It’s been a strange year. It has been a year, you know. Over a year since you left me. Which is quite strange to think about. You leaving me. It makes it sound like you had a choice, you know?
It’s strange. Realizing that I’ve lived for years, that I don’t know how much longer I’ll last, but that the best part of my life is already behind me. Did you ever have those moments?
I feel like F. Scott Fitzgerald or something. Like Gatsby, even. All “What do you mean, can’t repeat the past?”
Because I can’t repeat the past, and you’re gone, and I’ve given up trying. But I still find myself reading a lot of Fitzgerald and Virginia Woolf. Because they get it, you know? They get the feeling that everything good is in the past. Those writers lived through a war. And the war changed them, and they realized nothing could ever be as good as it used to be.
But the sad part is that the authors, and subsequently their downright depressing characters, could never know when their own little “Golden Age” was happening. They only realized it once it had passed.
Maybe I’m hopeless, but that’s how I feel.
Like you were my Golden Age, and you’re never coming back, and I’m alive, but I’m not really living.
And it all just really sucks.
I saw Denise today. My life has been like a Mobius strip of shrinky dinky Denise, appointments at Children’s, classes, rides in the car, and squats in front of ANTM lately.
“Where am I?” I hear you asking, cocky little smile on your mouth.
My gosh, Gus. Must you always interrupt? I was getting to that. I was going to say something poetic, like, “Gus, you’re the material my Mobius strip is made of.” But, honestly, as a recently-widowed girlfriend, I hope you haven’t become my whole life. I told Denise that, and she said I was “headed in a good way of thinking.” I know that professional types are all for double entendras, but I feel like the use of the word “way” in that sentence is grammatically incorrect.
Either way, I’ve been realizing that we’re meant to love people, not the empty spaces they’ve left behind. And because, in the literal sense, you don’t exist on My Earth at the moment, I don’t love you. I mean, I feel love for you. But it’s not really you, is it? Hell, I don’t know what it is. I don’t know if you’re reading. I don’t know what my letters mean, because all Denise ever says is “good progress, Hazel Grace,” which I told her explicitly not to call me. Apparently, I don’t know everything. You did always have all the answers, didn’t you?
So where are you now? Honestly, I’m curious.
I haven’t really known what to write since my last letter. It’s gotten to the point where I feel detached. Like I’m having one of those ultra-cliché out-of-body experiences, floating on the ceiling and whatnot. I was in a bookstore yesterday, and the floating me saw you standing behind the Teen Fantasy bookcase. Floaty Hazel told Me Hazel, so I giggled and ran around the corner, like I was expecting Cirque Du Soleil or something.
I almost tripped over a little kid. His name was Trevor. But do you know who or what was behind Trevor? Nothing. No one. Suddenly, I felt incredibly dizzy. It’s not like dizziness is a new sensation to me, seeing as how my lungs reject half the oxygen I suck in (incidentally, I’ve noticed that Oxygen is becoming reluctant to continue pining for Lungs; quite the tragic love story), but this was a new dizziness. It came from my metaphorical heart, not my real oxygen-deprived, cancerous one.
I nearly fell to my knees with a starvation for you, Augustus Waters.
Not like I’m trying to be all poetic or whatever, but it’s like we’re walking through a forest together, and I lost you somewhere back on the trail. Seriously, Gus, I’ve climbed every tree—which is not easy, with my lungs being crap and all—trying to catch sight of you. I’ve been screaming—again, what I put my throat through for you! But you won’t answer.
Seriously Gus. Stop screwing around.
I miss you. I love you. Damn it all.
I’ve been seeing Denise regularly, and the other day we were talking about dying and oblivion. She lets my talk about dying more than Patrick ever did. You remember Patrick, don’t you? I told Denise about how Patrick sacrificed his balls, which is a pretty grand gesture. Like if I was cancer, and some guy handed me his balls in exchange for life, I would be entirely willing to let him live. Seems like a fair trade to me. Denise asked me if I would do something like that.
I told her I don’t have balls, so there’s not much I can compare it to.
She was also telling me about how the French have a saying, “l’esprit de l’éscalier,” which we stupid English-speakers translate loosely as “staircase wit.” But staircase wit isn’t a concept to us. There’s something about the words, “l’esprit,” “de,” and “l’éscalier” in that particular order that means something to the French people.
