At the Doctors Office:

Just two weeks prior, I had my semi-annual check-up. It was mid May, 1999, two and a half years since Dr. John had used the “R” word – Remission. The 6’4” oncologist’s hulking size is balanced with his engaging smile and gentle hugs. “I can’t believe it! Look at you!” John said, setting the ‘Normal’ test results aside. Looking over his glasses with a boyish grin, he whispers “I have something for you, my friend.”

*********

At the Ball.

The ‘buzz’ around the annual Leukemia Ball is as much about the setting at Hotel Hershey, with bowls of foil wrapped Chocolate Kisses, freshly cut flowers and strolling mandoliners, as it is for spectacular auction items. The energetic throng of black tuxedos and colorful gowns mill about the ballroom, perusing donated gifts ranging from ‘Joe Paterno’ autographed footballs to Caribbean cruise packages. My boyish enthusiasm, however, is only for the long awaited ‘date-night’ with my bride. We have the setting, I’m healthy, the kids are gone, and I’m sporting silk boxers.

The cacophony of “Beef, chicken or fish?” signals both the main course and the start of the live auction. The giddy anticipation, growing with each animated bid, is eclipsed only by the inevitable crescendo approaching in my mind. It will most certainly be a good night for cancer fighters.

As departure time nears, I make the planned restroom stop, and then discover I am high bidder for a yellow, silk sweater. This unplanned detour spurs me to move quickly into position to beat the checkout crowd. Timing is everything, I understand. I run into a silver-haired, grandmotherly acquaintance I know only as Louise, engaging in perfunctory chit-chat while waiting together for the checkout process to begin.

Then, “It” begins. First the dull ache in my temples, then warm flashes. “Fever?” I wonder. My eyes, suddenly light sensitive, are now squinting. Lightheaded, distracted, my conversation falters as I occasionally tamp my forehead. C’mon people! My sinuses start to fill.

“Are you alright? Louise asked, “You look flush.”

*********

Two weeks prior.

Real men always talk about their penises. It’s just what we do. The hulking, grinning oncologist dramatically unveiled the blue diamond shaped pill. My first Viagra!

Lights flickered.

Flowers bloomed.

Angels sang.

“Why diamond-shaped, John?”

“Because diamonds are a girl’s best friend“ he said, giggling, “Diamonds are forever!” Continuing, gleefully, “Since I prescribe this, I needed to try it out. So I took one – but didn’t tell Jane! We got going that night and suddenly she says ‘What the Hell is going on?”

**********

At the Ball.

Silk boxers! Really? What was I thinking?

“Thanks Louise,” I respond with a forced television preacher’s smile,” I’m just a little warm. I wonder what the delay is?”

The gate to the bullpen, however, is now wide open.

Sweating. Squinting. Now panting through my stuffy nose. Sweet Mother of God! Is this normal? Only my tuxedo-turned-bullfighter cape and my forward-lean, like an eighth-grade boy during his first slow-dance, keep unwitting Louise, well,  unwitting.

Beckoning the bull’s return to it’s pen, I repeatedly chant to myself, “Beef, chicken or fish?  Beef, chicken or fish?  –  Joe Paterno!   Joe Paterno!   Joe Paterno!”

Acting on 18 years of marital intuition, Leigh navigates her way through the crowd, inquiring, “Are you alright? Let me take your jacket”.

I decline. Leigh leaves. Ten minutes pass; sweating, squinting, panting, and chanting. All for a yellow, silk sweater.

* * * * *

Later, home (finally!).

After I seek a  “time-out” from the already uncharacteristically prolonged lovemaking session,  Leigh asks with a giggle, “What the hell is going on?”

From my exhausted, sweaty heap, I declare ” I need to start working out again. I can’t believe my dick just outlasted my body!”

I still have the sweater, and I still work out.

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