Today marks one year since I graduated from New York University.
First Google Image result for "one year since graduation."
His name is Sebastian.
We could be emotional twins. His tigh-lipped, bird-like smile that is clearly masking inner tears, the sad, upturned eyebrows. He obviously grew that goatee in an attempt to feel that at least something had changed since he graduated, just as I will get drunk this weekend and have my friend (and sometimes writing partner) Khalehla put a green streak in my hair, to feel that I have accomplished at least one thing this year.
This is Khalehla. Always nice to put a name with a face.
Which is less reckless, I suppose, than what I’ve been saying I’ll do on this day for the past six months, which is off myself in a creative way.
Now, not really. I have the little Jesus business card with the yellow ribbon, I have a brother who I need to compete with constantly (which includes outliving him), and it isn’t like there’s a shortage of mac ‘n cheese in the world. Yet. Give me another year.
For the past six months, the second thing I’ve told every new person I meet–after I tell them my name–is that my one-year graduaversary is fast approaching, and I’m looking for a creative way to do myselfin, would they like to suggestion something? It’s a succinct, effective ice breaker for parties. I’d let them know that I’d already thought of the following, so no repeats, please:
1) Death by eating too much icing.
2) Death by listening to too many showtunes.
3) Death by loving my cat too much.
4) Death by tracksuit.
5) Death by being buried in Christmas presents.
6) Death by wearing flannel in too-warm weather.
7) Death by Vaseline.
8 ) Death by going on a date with a Philosophy major.
9) Death by freezing, using only my own willpower.
And, my favorite and probably most nutritionally legitimate way to off myself–also the one my mom is constantly enabling via loving care packages:
10) Death by Snow Balls, the delicious, seasonal fake-food, dusted in “real white cheddar cheese” that is more than likely asbestos.
But oddly enough, I hadn’t been dreading today as much as I thought I would be. I got a job working extra hours at a holiday market where people are cheery,
and ensnared the affections of an older man named Harold, who kept fondly calling me Nancy (petname or
senility?). I’d also had this really weird sore spot in my throat/mild illness since Monday, so whenever I wasn’t working, I was popping Nyquil and passing out. I had actually forgotten all about the graduaversary until midnight last night when I saw the date on my iPhone. It didn’t, shockingly, phase me that much. It was kind of like watching Xenon: Girl of the 21st Century after middle school.
Then I woke up this morning with cancer.
I got out of bed with a super sore throat, sorer than it had been on Monday or Tuesday, and decided to look at. I really like/am joyfully repulsed by gross things (insects excluded, cause fuck that), so it was more for pleasure than purpose.
And I got a whole dose of gross. On the right side of my throat, exactly where it’s been hurting, there was a fleshy bump sticking up behind my tongue. And so it was that Karma gave me exactly what I had asked for: a promise of painful, cancerous death on the very day that I had been continuously threatening to kill myself in an adorable way.
I ran (slash took the train) to Urgent Care on 86th Street, and on the run/ride there, I had a divine epiphany: I want to live, goddammit. I can’t let my brother win the Life Span Contest, and I have to make amends for all the mean texts I’ve almost sent.
And while I love icing, and I don’t have to eat so much I’d die. But if eating icing means Clay Flaherty will outlive me, then fuck icing.
I speedwalked into Urgent Care and immediately told the receptionist that I needed to see a doctor because I had “found a lump,” to which she queried, “…on your breast?”
A medical school intern took me into an examination room, where I closed the door and blurted out, “I found a lump–not on my breast. In my throat. You can see it without a flashlight,” then opened my mouth and pressed my finger down on my tongue so he could drop everything and stare wide-eyed into my mouth. He replied, “How about we take your blood pressure first?” The doctor came in, I explained everything, and finally, finally, someone decided my cancerous growth should be examined. This is what happened:
Doctor: [finishes looking at my throat] Yeah, it’s really swollen back there.
Keely: You mean, the lump?
Keely: The lump.
Doctor: Oh, yes. It’s swollen on one side.
Keely: …there is a lump, right?
Keely: So what do I do?
Doctor: [turning to leave] Hydrate. I’m gonna give you some medication to help the swelling. You should come back in five days if the swelling hasn’t gone down.
Keely: If the lump isn’t gone in five days, what are the chances that it’s cancerous?
Doctor: Um, not high.
Keely: How not high?
Doctor: [sitting back down] Do you smoke?
Doctor: Have a family history of mouth-related cancers?
Doctor: Do you drink a lot?
Keely: Define “a lot.”
Doctor: I think you’ll be fine. Push liquids and feel better.
The point of this whole story is that when you read #9 on my death list, you probably thought, “oh, no one could ever freeze do death by using only their own will power!” Well, this morning I willed myself out of throat cancer. Also, being out of college for twelve months isn’t the end of the world.
The end of the world is what happens when we run out of mac ‘n cheese.