No doubt about it; Stella Yossarian died a horrible, horrible death.
On the one hand, one way that everyone could look at is was, given that Stella had type 1 diabetes since age 12, and the sort of people she gravitated to…and that gravitated to her often made it difficult if not impossible to treat her disease as she needed when she needed to, it was probably only a matter of time before complications of either extreme would finally consume her completely.
On the other hand, if only she hadn’t been in such a rush to catch the train that she left her glucose emergency kit at her friend Pearl Burke’s house…if only the snack bar on the train had been open…if only the conductor hadn’t taken her for an obnoxious drunk, halting the train just so he could kick her off and in the middle of the woods no less…if only the nearest town wasn’t so far…if only the driver who had stopped while she waited for her sister Candace (aka Cannes) and her boyfriend Clayton Burke to come rescue her hadn’t been a serial rapist instead.
Beh, phooey! Cannes thought as she sat in the chapel of St. Luke’s Seaside Episcopal Church, awaiting the memorial services for her sister to begin. She may as well have been murdered outright, considering what she and Clay had stumbled upon…having arrived just in time to watch Stella have a fatal seizure brought on by too low a glucose level. Far too late for “If only, if only, if only.” Seems every option had its own form of a barricade which served only to mock and taunt rather than protect.
And in any case Stella was gone from this world and no amount of rationalization would change all that.
At least Clay made short work of the psychopath who tried to have his way with Stella. Too late to save her life, but at least he’ll never prey upon another person again At least it didn’t take months for the cops to find her. It was a good thing Stella managed to keep her purse and cell phone with her as she was ejected from the northbound train heading back to Magmaville, and was lucid enough to place the emergency call to Cannes.
That was some small comfort, but not enough. It sickened her that Stella was forced to suffer that low, and no matter how fast Clay could drive, it was too late to save her by the time they found her.
Clay Burke, a 30ish Irish-American with blue eyes, a shaved head and a reddish goatee that gave him a gnomish appearance, turned to Cannes – a 28 year old with jet black dyed hair and brown eyes – as she sat ruminating on these thoughts and asked, “Okay?” Sighing, Cannes could only nod her head. She was too numb for tears at the moment. Clay put his left arm across her shoulders and silently prayed that everyone responsible for Stella’s suffering would end up enduring far, far worse.
That afternoon after memorial services for Stella had concluded, Clay’s mother and Stella’s last employer Lenora Jean Collins-Burke-Haskins, aka Punk Mother, and her 2nd husband Milo Haskins, the ex-frontman of a barely sort of famous industrial punk band (one of many that would be called Smegma) had returned to re-open The Bauhaus Café. Out of respect for Stella’s memory, Punk Mother – who ran The Bauhaus Café since it opened for business in 1987 – closed the business for the duration of Stella’s memorial.
Punk Mother – as many of her closest friends and associates have been calling her since she’d hooked up with Milo – tried her best not to fall apart as she worked alongside one of her remaining employees Kent Neidermeyer – a lanky young man in his 30’s with dark brown curly short hair and hazel eyes. Essentially she was trying to bury herself in the workload inherent in running a coffeehouse/nightclub…a common coping mechanism in the wake of death. Unfortunately, Kent crossed her path as she was carrying in a new shipment of espresso cups to the espresso machine, and bumped into her…causing her to drop all the cups on the linoleum floor in the kitchen area. Several of the cups shattered as they fell, and some of them chipped. That was enough for Punk Mother to snap inside, and a thick blue stream of expletives beginning with “You Asshole!!!” (Often her favorite way to begin an angry rant!) loud enough to drown out any mealymouthed apology were avalanched right at Kent.
Hearing the crash of ceramic on the floor, Milo Haskins, an old punk rock rebel in his early 50’s with jet black spiked hair peppered with lots of grey and white flecks in it, rushed to his wife’s side before she could smack Kent.
