A few days ago I ran into an old roommate. He rented one of the spare bedrooms from me for several years before he went on his way. He was an older fellow, perhaps in his mid 60s and one who had a predictable daily routine that he rarely strayed from. Every morning, except Tuesdays where he’d take out the trash, he’d heat up his days-old coffee and then sit outside for a cigarette. When he was down to his last puff he’d fire up his white dodge then head out to work.
At around 6 PM he’d quietly enter the house in a manner that seemed as if he were sneaking in then head straight to his room. By 6:15, he was in the kitchen dressed in black sweat pants and a old stained t-shirt — a cigarette hung off his lower lip as he unwrapped his frozen dinner. While the microwave timer counted down from 6 or so minutes he’d slip on his shoes and step outside to fire up that cigarette. About mid-way through, the cigarette rested on an ashtray while he returned to the kitchen to stir his meal before putting it back in for another round of heating. When he had taken in that last drag and pushed it out from his lungs, he’d then take his meal to his room and then close the door.
This was the roommate as I remembered him.
As we conjured up small talk I couldn’t help but notice a slight weight gain in his face. My initial impression was that he must be eating better as he looked fuller and healthier. Regretfully, I couldn’t have been further from the truth.
When I asked him how he was doing – thoroughly expecting him to reply with common small talk responses, he instead averted his eyes and stared at the ground. It was then I sensed something wasn’t quite right. With slight tremble to his voice he told me he had leukemia.
I was speechless.
There was an uncomfortable eerie silence that hung over us which seemed to last for an eternity. He went on to tell me about his white cell blood count and how his was extraordinarily high. I listened intently and with grief in my heart. He would begin chemotherapy in a couple of weeks.
As we parted I watched as he walked through the great halls and disappeared around the corner. I was certain that would be the last time I’d see him.