About the same time Ryan discovered her breast cancer, I ordered an iPhone 5.
Technology is like a pet dog. It ages at a rate exponential to humans. But you never think about that when you buy one. It’s just, How cute! So adorable! Mom, can I have one? You love it to death for years. Then when you least expect, it dies. My moment came in a movie theater two months ago. Bad films annoy me and depressing films are just that. This movie, being a bit both, did not offer me an ideal cinematic experience. So every few minutes I’d open my phone and check the time or send a text. Until suddenly the screen went white. I pressed every button twice, but to no avail. Nothing glowed back up at me. As a millennial, its natural to assume I would be technologically proficient, savvy even. But I only know one troubleshooting method. So far it had been foolproof: turn the device off, wait 5 minutes, maybe 15, even a day, turn it back on.
I guess that theory’s out the door.
Ryan’s full name is Ryan Taylor. She’s my best friend, Wynne’s, mom. To clear the air Ryan was named after her father. And to be perfectly honest “best friend” is now a default term for Wynne and my relationship. When Ryan messaged me on Facebook last week asking how I fared Hurricane Sandy, I wondered about Wynne. The iPhone 5 was backordered for two months. Wynne had deleted her Facebook prior to that. I guess we could’ve spoken via Gmail, but Wynne and I have never been the emailing type.
I didn’t want Ryan to gauge how long Wynne and I hadn’t spoken, so instead I asked about her Facebook profile picture. I’d never seen Ryan without long hair. In the photo, it had been chopped off and shaved in the back like a young boy’s.
To my inquiries Ryan replied, “I don’t know if you knew that I was diagnosed with breast cancer and had a bilateral mastectomy in early September. I started chemo a couple of weeks ago thus the haircut. My hair is falling like leaves.”
Ryan said not to worry and that she’d be okay. But “okay” in her case means that in order to survive surgeons removed both of her breasts. As if that wasn’t enough, her treatment requires three more rounds of chemo and 35 radiation treatments.
The day Ryan told me all this, my iPhone 5 arrived. In fact I was reading her message from my new sleek glowing screen. I feel silly now saying it, but for so long that glow was all I wanted. A responsive phone. Ryan, breastless, reminds me there are much more important things. I’ve found myself wondering what cup size is she. If there’s a special kind of bra the doctors give you. What will she wear this summer at the beach house on Kiawah Island? Wynne, I know will be in a onsie. Probably that orange, black, and yellow one I found in her dresser once. Wynne always invited me to the beach house but for some reason I could never go. She’d come back so tan I figured she and Ryan must’ve just sipped cold beers and sunlight.
The last time I saw either of them, we were all together in their kitchen, finishing Ryan’s homemade chocolate-chip cookies and rubbing Stanley, their Ragdoll cat. His hair gets everywhere, so they keep a lint roller at arms reach. Wynne wore her frizzy curls down that day, pulled up on one side by a single bobby pin. My hair was braided in single twists all over. Ryan’s was tied in the usual low bun I’ve come to know. She’s naturally a brunette like Wynne, but her blonde dye job fits her better. Makes her young.
In our messages Ryan signs out with, “Love you” and I with “xoxo.” It’s so easy to care about things. Especially those without a lick of human blood pumping through them. And that’s fine I guess. Give your phone and your iPad and computer all the attention you believe they deserve, but make sure they don’t make you happy.
What I mean is: Feel what we felt in Ryan’s kitchen. The cookies done, we blasted music so loud Stanley dashed out of my arms and into the living room. And we danced in our socks on the glossed wooden floor even though we’d inevitably fall. Which we did. Even then, the cringing pain came not from out butt bones, but our guts. For we laughed and laughed until I gasped for breath and Wynne cried and Stanley slinked back into the kitchen suspicious of our joy.