“Roight, nooff nae ye lot!!!” Milo shouted in his thick scottish accent. “ ‘Ee there,” He motioned to Kent, who knew immediately that he would be left to clean up the mess of shattered espresso cups and made a hasty retreat to the broom closet. He turned to his wife and firmly grasped her broad black leather clad shoulders, and looking her straight in the eye, addressed her more gently. “Look ‘ere, missuz. Whoy’reyee pooshin yesel say fookin’ ‘aard nae? Les gae oot o’ere. We c’n visit ole’ Gecko an gae feh soom choyneez.”
At that Punk Mother drew a heavy sigh and ran her right hand through her spike hair, which was dyed jet black with purple highlights, as she said, “Oh, alright!”
So they went to visit ole’ Gecko and managed to procure a good half-ounce of some sticky indica buds, indulging in a much needed sample as the three of them sat in his volkswagon van, and began making their way to the Wang Hung Low Chinese Restaurant for the all you can eat lunch buffet. Along the way, they met up with their friend Theodore Churchill (absolutely no relation to Winston Churchill) – aka TeddyBoy. Teddy was a longtime best friend of Milo’s and had played in the same band with Milo. He was the same age as Milo, and wore a pork pie hat over his shaved head and the same style of Mod clothes that he wore back in the 80’s..
“Alroight?” He greeted Milo and Punk Mother.
Punk Mother was silent. She just wanted to go home, toss an entire bottle of glyburide down her throat and bury herself under the covers, but Milo would have none of that. Bad enough that Stella had died against her will after all.
“Eye noo, Deed roof, dat. Ye off t’Wang’s, den?”
The couple nodded, “Aye.”
“Guyd.” Teddy had an equally thick scottish baritone. “Oi’m fookin’ starvin’, me. Prolly ronnen looen th’ gloycemier eendixes wull.” Teddy, it turns out, has been living with type 1 diabetes for most of his life as well…more on that later.
“Eenvoiten ye’sel’, then?”
“Aye, wull b’forey run inter ye bastards!”
So the three of them continued making their way to the Chinese restaurant. Along the way, Milo looked down at the gutter along the curbside and saw what looked like a small dead bat. The three of t hem stopped to examine the rodent’s body. No doubt it was struck by a moving vehicle as it either ascended or descended to a low dive. In either case its furry brown and black body wa flattened, its webbed talons exposed and bloodied at the joints, but its body was still intact and not yet decomposed aside from having been flattened.
The three of them commented on it, and resumed walking toward the restaurant. As they did, TeddyBoy began singing to the tune of the old 70’s country novelty hit, “Dead Skunk in the Middle of The Road.”
“Deed bat at th’ soid o’th curb, deed bat at th’ soid o’th curb…”
“Ay, s’yee goon cuntry onnus nae!”
“Nae, oi fookin’ ‘ate cuntry, me!”
“Tehh, troost ye t’goff opp ‘nole hillbilly ditty!”
“Dahh, pishoff! Oi’ll fookin wull sing whotoy fookin wull wantae, boyo!!”
Upon arrival at The Wang Hung Low reataurant, two familiar faces belonging to one Cannes Yossarian and Clay Burke approached the three.
“Fookin’ ‘ell! Nae gitten’ ‘way froom ye lot!” Teddy exclaimed.
“The diabetic food cop here,” Cannes replied, gesturing to her lover, “ insists I eat something.” It may not sound it, but our scottish friends speak very good engish and can be easily understood if one but just listens very close, as both Cannes and Clay discovered early on.
“Fascists!” Punk Mother grumbled aloud, just to annoy her son Clay. Being American born, she opted not to bother faking any sort of UK dialect.
“I suppose you diabetics…” Clay retorted, referring not only to his mother and to Teddy, but also to Cannes who had been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes only a few years before, “prefer the company of undertakers in deep debt, do you?” There was no trace of any accent outside of the U.S.A. in Clay’s voice, either, although he and his mom had spent a great deal of his childhood in London and various parts of The UK.
