CHAPTER SIX HUNDRED and SIXTY-TWO
Saturday midday— 12:31 p.m.
“Hey,” Tanesha said. She leaned over the bed to shake Jeraine’s shoulder. “You said that you wanted to get up at 12:30.”
“None of that,” Tanesha said. “You know that you’ve had enough sleep. You have to stay on schedule or your head gets off.”
“Feel tired.” Jeraine flopped over onto his back. He stared at the ceiling for a moment. “Actually, I’m okay.”
“How’s your head?” Tanesha asked. “Last night was a late one.”
Jeraine had a concert last night in the ballroom of the Castle. The musical guest was a jazz band that met over the Internet during Covid-19 lockdown. They were big on the social media platforms where they’d met and very popular with the public, in general. The band insisted on piping the music outside of the Castle. The Casino’s team set up speakers on the greenhouses in the Castle driveway. Wearing masks and socially distancing, the bands fans danced and sang along in the parking lot of the 7-11 on Colfax Boulevard.
Jeraine was up with the band long after his designated sleep time so he’d slept in late.
“Actually, I’m okay,” Jeraine said. He sat up and got out of bed. “Excited for Harvest Day. How’s it going?”
He walked across their bedroom to use the restroom.
“It’s fun,” Tanesha said. “I’m having fun, at least.”
“And Sissy?” Jeraine asked from the bathroom.
“Ivan’s got a kind of blood cancer,” Tanesha said. “He doesn’t want to marry Sissy. Just wants to just fade away.”
“Damn,” Jeraine said from the bathroom. “That’s drama.”
“Hmm,” Tanesha said.
Jeraine flushed the toilet.
“I’m going to make your smoothie,” Tanesha said. “I’ll meet you in the kitchen.”
“See you there,” Jeraine said and turned on the shower water.
Tanesha went out to the big house kitchen. She put together Jeraine’s morning smoothie with a little bit of frozen fruit, some spinach, a cup of nut milk, protein powder, and some of his medications for his head.
Dressed in jeans and a long sleeved T-shirt, Jeraine came out with a towel on his head. She set the smoothie in front of him and he drank it down without question.
She gave him a glass of room temperature water. He drank it down.
“I wanted to say something,” Jeraine said.
“What’s up?” Tanesha asked.
“I know that when I came in last night, you were talking to Heather about something more important than your hair,” Jeraine said.
“Oh yea?” Tanesha shrugged. “What do you think you know?”
He grinned at her surly response, and she smiled in return.
“I wanted to remind you that you can talk to me,” Jeraine said. “I can handle more than conversations about your hair.”
“Good to know,” Tanesha said.
“Seems like something big is going on with you,” Jeraine said.
“I don’t know if I can go into it with everything going on today,” Tanesha said.
“Did something bad happen?” Jeraine asked.
“No, no, I mean, yes,” Tanesha said with a nod. “Working in the ER is awful. Totally awful. I cry every single day when I leave. I gotten to a point where I dread going in. I don’t think I can handle it anymore.”
As they had practiced in couples therapy, Jeraine didn’t offer suggestions. He simply listened. When he was sure she’d finished talking, he nodded.
“I understand,” Jeraine said, evenly to encourage her to talk.
“Hedone took me back in history to show me other plagues,” Tanesha said. “We went to London in modern times and then back in history to a plague pit. Same place. That was creepy. The area we had been standing on was the same place men were stacking human bodies — of all ages! — into the pit. Then she took me to Paris when they were moving bones into the limestone tunnels to make room in the cemeteries. But it was the last one that really hit home to me.”
“Where was that?” Jeraine said.
“Mexico City,” Tanesha said. “1500s. There was a plague of small pox. I mean, who gets small pox now? But then it killed 8 million people almost overnight. I looked it up. That was 40% of the population of Mexico City at the time!”
“What do you think that means?” Jeraine asked.
“You know how Hedone is,” Tanesha said. “She doesn’t say anything or fill in the blanks. She just shows you stuff that she thinks you need to see and lets you figure it out.”
Jeraine nodded, but didn’t say anything. He filled his water glass and drank another glass of water.
“Coffee?” Tanesha asked.
“Tea,” Jeraine said. “I’ve been drinking Nelson’s fancy French tea.”
“Good?” Tanesha asked.
Tanesha looked in the electric kettle. Finding it full of water, she turned it on.
