Back to Houston

Once more with feeling. We got those 183 to 290 to 610 to Main Street, Houston, Texas blues.

This time we’re leaving Mr. B. to stay with the family of one of his friends. Once again Mrs. Charm probably won’t start her 3 to 5 days high-dose chemo treatment at M.D. Anderson. We’re still in analysis and waiting for a final test to be delivered to them.

Meanwhile, here’s a word snapshot of the M.D. Anderson wing we were in, and sundry environs:

Across from us last week sat a young couple who were speaking softly, either Castillian Spanish (Mrs. C. said it was definitely not Mexican Spanish) or Portuguese. He of the depressed expression, bowed and bald head, obviously was the patient, whether her brother or her husband we couldn’t tell.

Several young Arab men walked about nervously, trailed three or four steps behind by young and old Arab women in half-Ninja, i.e. covered heads and floor-length black gowns but no veils. Properly submissive. Feminists they weren’t.

Didn’t see a single Saudi “prince” or a South American dictator—the latter, presumably, would stand-out for being accompanied by burly bodyguards in sports coats to hide their shoulder-holsters. Both are rumored to be regular MDA customers. Even Obama’s friend Chavez, supposedly, though they couldn’t save him.

Then there was the short Mediterranean-looking fellow who bummed a light from me in the (understood but unofficial) outside smoking area (yes, agast Nanny-Staters, you can slip away for a smoke at this cancer center). Other than the fact that he spoke not a word (was he mute or just didn’t speak English?) the only odd thing about him, besides his very European black loafers, was his cigarette: a long, skinny one.

I thought it was a clove, at first, but it didn’t smell like it. Possibly one of these, called slims, popular in the UK. Obviously he doesn’t live there. Unless he’s a mute. My lord, you don’t suppose he has throat cancer?

And my favorite, the fetchingly curvy, middle-aged blonde cancer patient (you can tell the patients by their wristbands) who had snuck out for a smoke. “Stand in front of me, please,” she pleaded. “I don’t want to get caught.”

She said to be sure to be out there on Wednesdays when the volunteer harp player shows up. A full-size orchestra harp. I said I would think that would be too pointed a metaphor. The puffing cancer patient shook her head. It’s soothing, she said: “A small miracle.”

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