“T’chuh!” Punk Mother spat. “Undertakers…Any more goth and I’d have to cremate the lot of you!” And on that note the five of them entered the restaurant and were very soon ushered to a booth.
The buffet at the Wang Hung Low Chinese Restaurant offered a fairly wide variety of southeast asian entrees: Chow mein noodles, fried and steamed rice, Mongolian Beef, Sesame Chicken, Chicken Cashew, Beef Broccoli Stir Fry, mushrooms in green sauce, stir-fried green beans and chilis, eggplant, fried wonton, chicken dumplings, egg foo yung, flame broiled bbq chicken, sweet & sour port, MuShu chicken, fried fish fingers, sushi rolls, pickled ginger, wasabi, green salad, assorted fresh fruit, pickled ginger, egg flower and wonton soup, and chocolate and vanilla ice cream.
From this selection Cannes chose chow mein noodles with a small amount of fried rice sprinkled on top, a huge spoonful of Mongolian Beef, mushrooms, a chicken dumpling, some of the bbq chicken, and a couple of thin slices of pickled ginger. The others took pretty much the same entrees only Clay had some egg foo yung and Milo went for the cashew chicken. Punk Mother had steamed rice in lieu of chow mein noodles under her sesame chicken, Teddy Boy had sweet and sour pork and Mu Shu Chicken atop his chow mein.
As the four of them ate, Clay began to recollect this eating contest held at the very table they were all seated at. The participants at the time were Cannes, Clay, his cousin Pearl Burke, Kent Neidermeyer, and Stella Yossarian. Cannes was concerned about Stella’s participation in this contest, but Stella rebuffed her sister’s protestations. She maintained…
“Just because I have diabetes doesn’t mean that I can’t eat like any other person. I’ve been on insulin therapy half my life, y’know.” Stella’s snarl still rang in Cannes’ ears.
“I guess she just wanted to prove something.” Clay reasoned, effectively bringing Cannes’ attention back to the present at least for the moment. “Anyway, we piled our plates and began eating. You…” he continued, pointing to Cannes, “ backed out a bit too quickly.”
“Yeah, coz I was stuffed.” Cannes replied.
“Yeah, right. You got scared.”
“For her, yeah. That was more food than I would’ve normally gone for!”
Before Clay could argue any further with Cannes, Milo, Punk Mother, and Teddy chorused, “Get on with it!!!”
“Right. So anyway,” Clay resumed the story. “She conceded, Pearl and Kent quit about 5 minutes later. I was ready to puke by the time I threw in the towel. So Stella won her hard earned hollow victory.”
“But she was so sick afterwards,” Cannes chimed in. “We ended up calling 911. The queen mothers (as she referred to her mother Janet and her grandmother Fergie collectively) were pissed off!”
As Cannes continued the tale, her mind flashed to a moment soon after Janet Yossarian had picked up the girls from the hospital, when Fergie “Mum-mum” Johnson hit the roof and yet another heated argument began between mother and grandmother.
Fergie Johnson had a trachyotomy years ago after an accident which killed her husband Jake and left both her legs severely damaged and needing amputations, her throat badly damaged to the point of near suffocation. To everyone’s astonishment she survived, but could only speak through a microphone shaped vocal amplifier, and got around in a wheelchair.
“That foolish girl might as well have blown her brains out with an elephant gun!!! What in God’s name was she thinking?!?”
“Stop it, Mother. She’s suffered enough, and I’ve already told her off for it!!” Janet replied. Janet Yossarian looked like she was born in Andy Warhol’s Factory. Her short-cropped brown hair had flecks of grey & white evenly sprinkled throughout her entire scalped, and she looked like a cross between Edie Sedwick and Mary Woronov.
“Serves her right!!! It’s what she gets for making a pig out of herself like that.”
