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10 Things To Do Before I Die (Part 2)
July: London, England.
The cancer had spread to my lymphnodes while I was in Europe the first two months. They tried a more intensified chemo treatment and surgically removed one of the two tumors on my head. But round two of chemo had really taken its toll. I felt sick 24/7 and it also left me bald. I cried when they shaved off what was left of my thick, dark, curly hair, but in return, I was allowed to use pot, or “medical marijuana” to prevent me from hurling everywhere. It wasn’t easy smuggling it on the plane, but I did it without a hitch.
When I checked in to my hotel, I went to my room, opened up my laptop and Googled where the best clubs in London were. I picked three clubs: Tiger Tiger, Paper, and Storm. I got dressed in a gold, sequin Gucci dress, Dolce & Gabana boots, and a Michael Kors clutch, which stored two joints. I slipped a wig on and that night at ten, I set off for Tiger Tiger.
Arriving alone at a club in designer clothes was a weird experience. I felt sort of like a princess and an awkward middle school nerd at the same time, but once I got inside—the bouncers let me in without an ID—no one cared. I grabbed a drink first and then jumped in and danced with about three different guys. The third one’s name was Harry and he seemed very into me, so I asked him if he wanted to head over to Paper together.
As we walked, I asked if he wanted to start a joint. He happily agreed and lit it with his lighter. We smoked in an alley a few blocks from Paper for about twenty minutes before leaving. I felt tingly and jittery, but kind of dull and numb at the same time. We got into Paper—no ID, once again—and I heard a familiar song blaring. It was “Sun of a Gun” by Oh Land. I turned around and there, on a stage, was Oh Land, performing live. I grabbed Harry’s hand and stumbled towards the stage, jumping up and down in what felt like slow motion. Oh Land smiled and danced around and I screamed, pushing my way deeper into the crowd. I eventually lost Harry, but I did find a man named George at the front of the stage, dancing enthusiastically and forcing his hands onto me. I let him grope me and kiss me. I couldn’t care less since I was half high, half drunk, and 100% out of it.
Oh Land left the stage and some crappy British rapper came on. I asked George if he wanted to go to Storm with me and he agreed. As soon as we were outside, I offered up a joint again, but he laughed.
“Baby, you want some legit stuff?” he ruffled my fake hair. He pulled out a plastic bag with yellowish-white powder in it.
“Crystal, darling. Ice. This is the stuff you want. Makes you fly higher than anything. Sure, the crash is intense, but the high is incredible. You got a mirror?”
I pulled out my Sephora makeup mirror and he shook a little powder onto it. He took out his credit card and a straw, dividing the stuff into lines. He demonstrated with the first line, then handed me the straw. I put the straw to the mirror, my nose to the straw and sniffed.
Doing meth made my nose feel like it was on fire, but it made my entire body tingle. Crank magnifies everything by ten, but also makes it fuzzy. George and I headed into Storm and the music pounded in my ears, loud and hard, but soothing. We both had several more drinks and I think I lost him eventually. At my highest point, I wasn’t sure who I was with. All I felt was sweaty bodies, didn’t see faces. Strobe lights blared out identity. All that was left was to hear the music, move to it, kiss, touch, and let people kiss and touch you all the while feeling like you’ve never felt before; so out of it, but so intensely focused on things around you.
But all that high was about to come to an end. Suddenly, I got a massive headache, which was magnified by about twenty because of the meth. And the pot. And the countless drinks. The tingling feeling in my bones made me shake. My knees failed me and I crumbled to the ground, screaming. On the ground, feet stomped by my face and the strobe lights got overwhelmingly brighter with every flash. I tried to scream, but my mouth was shaking too. The last thing I remember was thinking I was dying as my head hit the ground.
November: Kopavogur, Iceland
What happened in the club had been a seizure. The cancer had spread to my brain. I had a very small chance of living through chemo, but I went through it. I stayed home for two months, but there was still one place I had to go. I’d wanted to go there all my life and I couldn’t die before I went: Iceland.
