Now Mike’s in the cab, thinking about his poetry reading tonight. And now he’s in the doctor’s office thinking about his biopsy. He hasn’t thought about it for some time. The fear was with him a few days after he found the lump in his throat while shaving. But between then and his tests, and between his tests and his biopsy, he has only thought about dying a few times and then not with much feeling. The lump has tugged at him, or he would shave and feel it, and he’d feel an ambush coming.
But it was never bad. It wasn’t a real fear, just a sort of considering. He was never well-liked in school, and another boy used to beat him up in the locker room every week and waiting for that was fear. Now, it’s not even something he can consider, it seems so far removed.
The doctor comes out and frowns. He’s looking around. Finally, he sees Mike.
“Come in,” he says.
Mike follows him and thinks, it must be bad or he’d tell me immediately. For one moment he feels like he’s at the first drop in a roller coaster, that unbelievably bad feeling that hits you so hard and so cleanly that you don’t hurt, you can only marvel at it. Already Mike knows he will go back to Virginia, and have her love him again, and have it not matter at all. I’d like to see the trees again, and the green fields out by Route 33 that went on like a lake. Maybe it would be nice that way.
He knows he will die, for a moment, and he doesn’t even know why, and he wonders if it might be a good thing. And then the doctor tells him, “You’re fine, basically,” showing him the X-rays and how he has a fossilized node of some sort, and how he should stop smoking for good. But how this will not kill him, it just needs to be “looked after.”
“You might not be so lucky, down the road,” the doctor says about the smoking.
And Mike thinks he’s in perfect health, which is more or less correct. And he thinks he’ll live a long time, which is wrong. He waves good-bye to the pretty receptionist, who will be shot be her ex-husband, and walks out.
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