On Second Thought(7)

By: Kristan Higgins


“Well, thank you for coming, Jonathan, and for the wine. That was very thoughtful. Here, come talk to my sister. I don’t think you’ve met her. Kate! This is Jonathan Kent, my boss.”

Yes. Let Kate have to deal with him. Like Nathan (and now Kate), Jonathan, too, was a platinum member at the Cambry-on-Hudson Lawn Club. From the corner, Rachelle, who answered phones at the magazine, made a sympathetic face. To be honest, I’d invited the boss only because he overheard me talking about the party this very morning. Jonathan was, to put it kindly, a downer.

But he had given Eric the online column—just a WordPress spin-off that Eric posted himself, the magazine’s website providing a link and a byline. Eric loved writing The Cancer Chronicles, so I guess we owed Jonathan for that, though it hadn’t been easy convincing him to say yes.

“Nice to meet you,” Kate said. “This is my husband, Nathan Coburn.”

Being that it was Cambry-on-Hudson, Nathan and Jonathan had met sometime in the past. Ah, yes. Hudson Lifestyle had done a feature on Nathan’s house a few years ago, before my time.

I wondered if I’d ask Kate to be my maid of honor, even though she’d eloped and hadn’t even asked me to come as a witness. If I asked, would she somehow make me feel dumb? Then again, she was my sister...well, my half sister, but still. Nathan could be in the wedding party, too. He was a sweetheart, that guy. He caught me looking at him and gave me a wink. In some ways, he felt more like a brother than Sean, who was eleven when I was born, fourteen when I came to live with them.

Kate was lucky to have Nathan, though I never would’ve put them together. At least she seemed to know it. She and Nathan were holding hands, which was sweet.

“Hey, Ains!” said Rob, one of Eric’s fraternity brothers. “What kind of cancer was it again?”

I bit down on my irritation. If Rob had been a true friend, he’d have read The Cancer Chronicles (or the CCs, as Eric called them). Or maybe even called during the past year and a half. Like a lot of Eric’s friends from college, he was something of a dolt.

I picked up Ollie and petted his fluffy little head. “It was testicular,” I said, still wishing I didn’t have to name boy parts. They all sounded so ugly. Penis. Scrotum. Sac. Girl parts, on the other hand, all sounded rather exotic and beautiful. When I was at NBC and we did a story on teenage pregnancy, there was a girl who wanted to name her daughter Labia. I could almost see it.

“Testicular? Shit!” Rob winced comically and turned to Eric. “Dude!” he bellowed. “Your nuts? Ouch, brother!”

“That’s the good cancer, isn’t it?” asked Rob’s wife.

“There is no good cancer,” I said sternly.

“I mean, the cure rate is really high. Like 98 percent?”

Her statistics were accurate. “Yes.”

“So it wasn’t like Lance Armstrong, then? The really dangerous kind?”

What was this? An interrogation? “It was the same type Lance had, but thank God, we caught it earlier. And all cancer is dangerous. I hope you never have to find that out.”

Sure, sure, I sounded sanctimonious, but really, people could be such jerks. Eric had talked about this in his column, how people threw around terms like “good cancer” and “great odds” and just didn’t understand.

No matter what, Eric had been afraid of dying.

There was part of him, I knew, that had wished his battle had been a little...well, a little more dramatic. He’d been prepped to be noble and uncomplaining. That was why he asked me to get him the column at Hudson Lifestyle. His journey, he said, would inspire people.

And it did. Well. I was inspired, of course. The blog didn’t get a lot of traffic, and Jonathan was irritable about it, so I lied to Eric about the statistics. He’d been fighting cancer. He didn’t need to know his views were in the dozens (sometimes not even that).

The truth was, the CCs were kind of...bland. Eric wrote about finding silver linings, living in the moment, being present, the transformation of the caterpillar to butterfly. There was a lot of detail about his treatment. Even a picture of the pre-and postoperative scrotum, which we had to take down as soon as Jonathan saw it, since it violated the magazine’s pornography rules (that was an awkward meeting, let me tell you).

Eric liked to use quotes: Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the realization that there is something more important than fear... Live to fight another day... You are braver than you know, stronger than you think... It’s always darkest before dawn. (That one made even me wince.)