Being quite full herself from all the excess food made the high volume bickering all the more unbearable for Cannes.
“You’re absolutely no help in this matter, Mum!! All that badgering on your part only gives her more cause to rebel and behave so recklessly like she does!”
“You watch your tone with me, young lady!”
“Oh, stop belittling me for a change! I’m sick and tired of you picking on my daughters all the time!!!”
“I don’t have to stand for this nonsense!!!” Fergie fumed. “Mortimer!!! Mortimer!!!”
Mortimer Johnson, Fergie’s stepson from Jake’s first marriage, was already on his way towards the women, saying, “Is all this shouting really necessary?!?”
Janet to Mortimer: “Look, I’m going for a walk with my younger daughter. CANDACE!!!” Janet sometimes called Cannes by her birthname when she’s irate, even though she had given Cannes her nickname at birth, whether she angry at Cannes or not.
“Look, it’s alright, Janet…we’re leaving.”
As did Janet and Cannes.
“Don’t worry; she’ll probably give herself a heart attack the way she carries on!” Cannes speculated sardonically. By this time Janet had given Cannes an earful on the assumption that she hadn’t read Stella the riot act, only to hear that Cannes had done so only to be told to stand down by her sister. So at this point she could only rant about Fergie’s incessant interference.
“Ooooh, if only we were that lucky!! Dammit I wish there was some way Poppa could’ve taken her with him!!!” Janet was rolling.
Might as well be agreeable, Cannes decided; that woman can be a real pain!. She was beginning to feel another urge to piss coming on. That’s been happening a lot more often lately. “Yeah, the sooner she’s dead and buried, the better for all of us.” It wasn’t that Janet and Fergie disagreed that the eating contest was a bad idea; they were practically on the same page on that subject. It’s that Fergie’s added input amounted to little more than rubbing a dog’s face in its own shit. And Janet sees no point in that at all.
“Bury her?!? I’d just as soon have her cremated and then flush her down the toilet!!! I’m not having any of that nonsense weeping over her. Nothing’s more depressing than being in a roomful of teary-eyed old battle-axes wailing and gabbing on about what a wonderful woman she was. The only wonder-ful thing about her was our wondering why any merciful God would think to foist the likes of her upon anyone…especially us.
“And I don’t want a fridge full of fattening food, either!!” Janet continued, her mind obviously fixated on an imaginary wake for her mother. “After all, I’ve busted my ass over the last year and a half getting my own weight down. How dare anyone sabotage that in the great name of tribute!!”
Cannes didn’t think she could stand it much longer. “Look, Ma, I’m gonna need a pitstop already!”
Janet looked at her daughter quizzically. “I thought you pissed before we left the house?”
“All that shouting doesn’t exactly make it conducive to relieve myself, Ma!” Cannes threw up her hands in exasperation.
Janet gentled down. “Look, I’m sorry, honey. We’ll just stop at the park. But do me a favor, would you. See a doctor.”
“We’ve been through this with Stella before. You’ve been drinking the fish under the table lately and pissing on damn near more trees than the dogs would mark for their territory. I’m sorry if that sounds creepy but you used to brag about how you could retain your fluids better than Stella can.”
“Well, we seem to know already what it might be, so what’s the point?”
“The point is, darling, that only the doctor can legally prescribe any medication should you need it. I don’t want you sharing needles with your sister…or helping yourself to her insulin.”
So Janet and Cannes managed to make it to the public restroom at the Magmaville City Park. There were no drunken perverts loitering around the john, Thank God. As Cannes entered the one-toilet ladies room and closed the door behind her, Janet’s attention was drawn to some very familiar guitar chords being strummed by a young neo-beatnik who was sitting on top of a picnic table. The rhythm, the energy, and chord progression could and did announce some basic mid-70’s New York punk rock. She prayed that the dude was playing Personality Crisis by The New York Dolls.
