All Nonfiction Bullying Books Academic Author Interviews Celebrity interviews College Articles College Essays Educator of the Year Heroes Interviews Memoir Personal Experience Sports Travel & CultureAll Opinions Bullying Current Events / Politics Discrimination Drugs / Alcohol / Smoking Entertainment / Celebrities Environment Love / Relationships Movies / Music / TV Pop Culture / Trends School / College Social Issues / Civics Spirituality / Religion Sports / Hobbies
- Summer Guide
- College Guide
- Author Interviews
- Celebrity interviews
- College Articles
- College Essays
- Educator of the Year
- Personal Experience
- Travel & Culture
- Current Events / Politics
- Drugs / Alcohol / Smoking
- Entertainment / Celebrities
- Love / Relationships
- Movies / Music / TV
- Pop Culture / Trends
- School / College
- Social Issues / Civics
- Spirituality / Religion
- Sports / Hobbies
- Community Service
- Letters to the Editor
- Pride & Prejudice
- What Matters
The Huntington Express
Growing up in the tight-knit, two-income professional, Long Island suburb-that's-just-far-enough-away-to-make-getting-to-the-City-intolerable style of living — my father, a pediatric surgeon, my mother, a radiologist — in which my family and I ran, news travels fast, and gossip?
It travels even faster.
So waking up today, I knew what I was in for. I knew that, as soon as I got out of the warm and comfort of my bed, I was vulnerable — utterly naked, if you will, although it didn't feel like it, as I was wearing sweatpants and a t-shirt. Even in the relative safety of my own house, my parents know. Because when you're diagnosed with untreatable cancer, you always know.
You always know that you're going to die. You're just not sure when. Because when you're dying of cancer, they take out all of the IVs and you stop having the surgeries, because they are just putting off the inevitable: you are going to die, one way or the other.
So being discharged from the hospital meant one thing to the doctors that had worked so hard to keep me alive, to the cousins and friends that had prayed for my full recovery, and to the grandparents, aunts, and uncles, and, most of all, my parents and brothers, who had stayed with me this entire time. Their efforts, every last one of them, had ultimately failed. They had been able to put it off, yes, for three years, five months, and fifteen days, to be exact, but their efforts had ultimately failed. Moreover, I had let them down. I had not fought off the cancer. I — my body — was the reason that their efforts had failed.
So I am going to die. Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow. But I will die.
Getting dressed, I saw my battle scars. There, Dr. Alaston had inserted my first IV when I was admitted to the ICU for the first time; over there was the time that Dr. McArr had cut me open and tried to take out my tumor. All of those scars, and nothing to show for it.
As I walked the ten-minute from my house to the station to catch the 8:29 express to the City, I saw everyone's eyes on me. “There's the kid that's going to die.” “Three years of chemo, and it didn't help. I guess that Memorial Cancer Center isn't really as good as everyone says it is.” “Why is he walking? Shouldn't the Cancer Kid be in bed?” “I heard that his parents let him begin an organ donor. I would never let my Jamie do that.”
All of the their judgments—I could hear them through how they were looking at me. I felt all of their sympathies, but then their apathy as they turned their matters to more important matters: their own work for people that will live.
Because I have cancer. And I am going to die.
I walked into the station and bought my ticket. I hurried on to the platform, just in time to catch the train as it was pulling into the station from the Huntington Yard. As soon as the doors opened, I rushed aboard the train, to the lower level. I love looking at the switches that the trains pass over —I've already figured out the entire interlocking east of Jamaica Station.
Being an express, the train zoomed past the other stations. I stared out the window as we passed through the stations and over the grade crossings. People were waiting for the local train; people alighted at Mineola to transfer.
I stared out the window some more. People were going places. Or, more accurately, they had places to go. And myself? Where was I going?
To the City, I reminded myself. Today, you are going to the city. You are going to meet your friends there — the same friends that you had failed — and then you are going to meet your grandparents, whom you had also failed, for lunch.
I should turn back, I said. Get off at Jamaica, and buy a return ticket. Go home. Live out the rest of your days in your room. What's there in the city, anyway? Skyscrapers, buildings, taxis, the subway? You are going nowhere.
Just as I resolved to turn back, I heard the train engineer's announcement.
“This station is Penn Station, track number 19. As you exit the train, please watch the gap. Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for riding the Long Island Railroad.”