So all week I’m wondering – when’s the best time to tell your date you have cancer? Definitely after you order – maybe during appetizers – do you let him finish his entrée? After cocktails. Yes, definitely after some cocktails.
All I can think is that in a couple of years he’ll be sitting at a dinner party and someone will be telling a story about “the worst date ever” and he’ll be like – “no, no – I’ve got a story!”
I met him May 21st – the day after I found out I had ‘the big C’, at my friend Mike’s annual Opening Day of Polo Season Picnic. Mike doesn’t play polo, we don’t know anyone who plays polo, but he’s a chef and he likes to theme his events. It was also “The Day of the Rapture.” The irony was not lost on me.
I had spent a sleepless night on my friend’s couch – surrounded by baby toys and fear.
Being around people helped – nothing they said did. That morning I got up and put on a white dress, pulled my hair in a pony tail and drove to Will Roger’s State Park because, one – I had rsvp’d. Two – Mike’s an excellent chef, and three – what the hell else was I gonna do? I just found out I had breast cancer! WTF?! Nothing I could do wasn’t going to feel surreal – why not be eating grilled tenderloin and farmer’s market salads under giant eucalyptus trees while ponies played polo? And – there would probably be pie.
So there I was pointing out to everyone at the linen covered picnic tables the fact that clearly, none of us had been raptured – and there he was – across the table, a couple seats up: adorable. No ring. And smiling. At me.
So I ask him, “Why is it that Jesus didn’t want you? What did you do?” He looks for a second like he is considering answering me honestly – his blue eyes amused, then thoughtful… and I am confused or maybe stunned. The last thing I expected to come across – on ‘picnic/rapture/just found out I had cancer’ day was an adorable, eligible single man.
After the polo match – I convince him to join us at a friend’s wine tasting that most of the group will be attending the next day.
I’m still in a little bit of a state of shock – and by the time he gets to there I’ve eaten my way through the cheese and charcuterie display and tasted all the wines. Twice. Maybe three times. He offers to drive me home we end up at Westside Tavern eating burgers, drinking wine and shutting the place down on a Sunday night. He is smart, adorable, and easy to be with in a way I stopped thinking was possible after one too many bad match.com dates.
The next day he emails me with the offer, “Would love to take you out – more of a proper date. One with a corsage, some sort boating or horse carriage ride and fondue.”
God he gives good email. Even his punctuation is good. I respond with equally witty replies.
There is no way my week couldn’t be going better – except for the cancer thing –and doing all the stuff you do when you find out you have cancer. I call my agents and tell them I have to take “a cancercation.” I go to the Tao of Wellness for acupuncture and start drinking copious amounts tea that looks and tastes like it was made from stuff scraped up off of a forest floor. I realize that stuffing myself self with delicious food is a really poor choice for a body that needs to be fighting cancer and decide instead to freak out and eat nothing but organic, sugar free, gluten free dairy free, whole foods. I get support from close friends – don’t tell anyone else, – it’s cancer and there’s no way to gracefully insert that into casual conversation. I tell a few people inappropriately. Because.
I’ve decided to move back to the East Coast for radiation and possibly chemo following my surgery which is scheduled for the following week so I’m busy giving everything away and packing everything else in my apartment into large plastic bins. I don’t know when I’m leaving and I don’t know when I’ll be back – another reason I should probably tell my date.
That Friday night we are sitting in a tiny romantic Trattoria in a table too close to the restrooms and we’re almost done with our entrees by the time I tell him.
“I know,” he says. He knows – how could he know?
“You told me last week.”
I told him last week? Now – I remember having the thought that it wasn’t fair not to tell him – when we were safe in his shiny warm Lexus flying down the empty freeway late Sunday night – I also remember a burgers and cheese and wine. A lot a lot of wine.
“You don’t joke about something like that.” He says, “everyone’s got their stuff. I’m in the middle of a divorce.”
He takes my hand and from the restaurant we walk around the block.
The sprinklers are going off all over the sweet Larchmont neighborhood and he’s careful to guide me around the sidewalk puddles and spray.
When he drops me off at my door he gives me the sweetest kiss. I breathe him in and touch the back of his short hair. I cannot believe my good fortune.
We both cancel our Saturday plans and have a next day date.
I bring sushi to the barren landscape of his apartment. His ex has taken most of the furniture. It’s empty and echoes. On the couch we make out like teenagers and don’t watch Star Wars.
Then everything starts to happen in a cancer avalanche – my mother arrives, more doctor’s appointments, more packing. Memorial day is Monday, the lumpectomy the next day, and then the day after that – my birthday.
But all that week – the sweetest, funniest, emails. I don’t mention the “C” word, but he knows, I know. And I know he knows – and he’s still there, and the fact he agrees to drive out clear on the other side of Los Angeles to celebrate Memorial Day in my friend’s tiny apartment with my mother their 9 month old twins is too good to believe in. He helps me grill on the tiny porch – we are a team – responsible for perfectly cooked chicken.
He comes to my incredibly awkward impromptu birthday party and brings me a Kate Spade scarf – from the Kate Spade store, wearing whimsical purple polka dot socks under his expensive business suit.
I think I might be a little in love.
Part II – Next Week