I’d wanted to go since seventh grade. I’d always just thought it was so pretty, so my mom asked the doctors if it was okay for me to leave the hospital for a week and go. They said that it was probably a good idea. I needed a break.
Everyone knew I was dying, but no one would admit it.
The second week of November, my mother and I headed for Rekjavik, capital of Iceland. We arrived and there was snow on the ground, everyone dressed in furs and parkas. We took a cab to our beautiful hotel in Kopagavor, just outside of Rekjavik. Everything was clean and white and we had a balcony overlooking the snowy capital city.
I slept well that night. The bed was so clean and comfortable, much better than the hospital. I was curled up in new flannel pajamas, none of that designer stuff I’d been wearing. I was dying, practically dead already. I wanted to be comfortable, not beautiful. I didn’t bother wearing a wig anymore, just a scarf and only when I felt like it.
The next morning, we woke up and called a car to take us to a nearby spa. My mother and I spent the whole day talking and laughing and being completely taken care of. By the time the day was over, it was dark and flurrying a little. We were headed back to our hotel when we were passing a church. It was oddly shaped, but it lit up and it looked so beautiful in the snow. It was only six o’clock, so we decided to go in.
It was in the middle of a service. I had no idea what the priest was saying, but the music was so beautiful and the church was so bright and shiny. I was so overwhelmed I began to cry. I sobbed and asked my mother to put down the kneeling cushion. She did, quickly, probably thinking I was having another seizure.
Then, for the first time in my life really, I prayed. I prayed for my family. I cried for my future that never was and for the past few months that had been so screwed up. I thought of my acceptance into college that I never went to, my graduation that I skipped to go to Italy, and all the people I was leaving behind and people I would never meet. After about thirty minutes of nonstop crying and praying to God that everything would turn out okay, that some miracle would occur and I wouldn’t die, my mother led me out of the church.
We got back to the hotel room and my mom made me some tea and helped me get into my pajamas. I was still so upset, so she tucked me in with my tea and sat on my bed and we talked. This would be the last long talk I had with my mother.
That night, my mom stayed up rubbing my back and singing to me until I slept, just like when I was a baby.
November (still): Northern Virginia
I was back in the hospital. It was a week before Thanksgiving. I kept hoping that I would make it past Thanksgiving, but I knew if I did, I’d hope to make it past Christmas and my birthday…my time was coming very, very soon. I could feel it.
That day, I decided to take a nap. I was alone and I was so tired, so sick of everything, I just wanted to be by myself. I asked that the curtain that led into my room be shut and that no visitors be allowed for a while. I called my dad and told him not to come and see me for a few hours. He said that was fine and that he and my mom would come later that day and bring me some dinner.
I settled into the lumpy mattress and pulled the stiff covers up to my shoulders. I closed my eyes for a few seconds, and then I opened them again. When I opened them though, there was something strange about what I saw. I saw a clock on a string, swinging back and forth towards and away from me. I froze. This was what my grandpa had said he’d seen the day before he died.
It was time.
I closed my eyes again and turned over, ready to sleep. All at once, I was back in Iceland in my soft, hotel bed, the smell of coffee wafting from the kitchenette. When I opened my eyes, there would be snow outside and everything would be bright a calm. There would be no rushing nurses, no crazy patients…just silence. No sounds but the soft, muted tapping of snowflakes on the roof. I would be dressed in warm, fresh from the dryer pajamas. I would have just bathed in a bubble bath and I’d have my hair again, wet from the bath and spread all across the pillow.
And then, it all came true. I didn’t even have to open my eyes. Suddenly, there was the white wonderland outside my window and my white hotel room and everything I dreamed, only better. There was silence, peace, and there was a bright, bright light coming towards my window. I didn’t dare get up, didn’t dare move from the perfect, perfect position I was in. This perfect location. This perfect silence. I wished I could stay here forever, living in this perfect white world…
My wish came true.