Basically staircase wit describes a situation in which you finish an argument or conversation and make your way to the physical, mental, or metaphorical “staircase” before you muster up a good comeback. Staircase wit is wanting to say something after the fact.
I feel like I am in a constant state of staircase wit (and am also unsure how to use “staircase wit” in a sentence), Gus. I really do. Because there are so many things—SO MANY THINGS—that went unsaid. Every day since you left, I think of stories I should have told. And lessons I should have taught. And great big Metaphors I should have relayed.
So, Gus, I continue to write. I try to shake the staircase wit. I need to shake the staircase wit. So let me just start with this: yellow. My favorite color is yellow.
Sealed with a kiss,
P.S. Sealed with a kiss? Blegh never saying that again.
I have decided to take up the violin. You think I’m kidding. I can hear you thinking it. But, alas, I am not. The moment the doctors told me my lungs would never work properly again, I developed a sudden and irrational desire to play the clarinet. Immediately. I tried once. I had my mom rent me one from Mick’s Music on West 8th St., and even paid for two lessons. Quickly, however, I realized that the only thing harder than breathing with crap lungs is playing a clarinet with crap lungs.
Still, I’ve always loved the idea of being a musician. A real musician. The kind that plays in an orchestra. There’s something about musicians that seems so romantic to me. How they use phrases like “make music” and “tone quality.” How their hands are always nicer than other people’s hands. How they always have cork grease or rosin or whatever in their pockets. Even how they always look clean.
Besides, Children’s just started a music rehabilitation program, aimed largely at terminal kids, so the opportunity is there. That’s another thing I’ve been wondering lately, though. Why does the phrase “terminal” have such a heavy meaning. A lot of people diagnosed with terminal diseases are still given significant periods of time to live. A serious car crash is more terminal than thyroid cancer. Besides, from the moment we’re born, it is automatically assumed that we will terminate some day. Oblivion, and all that.
So what is it about “terminal” diseases that’s somehow so much scarier than getting in a car during rush hour?
I’m not going to answer that one this time, Gus. You would know the answer to this one better than I, wouldn’t you?
I went to Wet Water Rapids today. Kaitlyn wanted a chance to show off her new bikini. It was blue and white. Stripey. Looked like something Kate Middleton would wear. Then again, it’s entirely possible that it only appeared as such when combined with phrases like “bloody brilliant,” and “absolutely, darling.”
Has it ever occurred to you that the name Wet Water Rapids is extremely redundant? Wet is implied when speaking of water, and water is implied when speaking of rapids. The level of stupidity that has consumed the human race, let me tell you. When I walk into a book store and see that I, as a citizen of the world, have allowed entire bookcases to devote themselves to “Teen Paranormal Romance,” it makes me want to cry a little.
What is so intoxicating about a teenage girl who falls in love with a vampire? He must resist ripping her up and putting her on his pulled pork sandwich, which he naturally fails in doing. Her own humanity ends up being not only her hamartia, but his as well. The stupid girl’s inherent human-ness is what causes her to fall in love with him in the first place, which leads to her own death, and her physical form forces the stupid vampire to suck her dry like an orange, which results in his mental breakdown.
Of course, some of those books end happily.
Either way, vampires are just a metaphor for sex. So whatever. I don’t even know what I’m writing sometimes.
I drank four energy drinks earlier. I really don’t like energy drinks. My head feels like it’s full of helium.
In other news, my mom made me an appointment at the orthodontist. “Hazel,” she said, “how do you expect to get a job with crooked front teeth?” I have worked out two possible motivations behind this sentiment. It is one of the two, I promise. You’ve met my mom.
Possible motivation #1: She actually wants me to get a job.
Possible (though highly more likely) motivation #2: She likes to funnel money into more superficial medical procedures in an attempt to fix that which can be fixed.
The reason I find PM#2 more likely is that I read somewhere that people with terminal diseases either give up completely or try to fix things that they have real control over, like relationships. And their teeth. You might be thinking, you with your vast all-knowingness, “But Hazel is the one with the terminal disease.”
You would be right. But my mom has one, too. It’s called Child With Cancer Syndrome. CWCS is a serious disease that I must raise awareness about. CWCS culminates very rarely in death of the body, but more often death of the soul. And I don’t want to kill my mom’s soul.
So I’m getting braces.
