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LIKE A BULLET IN THE BACK

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LIKE A BULLET IN THE BACK

Cindy Maddera

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The year Chris and I moved to Kansas City, Florence+The Machine's Dog Days had just been released and was playing on the radio all the time. We'd be driving around the city, pointing at all of the things, and that song would start playing. Chris and I would look at each other with the stupidest grins. I'd turn up the volume so we could feel the music at a molecular level and we'd car dance like crazy people. Happiness had hit us like a train on a track. Good god, we were so stupid happy. We were enamored with this new city and with this new life. We were doing the things we said we'd do "some day". "Some day" was here and now. We had a house with a fenced in back yard. We lived in a neighborhood that contained good grocery stores, cafes, and shops all with in a few miles of home. I had (have) a job I loved. Chris was getting to a place where he felt like he could write. We were together and life was grand. I do recognize that I may have been happier than Chris. I know that he was still struggling with insecurities. We had opposite upbringings. I was raised by people who told me I could be and do anything while he was raised by people who said that you could be nothing, be nothing worthwhile. Those are hard insecurities to shake, but I think Chris was finally in a mindset where he believed in himself. Or was beginning to believe in himself. Or at least believed me when I'd tell him how awesome he was. I remember driving to work early one morning soon after we'd received the final diagnosis of "here's the number for hospice". I had been up half the night fretting over Chris and trying to manage his pain. I knew that I'd only be able to spend a few hours at work, but I thought I'd go in anyway and try to do something. It was still early enough in the morning that the streets were fairly deserted. The sun wasn't even really up yet. Dog Days came on the radio as I drove up Troost and I promptly burst into tears. I no longer wanted to feel that song on a molecular level. I didn't want to be reminded that just a few months earlier we'd been car dancing and laughing to that song. I didn't want to think about how it had suddenly turned out that the dog days were not over. In fact, the dog days were just beginning. How foolish was I to think that all the years we struggled in OK, losing J, living with Chris's mom, those were the dog days. Because I can assure you that even when we had very little privacy living in a house of "stinky fish" we still found something to laugh about (probably stinky fish). It was almost as if I could hear the gods laughing and pointing. "Ha! You thought those were the dog days. I'll show you dog days." It made me sad and angry all at the same time that I didn't see it earlier.

Cut to the now. That song came on one morning a few weeks ago while I was doing my morning microscopy maintenance. Of course I've heard it numerous times in the last three years. But on that day, I let the words sink its teeth in a little deeper. I smiled to myself now because happiness had hit me like a bullet in the back. I mean, that's what it felt like (feels like). I find myself in a different place of stupid happy. The surprise of it often hits me in a way not unlike Ally McBeal's daydreams of being struck in the chest with hundreds of Cupid's arrows. Michael and I talked about dinning room furniture and fine china as we travelled back and forth between his apartment and a storage unit. He said that maybe we'd eat off of fancy china when we hosted our first Thanksgiving. "Then we'd really have something to be thankful for." I started crying a this. I remembered that Thanksgiving that Chris and I hosted in our house. That Thanksgiving just before it all fell apart. Michael felt bad that he'd dredged up those memories, but I disagreed. I never considered having that again, having that joy again. And it's still hard for me to admit out loud that I am happy or deserving of any of this. But I disagree with Florence about needing to leave all the love and longing behind in order to survive. Longing maybe, but not love. It's that love that has made it possible to move past the dog days. It's that love that has made is possible to survive.

The dog days come and go. It's the love that always remains.