With one diagnosis, editor James Daniels learns that he's literally running out of time. Looking at his life, he sees one regret: Andy, the one that got away. Andy was the first man that James ever loved, but Andy has been gone for years, and might not want to be found.
But as his cancer progresses and James starts to lose his grip on time and memory, it might just be that time and memory are losing their grip on James, too.
It's the biggest and most important re-write of his life. Restoring love from nothing but memory might be possible, if the past isn't too far gone to fix.
Publisher: Lethe Press
Heat Level: 2
Romantic Content: 3
Ending: Click here to reveal
Character Identities: Gay
Protagonist 1 Age: 36-45
Protagonist 2 Age: 36-45
Tropes: Second Chances
Word Count: 14800
Setting: Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
Languages Available: English
When mom said, ‘Everything happens for a reason,’ I lost my shit.
All things considered, I’d handled things well. I’d surrendered my license immediately. I’d need someone—anyone—to get my car from work, where it had been since the ambulance brought me to the hospital. I’d listened to my doctor, then an oncologist and a neurologist, and asked what I thought were intelligent questions and understood what they hadn’t said. I edited books. I knew tragedy.
Hell, I was proud of myself.
Hippocampus, Broca and Wernike, gyrus. Memory, language, reading.
I took a cab home, wanting more time to myself to let the reality of all those foreign words settle into my brain.
Into my brain. How apt.READ MORE
My apartment was boiling. This had been one of the worst summers on record. I turned up the air conditioning. Despite the heat, I’d made myself a coffee, stared at it for a few seconds, then poured it into the sink and cracked a beer. I looked around. I needed to vacuum, and three manuscripts were piled on my desk waiting for line edits. I took a deep breath. The cab, the beer, the vacuum, work—they were all delaying tactics. I rolled the beer between my palms and read the label. The letters were stable, not dancing like they’d done in my office. I wondered how long...
Stop. Just do it.
I dialed my mother.
“I wasn’t expecting you,” she said, by way of answering.
“Sorry,” I said. I found myself smiling. I wanted to laugh, which was insane. Was hysterical one of the stages? I remembered denial and bargaining, but wasn’t sure of the rest.
“What’s wrong?” she asked.
I fed her a cliché. “Are you sitting down?”
There was a pause. “I am now. James, you’re worrying me.”
“Well, it’s not on purpose,” I said. “Okay, I’m just going to come out and say it. It’s not good. Brain cancer.” I exhaled. It was the first time I’d said the words out loud. In my conversations with my doctor, oncologist, and neurologist, I’d used “it.”
“Who?” my mother asked. “Who has brain cancer? Is it your sister? Why didn’t she call me?”
I blinked. “No, mom. Me. I have cancer. Brain tumors.”
“But you’re not even forty.”
I did laugh that time. If the cancer had waited two more years, my mother would have deemed it more acceptable? “Just lucky I guess.”
“Stop laughing. It’s not funny,” my mother said. “Are you sure? Did you see a doctor?”
“No, I self-diagnosed online. Yes, of course I saw a doctor. Three of them.”
My mother took a breath, released it audibly. I had that effect on a lot of people. “Well, what do we do? Surgery? Chemo?”
My throat became raw. I swallowed, but it didn’t help. “Mom, there are multiple tumors, and...” I closed my eyes. She didn’t need all the details. “It’s too late.”
“That’s not good enough.”
I bristled. I’d heard that statement so many times in my life. Now she was trotting it out for cancer?
“It doesn’t work like that,” I said. Why was I the one trying to be calm? Shouldn’t I be the one being comforted here? Denial. Right. I remembered now, though I was pretty sure it was supposed to be me. I rubbed my eyes, chasing away an odd shining creeping in from the corners of my vision. “The oncologist and the neurologist both said given the onset of the symptoms and how large and aggressive the tumors are...”
Oh, this is fun.
“Trouble with my vision. Remember I got new glasses twice last year? And the headaches and eye strain last winter? I thought I needed to rest my eyes. Yesterday I had this awful feeling. They called it jamais vu—like the opposite of déjà vu—I had no idea where I was or what was going on.” That didn’t describe the terror I’d experienced, but she didn’t need to know. “And then today at work, I couldn’t read. The words were there, but I didn’t understand.”
“Not even a ten percent chance with operating, and that’s just survival, not functionality.” I’d been given a long list of what reduced capacities I would likely see, especially with the tumours that were encroaching on my brain stem, where important things like breathing were controlled.
“Ten percent is ten percent,” my mother said. “You have to fight for what you want, you know. This happened to you. Nobody else. You. Everything happens for a reason.”
I remembered another one of the stages.