Conversation Killer

In “Anecdotal Tales”, stories will be told. Some will be fun, some will not. Some will be great, some will be less so. Some stories are true, some are merely possible. This is one of them.

Conversation Killer

Ralph started walking to his car, and then realized he wasn’t going where he thought he was.  Christine was instead heading straight towards her vehicle.  Apparently she’s driving, Ralph thought to himself with a shrug.  He didn’t care much, he was just happy to be spending some time with his friend.  Christine had never been quick to return a phone call, but she had been especially quiet the last few weeks.  Ralph tried to get to the driver side door first and perpetuate his reputation of chivalry, but she soon unlocked her own door and entered the car.

Ralph put his keys in his pocket, glancing at his car to make sure it was in the parking spot where he had left it.  No matter which car they took, he was rather certain that he would be the one in the passenger seat.  Ralph didn’t really care if he drove or not.  He found Christine’s methods to be “interesting”, what with the way she made quick lane merges and carried on conversations with her mom on the phone while driving with her knees (or sometimes elbows).  Regardless, they had yet to get in a wreck.  Any argument that they might have over driving skill or behavior was bound to cause more damage than even the worst car crash.  Ralph had long ago accepted the fact that his best friend’s car alway had puddle of water at his feet.  He looked at the grey April clouds in the sky and congratulated himself on choosing waterproof shoes.  They would certainly be needed in and out of the car today.

The two of them traveled down the road, Christine’s music hopping and bopping in direct contrast to the lack of fun in the car.  Ralph made an attempt at small talk, but nothing seemed to warrant any response from Christine.  She obviously had something on her mind.  Ralph assumed that she would start talking when she had figured out what she wanted to say.  He didn’t have much longer to wait.

“So, I found something out a week or two ago.”

“Uh huh…”

“And that’s why I haven’t talked to you.  Because I’ve been trying to figure it out.”

“What is this ‘it’ that you have to figure out?”  If Ralph hadn’t been paying attention before, he was now.  There was a slow, almost mourning tone to Christine’s voice.  This was no joke; each word was to strained as she forced it out.

“So, I had this weird bump going on in my throat.  I thought it was just part of the cold I had.” 

“Swollen glands?” Ralph asked, confused as to her concern about a common ailment.

“That’s what I thought,” Christine replied as her voice trailed off.

“But not so much?”

“They found a lump, Ralph.  I have cancer.”

Ralph sat there for a few moments, trying to process what he had just heard.  None of his close relatives had died.  He hadn’t known of a single friend with diseases or serious illnesses.  He had probably met someone with cancer in his day to day routine.  However this was the first time he had been aware of anyone actually having the affliction.

“I’m assuming that means they’ll treat it?  Some sort of chemotherapy or something?” he asked with a note of seriousness in his voice.

“Yeah.  I mean, don’t worry; it’s basically the weakest type of cancer there is.  I got lucky.”

“How are you doing with it?  I mean, do you still want to see the movie?”  Ralph was beginning to wonder how this night would go.  The middle lane of a busy interstate was hardly the place to have a life changing conversation.  “Do you want to go someplace and talk?”

“No.  I mean, we can still go see the movie.”

“Do you want to?”

“Yeah, that’s what we planned.”

“Okay.”

Ralph and Christine sat in the car for the next few minutes.  Ralph wondered if this was how water felt while waiting to be turned into ice; there was a definite coldness in the air between them.  Nothing happened, words were not shared.  An expectation that the other would speak next hung in the air.  Finally, Christine broke the quiet with shattering quickness.

“Why aren’t you more upset about this?”

“About you having cancer?”

“Yes!” she angrily yelled.

“Well, aren’t they going to cut it out?”

“Yeah.”

“And then you’ll get treated and it’ll do what it’s supposed to do.”

“But,” she paused, trying to explain her frustration.  “You’re supposed to be more affected.  You’re just sitting there going, ‘Oh, okay.’  Do I not matter to you?  It doesn’t bother you that I’m sick and this is life-threatening?”

“It bothers me, but what am I supposed to do about it?  It’ll take care of itself, right?”

“Why aren’t you worried?”

“I dunno.  I guess it’ll all work out just fine.  Right?”

As Ralph responded, they arrived at the movie theater.  Christine gave up on getting a stronger reaction from Ralph and parked the car.  They got out, locked their respective doors, and headed towards the theater entrance.  Ralph bought the tickets while Christine procured the snacks; the oft-rehearsed ritual going off seamlessly.  The conversation, however, struggled to attain the same performance-level quality.

Easily finding seats in the half empty theater, the two sat in their seats as the house lights dimmed.  Happily, the ads and trailers were preposterous.  An ease and almost a sense of relaxation started to take over the two friends. 

It wasn’t until the movie had already started that Ralph realized that the movie title was a bit morbid.  Ralph hid his face in his hands, overcome with embarrassment and disbelief.  Ralph could not have predicted he would be hearing about life and death concerns when he suggested watching “The Terminal”.

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About anecdotaltales
He's a simple enough fellow. He likes movies, comics, radio shows from the 40's, and books. He likes to write and wishes his cat wouldn't shed on his laptop.

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