Stella was 12 years old when she was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. She’d become increasingly thirsty and drank well over a half gallon of fluids of some sort each day and was peeing frequently. The turning point for her came when, on the way to Grampa Jake’s memorial services, the Yossarian family needed to stop at several restrooms and service stations to accommodate Stella. They realized they needed to take Stella to see a doctor as soon as possible. A complete physical and lab test later, Stella’s blood sugar levels were at 600 mg/dl, enough to spill over into her urine. Since her pancreas wasn’t working properly, she was put on insulin therapy.
By the time Jake had passed he’d been living with diabetes for much longer than Fergie had been married to him. One year, while on a sort of 2nd honeymoon, Jake was driving along Highway 1 when he suddenly had a seizure brought on by a sudden severe glucose plummet, and losing control of the steering wheel, wound up in a head on collision with a speeding diesel truck. Jake died instantly. Fergie barely survived. By the time she was released from the hospital, she’d lost her husband, both her legs, and her natural speaking voice. So it is no wonder, then, that Fergie has become extremely paranoid about the way Stella handles her own diabetes management. Unfortunately, Fergie’s knowledge of the disease is at the best very dated.
Cannes clearly remembers the moment she got the news. How could she not? How often does it happen that any patient rejoices at the news of having bipolar disorder?
To explain: there was a male patient in one of the examination rooms weighing approximately 350 lbs, that her physician – one Dr. Clinton F. Stiles – had consulted with first. When the good doctor told him the news he got a very unexpected response. The patient was overjoyed! He jumped off the examination table and jumping for joy shouted, “I’m BiPolar!!! Yeeeaaahooo!!!” Then shaking hands with the stunned physician, he clicked his heels together, shouting elatedly, “Yippee!!! Yahoo!!! I’m BiPolar!!! Bi-Polar, I tell you!!! Yaahahahahaha!!! Whoopee!!! Biii Polaaarrr!!! Whoooooo!! Yeah!!! I’m Bi Polar!!! Whoohooo!!! Biiii Pollllarrrr!!!”
Cannes’ reaction was not has joyous. She left the clinic stunned, numb, and more than a little bit devastated.
She shouldn’t’ve been so surprised, really, having heard her mother air her suspicions not very long beforehand as they walked together one afternoon…to get away from all the drama at home. Still, part of her simply hoped that Dr. Stiles would just tell her to limit her consumption of fluids to 64 oz (which amounts to about 8 glasses per day), and that would ease her bladder troubles. And now that hope was gone.
This was the afternoon of Halloween, 2005. She was 26 years old.
That day was unforgettable to Cannes for another reason; she also had a date for the Halloween Bash being held at The Bauhaus Café with Clay Burke. She was nervous about it, even though they’d been friends since Milo and Punk Mother brought him over to Magmaville after leaving the UK in the wake of Smegma’s breakup. She hadn’t told him about the diagnosis. So far only Stella, Janet, and Richard – Her dad – have been told about it. Fergie and Mortimer would know about it soon enough, and between the two of them all hell would break loose in time. She couldn’t stress about that now.
She’d been head over heels in love with Clay for some time, though, and on the one hand was afraid he’d call off the date in lieu of putting up with yet another diseased person. On the other hand if anything happened to her because of this disease, and he finds himself caught in the middle of that, he’d probably be pissed off at her for making him find out the hard way. She felt herself shoved into a lose-lose situation because of that.
She couldn’t even understand why she was so ambivalent about telling him. After all, he seemed to be the understanding type…despite his badass appearance.
In any case she just wanted to blot the bad news out of her head and enjoy the night…one last party before she got her glyburide prescription filled and begin her treatment, begin enduring the same crap from Fergie as Stella did.
“At least you only need to take pills for it instead of insulin shots…not that it would make much difference in the end.” Stella consoled her.