Also, Isaac says you’re an asshole. I’m sure he’s told you plenty, but I thought I would reinforce the message. Not that I think so. But you died. It’s really annoying and inconvenient for all of us.
I mean, come on. Who dies just like that?
Everyone keeps asking me how I’m feeling. I feel like they expect me to say, “I miss him so much it hurts,” or quote Pablo Neruda or something. But I have cancer. I already hurt.
He was a communist, Pablo Neruda. Abolition of private property and all that. But he’s somehow still this major hero. Maybe communists live longer. Maybe you should have been a communist.
In other news, Pablo Neruda wrote about sex a lot. Maybe communists have something special to offer. Who knows? I’ve never had sex with a communist. Unless you were a communist. Not that communists can’t be nice people. I just try to avoid dating them when at all possible.
Speaking of Pablo Neruda, I was reading some of his poetry online, and I came across this one poem. The last stanza went like this:
Absence is such a transparent house
that without my own life I will watch you live
and if I see you suffer, my love, I will die again.
And Pablo Neruda is basically telling the woman he loves that if he dies, she has to live on. “Absence is such a transparent house.” Why? Because it makes you feel empty? Because absence, like a transparent house, is invisible?
No, I don’t think so. That seems like one big bowl of sap, and Pablo Neruda isn’t sappy.
I’d like to think the transparent house is the barrier between the physical and the absent. It’s like I can almost see you through the transparent walls, but my breath on the glass is fogging it up just enough that I can’t get past it. I dunno.
What do you think?
To Whom It May Concern:
How’s it hangin’ up there, Gussy?
I am writing these letters not for my benefit, not for your benefit, but for the benefit of Denise. Yes, that’s right. My parents eat cardboard for dinner so we can preserve the state of the “Save Hazel Fund,” but last week they decided to dip into the fund each Sunday for the $150 it takes to pay for a one-hour grief counseling session. Only the best for a dying girl. And I can now confirm that evil has a name. A name more dreaded than the cancer cells that figuratively eat me alive. And that name is Denise.
The best part about this little letter blog is that Denise asked me if I would mind sharing it with her once in awhile. So, now, the little doubt she once had as to whether or not her true name was Evil will be alleviated. Look at me, being a Good Samaritan and all. Gus, you’ve been gone less than a month, and I am already changing lives.
Denise said to start this out by telling you how I feel. She told me to be angry, or sad, or confused, or frustrated. But I’ve decided that I am none of the above. Rather, I think the word I am looking for is disenchanted. Not disenchanted with the mystery and majesty of the world. Nah, you know better than anybody that whatever enchantment the world has goes away with a good, old-fashioned diagnosis.
No, Gus. Gus, Gus, Gus. I am disenchanted with the human race. I have decided to counter all those philosophers who marvel at the sheer awesomeness of humans. I figure, we may have invented cars, but if we can’t cure cancer, who’s to say that we’re any smarter than ants? As far as we know, ants could have their own cars and could be far more advanced than we are. Just because we define brain activity one way doesn’t mean that ants don’t have enough of the stuff to invent tiny little ant cars.
Speaking of which, if Something, with a capital S, has, like, a database of all the stuff that has ever happened in the history of every species in the world, and if tiny ant cars do exist, could you maybe give me a sign? Nothing leaves a bigger mark on the world than being the person to discover ant cars, and if you could help me do that, I’d owe you big time.
In other news, I am officially cancer-free.
Ha, funny joke, right?
In real news, I elicited a two-syllable damn on the bus last week. That’s right, Augustus Waters. You’ve been replaced. By a sixteen-year-old kid who was both horny and near-sighted enough to believe that my nearly fleshless body merited a “day-um.” Ahh, teenage boys. If there’s anything on the universal database you have access to that would help me to decode the actions of teenage boys, I would find it incredibly helpful. Denise the Royal Dumbass thinks that looking at other boys like that would be a good sign that I am headed in the right direction, so I guess I should get on that.
In even other news, I am now, after two sessions, 97.8% sure that Denise got her degree in psychology from Tri-C: Community Clown College.
So, that’s me for now. How about you? How is Gus coping? I’d love to hear your thoughts.
Isaac gives his regards (he’s sitting next to me; we’re watching V for Vendetta. I still think it’s bad).
Like (Denise says that the word “love” will only allow me to keep myself attached to you. Denise is psychotic),
Hazel Grace Lancaster