – her harvest operation to occur on the first day of examinations for her final year in college. What a sacrifice.
This brave kid lost a huge chunk of his life living inside a sterile tent, begging his friends to stay away. Hoping for what? Life, a miracle?
Yet here we are, two selfish bitches whingeing about some bruising and three weeks of taking it easy?!?!
Slap! Ouch. Wake up.
I hear it now, the message sent from elsewhere. I knew I was capable of toughness in respect to certain types of pain, but I worried that my fortitude might fall short of bone-invasion. I needed to meet these people. Oh… and the poor guy with leukemia? He’s doing just fine now, apparently. Most definitely out of the woods.
Do you know what I mean? Have you ever linked with a total stranger and walked away feeling new, feeling like you were in a dream?
I walked away with some free stuff the ballroom people gave me. Free stuff and a new frame of mind.