Cannes was at least a little relieved by that. Dr. Stiles had advised Cannes that once she starts taking the glyburide – a pancreas stimulator usually prescribed for patients with non-insulin dependent diabetes – she would experience some insulin reactions similar to what insulin dependent diabetics typically experience. He described the symptoms of hypoglycemia – shaking, sweating, delirium, irritability, (“Like an earthquake and a volcanic eruption taking place inside your body, really.”) – and how untreated glucose lows can be every bit as deadly as high blood sugar levels. She was advised to carry glucose tablets, hard candies, a cereal bar, even a juice box or cola to tide her over until she could have a real meal.
That evening the sisters were getting ready for the Halloween party. Cannes wore her favorite costume; a Morticia Addams dress. Stella, a fetching young 29 year old woman with brown eyes and wavy dark brown hair that just touched the top of her neck, dressed up in a black cat costume.
“I think you should tell him.” Stella advised her sister in a matter of fact tone as the two of them applied their makeup.
“That’s easy for you to say; you’ve lived with it all but 12 years of your life.”
“Yeah, well don’t assume it was easy for me, being treated like some unclean freak because of it. You’re lucky we’re all adults now. Anyway, I don’t see what the big deal is. You know his family has diabetes as well. Punk Mother, and his Uncle Tom, and I think Milo’s side of his family has it too if I’m not mistaken.”
“See, that’s just it, Stell. Suppose he’s sick of having to deal with it all the time.”
“So am I; so what? That’s just tough shit. Anyway, Milo and Punk Mother are dealing with it, not him.”
“That may be, but he told me once that he hopes the girl he marries won’t have diabetes.”
“I think that’s compassion talking, really, although I’m not so sure he’s not pulling your leg with that. He had a crush on me for awhile before he decided he really likes you. Who knows; he might be secretly attracted to sickos like us!” Then Stella began to laugh as she added, “Hell, he might be really desperate to play Doctor with ya!”
Cannes rolled her eyes and said, “Very funny!”
“Look, I’m sure he knows better than to be paranoid about it being contagious.”
“If it aint contagious, how come so many people we know ended up having it?”
“I dunno, Cannes. All I know is that if it were contagious, Ma and Pa would have it as well. How they both escaped that fate is a mystery. But all that’s besides the point.” Slipping the black cat ears on the top of her head, Stella continued, “He’d respect you a lot more for being honest.
“Anyway, it’s not like you at all, Cannes, to be so insecure about anything…even that’s which is obviously new to ya.” Stella was loving this: for 19 years Cannes had been protecting and policing her along with Mum-mum and the rest of the self appointed diabetes police and now its payback time. She felt a little guilty about the inner gloat, after all she loves and cares for Cannes. But that doesn’t help jealousy or rivalry.
“I’ve never felt so unclean before.”
“Welcome to my world, kiddo.”
The doorbell rang. Jarvis Gonzales, Stella’s “Latin Lovah” as she called him, stood before the front door of The Yossarian “Mansion” with Clay, dressed up as Jack Sparrow from The Pirates of The Caribbean movies. Clay was dressed up like Gomez Addams. Meanwhile, Stella began multitasking on the toilet; taking a piss and her 3rd glucose test of the day.
“I’ll get that.” Cannes started out of the bathroom.
“Cannes…” Stella implored as she waited for the latest numbers to be displayed on her meter. “Seriously…please don’t keep it a secret from him too long.”
The doorbell rang a second time. Jarvis can be so fucking impatient.
“Awright, already!” Cannes headed to the front door.
Stella began humming In The Flat Field by Bauhaus as she read the meter. It read 118. A good number, she thought as she wiped herself off. Stella was particularly excited about tonight. Punk Mother and Milo were fortunate enough to catch one of Bauhaus’ reunion concerts only days ago, and somehow scored themselves a cd copy of their performance that very night, due to some deal that the band had made with the Instant Live company. Although she was more of a Nick Cave fan, she’d’ve gone to see Bauhaus perform live if she could (unfortunately she had some medical debts to pay off and somebody had to mind the café while the owners were away. They couldn’t trust Kent Niedermeyer not to drive away the customers with his control freak tendencies.), and let’s face it often a good quality recording of a live performance can be pretty exciting in a way.
