I have cancer. It’s terminal, and I’m about to break the news.
“Don’t forget the Opening tonight,” he says, getting in first.
“I didn’t forget but…look, do you think we could stay in?”
“No way, you can sleep when you’re dead.” He hangs up before I can fill him in. He’ll be mortified when he thinks about it later, but I park my news in the numbing place and get ready.
My suit drapes limply from its hanger, like a future me, reduced by the medical treatments. I have twenty minutes to get ready and thirty to Uber in, so I book the car and turn on the shower. It rains sympathy on my neck, and I think about crying but I don’t have time. Also, you can’t shave a blubbering mush. Instead, I just stand and breathe. Then in the steamed-up mirror I watch myself prepare the body. I do a good job of me. I’m ready for viewing.
An Uber notification forces me to rush my final checks. Out the door and to the car I race in loose laces and try not to trip. As I belt up, I notice the driver is wearing a mask and I realise I forgot mine. I apologise. The driver shrugs and says it’s my funeral. Then she says she can stop at an all-night pharmacy on the way if I want. I feel like a leper, not a cancer victim when I walk in. The pharmacist tells me they’re out of masks, so I ask the Uber driver to continue on and meanwhile, I phone in with an ETA.
He picks up, annoyed that I’m not already there. “Would it kill you to be early just once?” But also, “They won’t let you in without a mask.” I tell him I will try to find one at a convenience store on the way. I do. That’s my one success of the day.
Masked up, I get to the theatre while the bells are still chiming but the door is already closed. He must have gone in without me. I ask at the box office if he left my ticket with them. They say he did, but then they say I’ll have to wait until Interval to enter.
I wonder if he can feel me sitting out here, listening through the wall. This is like a rehearsal for him, a run through of what’s to come. He’ll be cursing me for not making it, but he’ll be distracted by the life in front of him, forgetting me, remembering me, then forgetting me again.
The theatre doors open at Interval and he is the first to emerge. He looks around anxiously, then he frowns when he spots me. “Here you are,” he says. “What a waste of a ticket.” I smile through my mask. I’m happy he didn’t wait, happy he got on with the show. I tell him at least we’ll still get to see the final act together. I don’t tell him what I mean by that. He can work it out later.
“These seats are to die for,” he says.