Welcome to the Sunshine State

No one in this infusion clinic looks especially well. What are they infusing them with, I wonder. Probably not orange juice and sunshine. Probably something I can’t pronounce that only comes in needles the relative size and shape of a roofing nail. No one looks especially excited to be here and I can probably guess why. I’m not much of a fan of roofing nails either.

The guy in the corner is past middle age, but not quite AARP-ready. He’s wearing a ratty red tank top that shows off the mom/dad heart tattoo on his sagging bicep. He leans his head on his wife’s shoulder, occasional grimaces of pain rippling across his face. I wonder what’s wrong, but I don’t really want to know. I don’t want to confront that kind of anguish in a wordy diagnosis. Hurt is descriptive enough, sometimes.

The nurse calls his name and he rises to unsteady feet with the help of a walker. Cold, grey eyes follow the nurse’s finger as she points the way to a back room. I watch him pass the reception desk and hope that when he gets back there they give him a juicebox and a massage instead of his daily dose of poison-via-needle.

Moments after he passes, his wife and another lady in the waiting room begin a conversation.

“He’s just in so much pain,” the wife states with defeated acceptance. “He’s ready to go.”

The woman next to her, who has the glazed luster of a donut that’s sat out too long, nods sagely. “When you know it’s time to go, it shows. And he’s showing.”

I think back to the night before, when I drove down the wide, empty Florida boulevards like a Saudi Prince surveying my domain. When I pulled up to Fort Meyers Beach just as the sun hit the horizon. When I walked out to the end of the pier where a trio of teenagers leaped off the edge right next to a “Don’t Jump!” sign. When I performed a surfer change in the backseat of my rental car so I could slip into the salty hot tub that is the Gulf of Mexico while the clouds burned above me and the calypso drums sang loud in a nearby beach bar.

Life is full of dichotomies, but some are starker than others. There is cruelness and there is kindness in every moment. Take a moment to savor the kindness.

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