The Bauhaus Café was established in the town of Magmaville in 1987. It was named after one of Punk Mother’s favorite post punk bands…even the business sign had the “Mr. Moonlight” logo that the band had borrowed from the famous college of the same name. Punk Mother felt the name to be appropos given the prevailing climate of the town, often a thick, misty fog engulfed the entire town on a nearly daily basis. And at night, the fog lent an atmosphere similar to the concerts put on by Bauhaus.
The Bauhaus Café was the first business of its kind in Magmaville. Before it was established, there was really no place for underage rebels to congregate. There were only two pubs down the street from where it was located, and because the pubs served alcoholic beverages, that meant no minors were allowed in them.
Besides, the music in the pubs sucked. The closest any of the local bands played to a punk rock number were Talking Heads and Police covers…and they weren’t very good at that, either. So it was no wonder that The Bauhaus Café enjoyed the success that it had achieved; it had filled a huge void that demanded acknowledgement.
At the time Punk Mother and Milo leased the building, the overhead outdoor lamp was flickering like a strobe light, which added to the atmosphere already provided by the prevalent marine layer. All that was needed were several covens of kids dressed up in black leather and eyeliner to match with tastes in music similar to theirs. While the coffeehouse/nightclub attracted all sorts, tourists and locals alike, the punks and goths and other assorted rebels naturally gravitated there. Punk Mother couldn't’ve been happier with the way it worked out.
The couples arrived at the Bauhaus Café. Cannes decided to pass on the buffet – lovingly provided by a new caterer named Dylan (more about him later) – and to just drink mineral water and dance the bad news out of her head.
True to the theme of the venue, the d.j. played lots of music by Bauhaus as well as from the offshoot bands – Dali’s Car, Tones on Tail, Jazz Butcher, Love & Rockets, and Peter Murphy’s solo albums. Punk Mother and Milo wanted this to be a Bauhaus themed Halloween party in homage to the band’s reunion. The two of them had just returned from seeing Bauhaus perform live on the Friday night before. Punk Mother had originally hoped to get the band to include Magmaville on their tour itinerary, unfortunately the band was already scheduled to play somewhere else on Halloween night. She and Milo were fortunate enough to have seen the band live and procure a copy of the live performance they’d seen that very night.
So it was the recording of this performance that was the high point of the party. Cannes was dancing particularly aggressively to the entire set as it played over the loudspeakers. She just wanted to lose herself in the music…to disappear, in fact.
Clay soon needed a piss-up. So Cannes let him go and continued dancing on her own. Without having any proper nourishment, she was clearly setting herself up for a hypoglycemic episode. Soon she started feeling shakey and a bit weak. She made her way off the dance floor, looking for a place to sit down.
By some miracle she bumped into Milo. Milo was familiar enough with the effects of diabetes; between having a best friend – Teddy – with type1diabetes, and being married to a woman with type 2, he could spot a hypoglycemic episode a mile off. He immediately sensed that Cannes was in a bit of trouble with it, assisted her off the dance floor. He then went to the bar to get a cola for her, then went looking for Clay.
Cannes sat with her head in her hands and wondered how in the Hell could she be feeling so out of it when she hadn’t even had a hit off a joint much less a drink of anything other than mineral water.
Clay came out of the restroom and crossed Milo’s path as he was about to bring the drink to Cannes. Seizing the moment he handed the can to Clay and told him “Yer gullfrend naydser droink!.”
“Is she alright?” Clay asked, puzzled.
“Nay, She looks t’be sinkin’ atder mommunt. Soyee getter moovun!”
