Sunday, January 16, 2005

The Cancer Lady

Last week I went to get lunch at a restaurant, carting along my book (China Mieville's Iron Council) and decided to try a place that opened a couple of months ago. There was only one waiter on duty for about a dozen tables but only about half a dozen tables had customers.

The waiter was tall and young and extremely personable. He had that gay vibe I particularly appreciate in a waiter (whether he was actually gay or not being beside the point.) He seated me and got me my drink and then, being stretched by being the only server on the floor, apologized and took off. I checked the menu, opened my book, happy. The owner/chef came out and talked to a couple at another table. Then stopped by my table and asked me if I had any questions.

I did, actually. Ragu bolognese was on the menu and I love a real ragu bolognese, so I asked him about it. He looked a little non-plussed, but told me how they made it and as a bolognese should be, it was finished with milk. Sometimes pork or beef tastes odd to me, but this was only a day or two before my next chemo, when I feel the most normal, so I ordered it.

My server brought me bread, 'Because I had said I was hungry.'

Then my salad.

Then he stopped to enquire. 'Everything all right, sweetheart?'

Then topped off my drink.

I love attention, don't get me wrong. But every time I looked up from my book, it seemed as if the server was giving me a smile.

My pasta arrived, a dinner sized serving rather than a lunch sized serving. It tasted a little off to me (the damn chemo) but I felt compelled to eat a whole lot of it, since I'd asked. And especially since the server made a point of making sure everything was okay, and then came back a minute later and refilled my drink.

More solicitous attention.

It finally occured to me what was up. Here I am, bald under my cap, with my book, bravely carrying on as if nothing is wrong. The Cancer Lady.

Of course, the truth is, I just really wanted a good lunch and to read my book and although I understand the impulse to solidarity and support, in my heart of hearts, I just wanted to read my book. Not be a poster child.

It is very nice of people to be solicitous. A good deed. I left a hefty tip. And I am a callow wretch for not appreciating it more. But I didn't. So I have discovered an important lesson. If I want to disappear, wear the wig.


Blogger Gregory Feeley said...

If you had a tattoo on your scalp -- a quick temporary decal, applied on the way out the door, will do -- everyone will assume that you are merely tres punk.

Of course, you still wouldn't be disappearing, but you would swap all those sympathetic looks for some fun glares.

January 16, 2005 2:41 PM  
Blogger Greg van Eekhout said...

A safety pin earring might work, too.

January 16, 2005 2:44 PM  
Blogger Christopher Barzak said...

OR wear a t-shirt that says, I'm not a lesbian but my girlfriend is.

Sorry, for some reason I've met a lot of lesbians who shave their heads and wear shirts like this. ;-)

January 16, 2005 9:36 PM  
Blogger Maureen McHugh said...

I want a t-shirt that says 'Don't assume I'm straight' on the front and 'don't assume I'm not' on the back.

January 17, 2005 12:56 PM  
Blogger Gregory Feeley said...

That will just make the reader want to get the T-shirt off you, to see what it says on the underside.

January 17, 2005 2:50 PM  
Blogger jon said...

I was looking at your posts about cancer lung and found a good article about the same cancer lung info too...

God luck with it : )

October 02, 2005 10:29 AM  
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Looking for throat cancer information I came across this post. I totally agree with you and would feel the same way!


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