Articles and thoughts by Peter Holslin

Trouble in Paradise

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Note: I just found this essay sitting around in my documents folder. I wrote it a couple years ago, or maybe a year ago. I don’t even remember writing it. I think I just sat down one day and banged it out. I was going to submit it to VAMP in San Diego but I never did, I think maybe it’s because it was right around the time I moved to L.A. Here it is again for your reading pleasure.

I went to visit my dad in Albuquerque recently. I flew out from San Diego, and my dad picked me up at the airport. He drove me to his house on the outskirts of town and showed me around. Finally, in the bathroom, he took off his T-shirt and showed me the scar.

In the area where a plump, healthy man-boob should be, there was nothing. The right side of his chest was completely flat, and it was cut across with a long, freakishly winding line sewn together with medical string. It looked like something out of a sci-fi novel. He looked like a mutant. It actually looked kind of awesome.

My dad was recently diagnosed with Stage IIA breast cancer. It wasn’t a threatening cancer, apparently, just a small bump. But it was enough to scare the shit out of my dad. When he called me to break the news, I thought he was laughing when he told me.

“I have—breast cancer!”

But he was actually crying. This was the second time I’d witnessed my father cry. The first time was just before his mom died over a decade ago—of cancer.

A week after my dad got his diagnosis, he went into surgery to have the cancerous growth removed. The doctors took everything; they didn’t even leave him a nipple. The whole procedure seemed really normal to me. The surgery went off without a hitch. The doctors had a solid plan worked out. My dad had even been assigned a nurse whose job it was specifically to help him cope with the experience of having breast cancer.

I wanted to be concerned, I really did. But even more, I just wanted to not think about what was happening. I wanted to proceed through my life without an interruption. I didn’t tell anybody what was happening. That’s how I coped. I sent this experience off to a deep recess in my brain and focused on my work.

I didn’t know what to expect when I went to Albuquerque. I figured things would be more emotional, more sad. I figured there would be tears. But more than anything, being in Albuquerque was just horribly boring. My dad lives on the outskirts of town, in a cavernous white house in a winding suburb full of cavernous white houses. I didn’t have access to a car, and it took fifteen minutes to walk to the nearest piece of civilization. And that was a Costco.

All day, the sun beat down hard against the pavement. I would go on walks, plugging my iPhone into my ears and listening to heavy metal at top volume. The heat weighed hard against my back and shoulders. It drank up my energy, and as I walked around aimlessly I soaked in the blistering doom of a band called Pallbearer. The guitars were thick and heavy, and they crawled along at a regal pace. It was just enough to bring my dormant sadness to a simmer.

Back home, I sat in a La-Z-Boy in the living room, watching TV. The chair was incredibly soft and plush, really comfy. But after a while, it started to hurt, sitting in that chair. I could feel the metal mechanisms of the recliner poking into my back. I wanted to go back outside, but the world had sucked out my energy.

That’s cancer to me. Being stuck in a really comfy chair, with nothing to do. Dwindled options, and nowhere to go.


Written by Peter Holslin

July 29, 2015 at 4:51 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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