Still puzzled, Clay took the can of coke to where Cannes sat. She was delirious. Suddenly he understood. “Ya look like you could use a drink.” He said, offering her the can. Forgetting the promise she made to herself, she accepted the drink.
Spying the few sandwich quarters and deli rolls still remaining on the buffet table, he told her, “I’m gonna get something to eat…brb!” He soon returned with a plateful of sandwich quarters, some deli rolls, celery sticks and baby carrots, and about 6 miniature Snickers pieces.
Half a soft drink and some deli rolls later, Cannes felt the oxygen flow back into her brain and the delirium soon left her. But she was puzzled: how did Clay know what to do? How was it that this sugary soft drink, an apparent no-no for diabetics as far as Mum-mum was concerned and often made clear on no uncertain terms, brought her out of this bizarre stupour that came upon her so quickly? And how was it that she even felt delirious when all she had was mineral water?
“Hypoglycemia will do that!” Clay said to her.
“But I have diabetes!!! Dr. Stiles told me the test results this afternoon!” There, she told him.
“You probably danced so hard that you burned off your sugar high! It happens to diabetics; my mom sometimes gets hypoglycemic when she works too hard or forgets to eat.”
Somehow while all these memories were coursing through Cannes mind, she was able to clean her plate. She felt like she was on auto-pilot what with her mind latching onto any tangent it was attracted to while the rest of her focused on what she was doing in the here and now. And looking back, she realized she had a lot to learn about the disease, and had learned a lot that she didn’t really learn from hanging with her sister prior to the diagnosis. It was one thing to live with someone who has the disease, and another to actually live with it.
“Eaten enough?” Clay asked. Clay was on the one hand a diabetes food cop in that he was vigilant about making sure she had plenty to eat. On the other hand, he was also dead set against being overbearing; after all she was a grown woman and should be able to manage her diabetes on her own by this time.
“I might want a bit more, actually.” Cannes replied. Her approach to the all you can eat buffet meal went like this: keep as close to the plate method as possible (1/4 protein, ¼ carbs, the rest of the plate vegetables). Then on the 2nd go round, she’ll have some fruit and a bit of dessert.
“Fruit and dessert? I’ll get some pineapple and a small brownie sundae.”
“Maybe also just a little bit more chow mein and Mongolian Beef, too….just a little bit.”
After lunch Cannes and Clay began to walk home. There’s nothing the two of them enjoyed more than taking long walks together…just the two of them. Usually they could always find something to talk about, joke about, tease each other about, just to make the walk even more enjoyable. And on more than one occasion, Clay would let her walk a few feet ahead of him, and comment on what a great ass she had – “No shit, your ass rules!!” – and then she’d tell him,
“Don’t ever forget that, buddy!” Today though there weren’t many words; just a sad silence.
A jogging couple sprinted past the two of them and as they moved ahead of them the eucalyptus trees seemed to loom over them even more ominously than before. Cannes noticed this and felt that she and Clay had shrunk to miniscule proportions…as tiny as the joggers appeared as they ran ahead of them.
Clay happened to glance down his left side and saw a used glucose test strip on the pavement beside a park bench. Seeing that he realized he didn’t always need to remind Cannes to take care of herself; the reminders surrounded her as surely as they surrounded him. Still, life can be cut short no matter how many precautions are taken, and the revelation made him all the more protective of her.
“How come I’m not crying now?”
Clay snapped out of his trance. “What?”
“Well, this was my sister, after all. Where are my tears?” Cannes seemed deeply disturbed that her eyes had been dry throughout the funeral and that she even had an appetite at all. She cried more uncontrollably over lesser matters, after all.
“My guess is that after she had that seizure you cried yourself out. You were in hysterics for at least 15 minutes!”
“Strange I could forget that considering I’ve got this picture of her dead body stuck in my head.”
With that the two of them continued on their way home, arm in arm, blank staring straight ahead, resuming their shared silence, feeling numb, shell-shocked, empty.