Friday, March 2, 2012

Cancer Man: Margie

I can't say I liked Margie at first. Sometimes people click with you and sometimes they don't. Margie and I didn't click, but I tried. I'm still trying. I think she's trying too.

The path to Margie's house was scarcely a road, it was a paved golf-cart trail; some asshole land development planner's idea of a joke. They'd wedged the only way to get to Margie's house in between a tree gnarled and rocky hill and a steep drop into a muddy creek.

The shoulder on either side was negligible.

Over the phone Margie promised getting to her house wouldn't be hard. It was easy to find. "It's the most rundown one in the neighborhood. It's the least expensive."

From her voice, I didn't take that as modesty or humility, but a kind of vicious contempt. She hated her neighbors because they had more and she hated what she had because it was less. Her irrational envy spoke to mine and the two did not get along.

I didn't like the sound of her voice either. It was coarse and thick with phlegm. I thought I could hear her smoking as we discussed the details of the trip. She sounded suspicious and a little angry, though I couldn't tell what for. By the time we hung up the phone, I was already hoping Margie was just a one-time passenger.

Our rough start only got worse. The directions I'd been given to pick her up were dodgy at best. My contact with the service had said Charleston, an easy transport, but it turned out to be Cross Lanes which made it a bit out of my way.

Margie's directions were confusing and vague. She wasn't sure about her right from her left.

She apologized. She just didn't give good directions.

"It's no problem," I told her. "I'll get them online."

But... technology when given the chance will betray you and Yahoo maps stuck the knife in. They sent me all over the place and so I called from the only landmark Margie had mentioned I could find and asked her to guide me in.

Three phone calls and almost half an hour later, the burly, plainly disfigured women was standing on the slimy steps to her obscure and unimpressive house yelling at me. She was righteously angry and in the grimy light of the rainy day, resembled not so much a person with a deadly disease, but a storybook troll; all wild hair and sickly gray.

Because I couldn't get there, she'd missed her appointment, an intake meeting with the doctor's staff to do paperwork. It was kind of miserable, but at least she hadn't missed medicine.

I tried to tell her that, but she wasn't listening. Instead, she lit into me about not being able to follow directions.

I told her, "You said housing complex. There are nothing but housing complexes over here."

"I told you there was a gate."

"You told me it was busted and no longer there. The church you said to look for is Methodist, not Baptist."

She sneered. What was the difference?

I had no idea, except that if you're following directions, if someone tells you to turn at the McDonalds and it should be the Burger King, odds are you're not going to even look at the Burger King unless you never find a McDonalds, which is more or less how I figured out what she meant.

I never saw the church she mentioned and guessed she meant another one, but by the time I'd arrived, I'd been driving around for almost an hour. I was flustered and annoyed. I'd taken time out of my day to do this. I felt poorly used, indignant then suddenly embarrassed.

"I'm sorry about this," I said. "Call them and reschedule as soon as you can. I know how to get here now. It won't be a problem again. We'll take care of you."

What other choice did she have?

Grumbling and glaring at me, she hobbled back up the steps, while I gingerly tried to back out and up the squirming wormy road in my still new car.

I screamed and cursed the entire way, promised retribution to no one in particular if I dumped the car in the creek. I didn't. Somehow, I didn't.

On the drive back home, I felt sick about what happened. I felt sick about screwing up the assignment and felt just as bad about getting testy with Margie. She was profoundly ill, frightened and nervous about having to step out of what she was comfortable with to ask a stranger for help. She'd invested some hope in me and it wasn't like she had a lot of that banked.

I blew it. I really did. I didn't prepare enough in advance. I didn't double check. I waited too long to call and then got mad when she didn't thank me for showing up too late to get her to where she needed to go.

As close to a prayer as I get these days, with my hands on the steering wheel, I asked if I could fix this.

"Let me get it right next time."

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