“Really good,” Jeraine said. “He says that the Templars own a tea plantation that makes it. He has a lot of it. So he’s happy to share. Why don’t you try some?”
“Sounds good,” Tanesha said.
She got out a couple of mugs and gave them to him. Jeraine took down a tea pot. He filled it with warm water to warm the pot and waited for the kettle.
“What do you think Hedone wanted to you to get?” Jeraine asked when he couldn’t stand it anymore.
“Oh,” Tanesha said. “Sorry, I left you hanging. I think some of it is that these things come and go. There’s no evidence in Mexico City that so many people died all at once. In London, they built over the pits they put plague victims in. They just found them when they cleared the area for a rebuild. In Mexico City, we saw this solemn parade of people going to the cemetery. Weeping women and men followed tiny children’s caskets. But in London, it was all business. Men stacked bodies on cart.”
“And Paris?” Jeraine asked.
“It was like a party,” Tanesha said with a shake of her head. “They danced in the streets as their ancestors’ bones were moved. It felt festive, fun even. But when I say it, it’s so creepy.”
Jeraine nodded. The electric kettle clicked off. Jeraine poured the warm water from the tea pot and made a pot of tea for them. He set it on the counter next to the mugs. She got some cream from the refrigerator and held it up.
“Please,” he said, starting a timer on the tea.
She set the cream on the counter and went around to the other side. When the timer went off, he poured tea, put in the cream, and gave her a mug.
“What was Hedone trying to tell me?” Tanesha asked into her mug. “I can never be too sure, but I think it’s that plagues come and go. We’re so lucky not to have had one in a long time. But our ancestors experienced them for generations. Children died. Grandparents. Even healthy adults. There wasn’t anything they could do to avoid getting sick. It was just something that happened.”
“Some people were mad, of course. And, I’m sure that there were people who thought it was demons or wasn’t happening or whatever. Certainly, mistrust of authority is nothing new.”
Tanesha fell silent for a moment.
“I guess. . . well, I don’t really know, but I felt like I wasn’t so important in all of it, you know?” Tanesha asked. “I mean, when I’m in the ER, it’s all about me. What am I doing to help? Patients blame me for their illness or worse. Their families want me to do something that I will not do — like those crazy meds they talk about on the Internet.”
“But this is just life,” Tanesha said. “Death and life and death. It is how we came to be, you know.”
Tanesha fell silent again. Jeraine poured their cups of tea and doctored them with a bit of cream and sugar.
“I do what I know to do,” Tanesha said. “In the 1500s or whenever, people did what they could do. It’s really about doing what you can and leaving the rest. This pandemic isn’t about me. It’s about life.”
“Everything living has a virus,” Jeraine said.
“Exactly what Hedone says,” Tanesha said.
“I’m sorry that it’s so hard,” Jeraine said.
“I just. . .” Tanesha shook her head and shrugged. “I mean, Hedone said that I never wanted to be an ER doctor. And, she’s right. I never wanted to be an ER doctor. I’m good at it.”
“I don’t really know, honestly, what I want to do with my career and my life,” Tanesha said. “After being so certain for such a long time, it’s pretty scary.”
“I bet,” Jeraine said.
“At least I know what I have to do today,” Tanesha said with a grin.
“What’s our assignment?” Jeraine asked.
“You are supposed to go over to Mr. Matchel’s and see what his garden needs,” Tanesha said. “Just check it out. If you can take care of it, that’s great. He likes you.”
“If I need more help?” Jeraine asked.
“As usual, Jake and Mike are competing,” Tanesha said.
“Of course they are,” Jeraine said.
“They’d love to help, you know, get more points,” Tanesha said.
“If you don’t want to deal with them, all those teenagers are back,” Tanesha said. “They’re roving around looking for ways to help. Mr. Matchel’s garden was grown from their seedlings.”
“What are you assigned to?” Jeraine asked.
“I need to change into scrubs,” Tanesha said. “Help out with the clinic. There are more people today, plus Ivan. They don’t want to bring him to the clinic so I’m going to help Nelson and LaTanya until Blane’s done evaluating and treating Ivan.”
Jeraine held out his arms and they held each other for a moment.
“Go change,” Jeraine said. “I need to finish getting ready and brush my teeth. We can at least walk out together.”
“Meet tonight for the barbecue?” Tanesha asked.
“Of course,” Jeraine said.
