The 13th Step: Intro


Two days before Halloween I’m lying in bed at 3pm (I’ve started waking up, eating, and crawling back into bed) despairing about how I have no friends. Which is sort of true. I moved out of New York for a year and when I came back, I immediately incarcerated myself in the hospital to undergo IV chemo. By the time I got out, two and a half weeks later—weaker, sicker, and with fewer hairs—I couldn’t leave my apartment to walk around my neighborhood without my mom in tow just in case. Then there was the series of surgeries, after which I was even weaker from being home- and hospital-bound for so long. Then add to that the dehydration from being colonless, which prevented me from taking the subway by myself for fear of fainting. And eventually people kind of forget about you. Especially when you consider that I reemerged briefly and had a coming out of sorts before my back crapped out on me. So one possibility is that my friends are insensitive assholes who don’t care about me. And the more likely one is they just don’t know. It’s easy to get lost in New York—urban isolation. When people don’t see you for a while they assume you are with other people—distracted, overextended, and self-absorbed like all able-bodied New Yorkers. It isn’t exactly like I’ve reached out. In general, I’m not so great at keeping in touch. Even worse when I assume I’m nothing but a burden.

This seems extreme, though. Not only do I sit at home alone on weekends. But I don’t even have plans on the holidays. Is this thirty? Should I give up now? And then it occurs to me: I could just text my friends and see what they are up to. I guess I feel dumb tagging along, instead of inviting them. I have nothing to invite them to. I am never included anymore, not even on anyone’s radar. Announcement: Genie is sad and lonely and has nothing to do on a Friday night that is also Halloween.

I think about the people who have been good to me while I’ve been sick, those who have gone out of their way: Emily and Allister come to mind. By sheer happenstance, Emily was the first I told about my deteriorating back. Weeks later she really came through when I frantically canceled on EFB and her the night before we were supposed to go camping. Even though I had texted EFB, not her, she contacted me directly to say if I couldn’t make it because I was drowning in work, she understood, but if I couldn’t figure out how to carry my stuff with my broken back, she’d help. The next morning, Emily showed up at my place bright and early, without having gone to sleep after being out all night stripping (she’s living the NYC dream: daytime student, nighttime stripper). She arranged for us to travel in a way that wouldn’t involve climbing up and down stairs and helped me lug my many pounds worth of pillows in a granny cart (I’m living the crippled dream). And then there’s Allister, my old standby. When I was still at home recovering from surgery number one, he came over and brought me lunch, unsolicited. I showed him my bag of shit while we were eating. Told him I was consuming salt pills and potato chips to raise my blood pressure and was afraid that someday some guy would eat me out and feel like he was gargling salt water or had just done a backflip in the ocean. He reciprocated with a gross story about a comedian who ate lots of salt and sampled his semen everyday and didn’t realize how salty it had become because he was so desensitized from all the salt. Allister knows how to be there when he needs to be. FRIENDS!

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