I scan State Street for the closest parking spot, tell Moxie I’ll be right back, and scale a giant snow bank to get to the sidewalk. I smell the scents of toasting paninis and rich, dark coffee, mingling with that of the melting snow.
The heft of the door slows me down but cannot stop me, and I’m hardly in the door before I see a familiar face. Mike has come in from his office next door on his way to the bank. He’ll check-in on my health, and then make some brief but enjoyable conversation about my dating life or pop culture or Windsor politics.
Making my way to the register amongst the Red Sox posters and baseball paraphernalia, I’m always happy to see Karen, the owner, buzzing about behind the counter. She looks up distractedly, but brightens with a familiar smile when she recognizes me.
“Hi, Kerry! How are you?” she asks.
Honestly? If I were being utterly frank, I’d tell her that I feel like a bump on a log. That this is the first time I’ve left my house since my chemo infusion two days ago. I’d bitch that, even if I had the energy to move, I’m often afraid to travel too far from the Throne Room. Because I’m Colon Cancer royalty. I cried three times this morning before breakfast, and last week, I signed the revised version of my last will and testament. Though I’m smiling now because I’m genuinely happy to be here, out of the house and ready for a treat, things suck a lot of the time.
What I actually tell her is that I’m “hanging in there.” It’s my go-to answer. It’s true, but not too depressing for the average bear. I offer a few extra details to her because she is one who works to keep track of my infusions, breaks, and surgeries. But I keep the hard stuff to a minimum because it doesn’t help either of us to dwell on the crap.
She asks if I’m still on the med that causes cold sensitivity before she decides if I’m there to get my chai latte hot or iced. A morning cup should always be hot, so I tell her that, even though I’m okay with cold these days. She adds 2% milk (gone are the days when she has to ask if it’s this or skim) to a large cup (she hasn’t let me order a small since my diagnosis), then asks, “Just nutmeg, right?”
We update each other about our sons – hers in his second year of college, and my two in the throes of their junior high and high school basketball seasons. There is almost always a Yellow Jacket painted on the shop window because Windsor school spirit abounds here. I wonder if it would it be weird if I asked her to paint the school mascot in an infusion chair, getting a dose of chemo…
We pause our conversation while the steamer wand gets my drink piping hot. She makes sure that the lid is put on tight and the opening is taped up. Grabbing the cup, I turn and head toward the door, savoring my first sip of creamy spicy tea. I try not to reveal in my face just how eager I am to get back home or how hard it was to come out in the first place.
This field trip to Boston Dreams is a miracle. A teeny tiny miracle. While the chai warms my body, the familiar faces and voices warm my heart. Having a place to go where I’m known reminds me that I’m still alive. It gives me the opportunity to dip my toes back into the real world in between moments of recovery and self-pity.
At the door, I stop in my tracks as I remember one very important thing. I pivot and walk back toward the counter, holding out my hand. I don’t have to say a word. Karen reaches under the counter and places a doggie treat into my palm. She sends Moxie her love.