Pam (also, fuck cancer)

A girl I knew in school died yesterday.

She only started talking about the cancer a few months ago.

Went into chemo a couple months ago.

A few weeks ago, she wrote that she had finished her course of treatment and her doctor was very optimistic.

Two weeks ago, she posted requests for prayers.

A week ago, more prayer requests. This time, from the hospital.

Finally her page went quiet except from posts from friends, calling for prayers.

Then yesterday, the condolences started.

More prayers. So many prayers. For her soul. For her brand-new baby. For her three slightly, but only slightly, older children.

I do pray. Usually to say thanks. I’ve spent years asking for “things” that rarely came to pass. So, I just say thank you.

Today, I will say thank-you for my very brief but very vivid memory of Pam at age 16.

I somehow did not get put into an A.P. History class my sophomore year. No idea how or why. I got stuck in Nick Kapottas’ last-period class. It was filled with the high-school equivalent of “deplorables.”

I could tick off some of their names. And what they did to me. It was horrible. I sat in the first seat in the first row. On a good day, they talked loudly about how fat I was. On most other days, I got gum thrown in my hair.

That was the last time I took a non-A.P. class.

“K.P.” was the wrestling coach. History was not his thing. Hell, teaching was not his thing. He pretty much just tried to sell us hoagies to support the team, and left us to have study halls most days.

The nice thing was, K.P. took a shine to my mom on Parent-Teacher Day. I think they went to dinner a few times.

The nicer thing was, I never had to go to class after that. Not sure what grade I got. Or on what merit any of us could possibly have been judged.

I showed up on occasion. Not sure if K.P. ever gave us tests. I think he had to. And that’s me, all right — happy to show up for the damn test. Probably because I read the textbook in the library instead of going to class.

In any event, Pam was always nice. Never tortured me. Maybe said hello a few times. But she was watching me.

One day she came to me with a bunch of thoughts written down on paper. Said she knew I was a writer. Wondered if maybe I could write a poem for her to give someone.

I did it. She seemed pleased.

I don’t remember much about it. But one line, something about “the pavement shines like silver in the rain,” has always stuck with me. Those were her words. I remember wanting to preserve them as they were.

It was our secret, that we had worked together on that poem. I never knew who she gave it to. Or whether he liked it. Or what made her break away from those stupid people in that class to approach me.

We never really talked after that. But that was OK. I liked it that way. Having a secret ally mixed into that overflowing basket of deplorables was more comforting than I could ever convey.

I was shocked when Pam sent me a friend request on Facebook several years ago. Didn’t know that she remembered me. My heart was happy about that, in a way I can’t explain.

What I loved about her was every post was positive. She went through some shit in her life. But you’d never know it. Lots of pretty selfies with her newest ‘dos. Even when the treatments took her pretty hair, she had the cutest wigs and bandannas. A collection I covet, to be honest.

You could tell she was a loving mom, the “aunt” who helped to raise all the young people in her life, the girl with the mad hair-cutting skills who looked so pretty all the time and donated a whole lot of hair-styling genius to anyone who needed it — at no cost.

I don’t know why God takes the good ones. Pondered that all day, as I do every time someone truly kind is taken from us. Why did she have to suffer so much?

How will that baby boy know that she was my only friend in that stupid history class? Will he be kind like that to someone someday who needs it?

You sure fought hard, Pam. A warrior if I ever saw one. I didn’t know you, but I will always remember you.

Rest in peace, pretty lady. And also, fuck cancer. Seriously.

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