AT GINNY'S house, Mum helped her change into her nightie and we made her as comfortable as we could on the cream-and-rose patterned couch in her lounge.
These were the days of terrible milestones we didn’t see; it was the last time Ginny would choose her clothes. We started to rally the family. Dad got a call and would drive up the next day. Hannah phoned and said she was on a flight the following morning.
And in the early evening I placed the final two calls to my sisters in London. Amber and Claire, just starting their Monday mornings, were appalled. What they really wanted to know couldn’t be answered.
What can we do? What are the treatment options? How long does she have? Should we come home now or wait until our flights at Christmas?
In the end I could only tell them what I thought, "You need to come home now, right now. You can't take the risk."
After the calls: exhaustion. Mum and Ginny quiet, watching TV. There was nothing more to do, nothing else to say, so I headed back to my apartment.
In the dark I stood on my balcony and smoked a joint and looked down on the shadows of Auckland's old train station, on the all-night-lights of the port in the distance, and listened to a city settle in its bones.
The news started to spread. My friend, John, blundered into the epicentre. He called. “Hey chump,” he said.
“We’re heading out for a beer tonight, wanna come?”
“I, I don’t think I can . . .” there was a crack in my voice, raw emotion. I wanted to, needed to share. My friends would know what to do. My friends would make me feel better. John would make me feel better. I tried, “My sister, she’s sick. We just found out - "
But there was panic in John’s voice. He did not know how to deal. On a Monday night, this was not what he’d expected. This was beyond all our established parameters.
This broke all our rules.
He could see where this was going, I was one step away from crying, weeping down the phone to him. Desperately he cut me off. “Buddy, I’ve got another call.”
I was a pariah, outcast, unclean.
I was fucking Milli Vanilli.
Still, I tried, “It’s really bad, I don’t think she’s - "
“I’ve gotta take this, I’ve gotta go.”
John had gone.
He did not know how to deal.
Neither did I.
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