I booked a ticket to New York, found a hotel on the Upper West Side, and quietly reached out to a handful of friends to see if they would be around to meet up. I thought about four full days in the City. I joined the Vegans in NYC Facebook group and read through restaurant recommendations, then sent an email to the woman who gave me facials for a decade to see if she was available for an appointment. I looked at Amtrak schedules and priced a ticket for a day trip to Boston to visit Gaby’s cousin at Harvard. I spoke to my friend about spending Shabbat at her house and going to a pumpkin patch in Westchester or the Hamptons. I planned to spend the $25 Starbucks birthday gift certificate I got from my friends Mollie and Elise on a pumpkin spice soy latte at the location on 75th and Columbus. I thought about morning walks in Central Park, past Sheep Meadow where I used to spend summer Shabbat afternoons tanning with friends. I contacted Aveda to see if Hans was available to color my hair; I want something bold and daring, something totally out there so that when I look at myself in the mirror I’m not staring at my brother.
I’ve stopped sleeping; tossing and turning instead while thinking about afternoons alone at the movies, at Whole Foods in Columbus Circle, shopping at Pottery Barn, Home Goods and Kiehls. I think about pints of pumpkin ale at Heartland Brewery and wearing long sweater dusters, black boots and jeans. I want to watch the Jets from the bar at Dive 75 while sipping on Hoegaarden, I want to go to the Guggenheim or MoMa in the afternoon when it’s full of school trips and tourists. I want to go to Pianos or Arlene’s Grocery and watch a bunch of twenty year olds play bass guitar and sing about life they know nothing about.
I think about subway lines and buses, walking across the Williamsburg bridge and visiting my Grandfather’s old store on Ludlow street. I want to hold my cousin Neil’s new baby and brunch with my Aunt Amy. I want to reminisce with my friends, the ones who didn’t watch me go through eight months of chemo, who can still remember the person I was while sipping extra dirty Ketel One martinis before last call at Ikes and Verlaine’s, or ushering people down the red carpet at work events, or escorting a pee-wee hockey team to the ice at the Garden during second and third periods.
I’ve priced out a car from Enterprise that will take me across the Harlem River Drive and over the George Washington Bridge so I can drive for hours and hours with nothing to keep me company but back to back indie pop and the fall foliage.
I strategize on packing, mentally rolling workout pants and jeans with one Shabbat skirt and a handful of shirts. I’d travel light going but heavy on the return, packing one of those plastic duffle bags that I can fill with boxes of Target branded clothes and accessories for two American Girl dolls and packages of lego and Star Wars for a soon to be five year old. Gaby sent me a wish list: some aftershave and Shabbat socks, collarless t-shirts and VR glasses. I start looking through Amazon and add wish list items to my cart but close off the computer before I hit send.
I consider reaching out to see if I can visit Miki (Miriam bat Chaya) at Sloan Kettering, or if I should drive down to DC to speak with researchers from the WTC Health Program about 9/11 and non-Hodgkins lymphoma. I price out a ticket to Miami for a one-day trip to visit my Aunt and Uncle.
Six weeks after I was discharged from the hospital, my parents sold their house and moved to Maryland. They packed up an entire house full of 42 years worth of memories into two separate trucks, one earmarked for their new home in Maryland and the other shipped on a container to Israel.
I never got to say goodbye. There was no final walk through an empty house with pauses by the downstairs closet where my Grandfather’s sweater hung years after he passed away. No final climbing up creaky carpet covered steps to my childhood bedroom with the pink and grey paneled walls, or running down the steps to the basement to my college bedroom where I used my very first paycheck to buy a TV. I was born into that house, graduated from college in that house, got engaged in that house. Sure, I moved to the City when I was 20, moved to Tel Aviv when I was 29, but I never thought that house wouldn’t always be there to welcome me back home.
Six days aren’t enough for all the nothing I want to do in New York. For the walks and the coffee shops, for trips to G&I and Annie’s Kitchen, for a workout session with my trainer Victoria and drinks with Jeorjie and the Julies.
Traveller’s health insurance in my post-cancer state is exorbitant but we can made do if I leave the city a day early and stay with friends. I think about Sephora and Duane Reade, about the Apple store in Soho and NYSC.
Then my mind wanders and I head out West, to a ranch in Billings Montana or a chalet in Aspen. I think about the post-cancer retreats in Los Angeles or riding the Ferris Wheel at the Santa Monica Pier. I dream about climbing volcanos in Hawaii and visiting the first Starbucks in Seattle.
In the morning, I call our travel agent and cancel the ticket. I CC Gaby on the email and blame it on last minute costs, on my place to stay falling through.
But the truth is I fear if I go, I might not want to return.