Written by

Study Break — Onto the Dishes


Way back when, when Alan first got diagnosed, he paid a visit to the hospital’s social worker, Holly. I asked him how it went when he came back, and he told me the Holly story. Holly had immigrated from China back in the 80’s and was barely in the U.S. for a month when a car hit her and took off. The car hit her so hard that it caused her to lose vision in both eyes. But she persevered. Determined to devote her life to helping others in the face of trauma, she went to a local community college, learned English and became a hospital social worker.

Alan should never have told me this story. Because it was moving. It moved me so much that I was determined to help Alan as much as Holly had helped the many others who came to see her.

She provided him with loads of info, but most of all, Holly stressed the importance of him eating healthy, nutritious meals. She asked if he had anyone to prepare them for him since he would most likely be unable to cook for himself. I told him I could do it. I would cook the freshest, the most organic meals imaginable. I would wake early on Sundays and ride my bicycle to the farmer’s market to pick out the best fruits and vegetables. I would mix in flax seed (collected with my own two hands) with the steel cut oatmeal I’d prepare him for breakfast. And I would squeeze lemons, oranges, tangerines, grapefruits — I’d squeeze them all! — so he could have fresh juice.

I meant well. I wanted to cure him with a beta carotene, antioxidant overload. This good intention lasted for about a week before I realized I needed to start studying for the GMAT. And although I probably cannot help you with your GMAT data sufficiency questions, I can offer you one piece of advice: if you are going to try and take care of a cancer-battling loved one, whatever you do, do not plan to also study and take the GMAT.

What will happen if you try is that your house will fall into shambles and will begin smelling like things you have never smelled before. They will not be pleasant smells, not at all like fields of posies. No. The smells will at first be so bad that you will convince yourself that the bad stench is coming from outside, that it could not possibly be from the Jack in the Box bag that has been under the table for a month now. You will start burning candles frequently, during every minute of every day. You will hurry You will run to light a fresh candle whenever a candle is about to go out so you will not for one moment be unprotected from the candle’s thick masking scent. You will grow so accustomed to the smell of the candle and the smell of your hose that you will think the candles’ scent is called Luscious Lavender-y Mold.

Dirty dishes left in the sink will grow arms and legs and then someone will suggest that maybe the dishes should just be thrown out all together. But because you won’t have time to think about such a possibility, because you are so desperately trying to solve GMAT practice problems better and faster, you will suggest instead that dinner should be eaten out that night. And every night after that. When you are not eating dinner out, your beloved will go to the store and buy a family-sized box of Pizza Pockets and Oreos and will subsist on these because he is too lethargic and otherwise pukey feeling to make anything else. This will cause you to feel emotional distress in the form of guilt.

It was this guilt this evening that led me to do the poor man a favor and do the dishes. The act of running water over the stagnant lot shifted a graveyard of small, tiny animal carcasses in the sink and a terrifying stench arose. I have never actually smelled a mummy before, but I imagine this smell would smell sort of like a mummy if you opened his tomb and released his ancient odors through cutting a small hole in his bandages. I had wondered what Alan used the dishes for if he was only eating Oreos and pizza pockets, and from the remnants stuck to the plates, it looked like he had been eating Velveeta, extra curdly cottage cheese and thick forests of lichen.

Holly would be so dissapointed in me.

Last modified: January 10, 2019