Tanesha changed into a clean pair of scrubs. They walked out of the house together. Across the street, the paparazzi screamed at them and Jeraine swooped Tanesha into his arms. He bent her backwards and kissed her. She laughed, and they went their separate ways.
Saturday afternoon — 1:11 p.m.
Shuffling her tarot cards, Delphie looked up at Ivan and Sissy. The windows of her apartment were wide open. They were sitting six feet apart and each of them were wearing face masks.
“What are your questions?” Delphie asked.
“We decided on three,” Sissy said.
Sissy looked at Ivan. He gave her a soft smile.
“I am only here so that she will accept,” Ivan said.
“Accept what?” Delphie asked.
“I am dying,” Ivan said. “My life is over. There is nothing left for us.”
Sissy’s face flushed with anger and emotion. Delphie scowled at him.
“Why is this important to you, Ivan?” Delphie asked.
“It is the truth,” Ivan said. He gave an exhausted lift of this shoulder.
Moving quickly, Delphie laid out the cards and then scooped them up again. She shuffled.
“And?” Ivan asked, his voice laced with exhauster.
“I was just checking something,” Delphie said. “What are your three questions?”
“I want to know what you checked,” Ivan said.
Delphie smiled at him.
“I had a sense that your desire to just fade away was. . .” Delphie sighed.
“Be clear!” Ivan said, emphatically.
“Okay,” Delphie said. “Your sense that ‘there is nothing left’ for you, for Sissy, for the both of you, has more to do with the fact that you believe that you don’t deserve to be happy than any intuitive knowing about your health.”
Ivan scowled but Sissy nodded.
“You have suffered enough, Ivan,” Delphie said. “Your sister, your mother, and your father believe that you had suffered enough. It’s time for you to live a joyous life.”
“I am Russian,” Ivan said. “Joy does not come naturally to me.”
Delphie smiled at Ivan.
“And now this sickness,” Ivan said. He shrugged.
“Hmm,” Delphie said. She smiled at Sissy. “What are your questions?”
“Is there hope?” Sissy asked.
“For?” Delphie asked.
“Us,” Sissy said. “For Ivan’s health. For our future. For my future?”
“Yes. Yes. And yes,” Delphie said with a grin. “There is a lot of hope.”
“For?” Ivan asked.
“You have options with your health,” Delphie said. “I see two children. I see Sissy dancing for at least another decade.”
Delphie shrugged. Ivan shook his head with disbelief.
“Okay,” Sissy said. She glanced at Ivan and continued, “Otis believes that our own option is a bone marrow transplant. Are there other options? Better options? Will any of these things work?”
“What are the options?” Delphie asked and stopped shuffling the cards.
“Continue chemotherapy,” Sissy said.
Delphie placed a card on her table.
“Immunotherapy,” Sissy said.
“Okay,” Delphie said, placing another card.
“Bone marrow transplant,” Sissy said.
Delphie put down another card.
“Um, Blane talked about something, but we weren’t sure what he was talking about,” Sissy said.
Nodding, Delphie set down another card.
“Anything else?” Delphie asked.
Sissy looked at Ivan.
“Give up,” Ivan said. “Not waste the money and time. Let go, let God.”
“Of course,” Delphie said and set another card onto the table.
For a long moment, they were silent.
“What I see is here and what I know,” Delphie waved her hand in a circle around her forehead, “is that each of these treatments have merit.”
“But. . .!” Sissy’s voice rose with frustration.
“The question is one of order,” Delphie said, nodding to herself. “Which one are you doing now?”
“Ivan stopped chemotherapy last week,” Sissy said her voice laced with sorrow and anger.
“Ah,” Delphie said. Looking up at them, she smiled. “That makes sense. May I speak plainly?”
“Please,” Ivan said.
“You are exhausted,” Delphie said, gesturing to the cards. “Your exhaustion is from your illness and from your mental torture. You cannot heal until you are less exhausted.”
Ivan grunted in irritation.
“So here’s the best order,” Delphie said. “First, you work with Blane. Every herb, every treatment. You do everything he asks you to do. This will help raise your energy. It will give you the strength to end your mental torture. So in combination with your work with Blane, you must enter into psychological treatment — and work your ass off, if only because you are loved by Sissy and you wish to give her peace.”
“I do,” Ivan croaked.
“This will not take long,” Delphie said. “A couple of weeks. Maybe a month. Then you will return to chemotherapy, but much stronger than before. This will lead you to. . .”
“Bone marrow transplant?” Sissy asked.
“Not yet,” Delphie said. “You will stay with Blane — drinking his herbs, doing his treatment — and stay in psychotherapy. After the chemotherapy, you will take the immunotherapy for whatever you need. This treatment will be effective for you, but also be very hard.”
“If — and it’s an if — the immunotherapy doesn’t work, you will need the bone marrow transplant,” Delphie said.
“Otis wants us to skip everything and go to the bone marrow transplant,” Sissy said.
“Otis knows that Ivan is exhausted,” Delphie said. “He doesn’t realize that some of this exhaustion is from mental suffering. He can’t differentiate.”
“Are you saying that my mental issues are the cause of my sickness?” Ivan asked.
“No, of course not,” Delphie said. “I’m saying that your mental issues are abetting your illness. You should be able to heal your illness if you heal your mental torment. Nothing will work — not even a bone marrow transplant — unless you learn to forgive yourself.”
“Forgive myself,” Ivan said. He looked at Delphie. “Is it even possible?”
“Absolutely,” Delphie said.
“So there is hope,” Sissy said.
“There is lots of hope,” Delphie said. “Do you have a third question?”
Sissy and Ivan looked at each other. Ivan nodded.
“Ivan wants to know if we should marry,” Sissy said.
“Why is that funny?” Ivan asked, irritably.
“Of course you should marry,” Delphie said. “You don’t need me to tell you this. You were born for each other. You belong together — and you know this!”
Ivan let out a kind of sigh. The breath seemed to deflate him.
“But first, you need rest,” Delphie said. “I will speak with Jake to see where we can move you.”
“Blane invited us to stay with them,” Sissy said.
“We can keep you safer from Covid here,” Delphie said. “Jake is thinking about this right now. He will come up in the next five minutes to tell you where to stay.”
Sissy smiled at Ivan, and to Sissy’s surprised, Ivan actually smiled back.
“Thank you,” Ivan said. “I haven’t known how to. . .”
“I understand,” Delphie said. “We have a lot of people here today. There is someone who can help you with your head. She’s the mother of one of the teenagers. You will meet her at dinner.”
Delphie got up and walked to her front door. There was a knock on the door and Delphie opened the door. Blane and Jacob came inside.
“Blane told me that he would like to treat Ivan,” Jacob said to Delphie. “He said that Ivan should stay close so that he can get the treatment he needs. I. . .”
Jacob looked across the apartment. Seeing Ivan and Sissy, he smiled.
“Oh great, you’re here,” Jacob said. “Val and Mike are moving out of their apartment. With three kids, it’s too small for them now. They’re moving into a couple of apartments near Honey and MJ. Now that the Denver Police are done, I should have it finished in a day or so. You two are welcome to Val and Mike’s apartment when the new apartment is completed.”
“I can stay with Sam for a couple of days,” Delphie said. “Ivy is leaving Sunday night to spend a week with her Aunt Gracie. Gracie goes on leave today and will be here for dinner tonight.”
“I don’t want to push you out of your apartment,” Sissy said.
“What is it?” Ivan asked.
“It’s all set up for you,” Delphie said with a grin. “Did you think that I would not be ready? I’ve changed the bedding. The refrigerator is filled for you. It’s all ready for you.”
Sissy smiled. Ivan grabbed Sissy’s hand.
“Why don’t we help you into bed?” Blane asked. “If you’re willing, we can start treatment right now.”
“Yes,” Ivan said. “I would like that. But. . .”
Ivan looked at Sissy.
“What about Sissy and her dance?” Ivan asked.
“It will work out,” Delphie said. “You will spend some time here together and some apart. Ivan, you need days of long rest that you can really only get alone. It will work out so beautifully that you will think it was planned.”
Ivan looked at Sissy, who was smiling broadly. Ivan nodded.
Blane and Jacob helped Ivan into Delphie’s bed.
“I’ll get your bag,” Jacob said.
Blane nodded. Jacob and Delphie left the small apartment.
“What do you think?” Sissy asked.
“I think that I am so lucky to have you in my life,” Ivan said.
“I agree,” Sissy said. “I’m going to shower. You rest for a while. I’m sure they’ll bring up lunch and we’ll plan to head down for dinner.”
Ivan nodded. Jacob returned with Blane’s bag, and then rushed off to do something else. Blane started to work. Sissy went to shower.
There was hope, and that was enough.
Denver Cereal continues next week...