Every time something bad happens to me, it’s overshadowed by something worse. The time I was passed over for a promotion at the patent office, there was an earthquake in Cambodia. My cat, Rasputin, choked to death on an owl pellet the day that a famous singer died. “There, there,” said my mother. “His star burned too brightly.” This wasn’t true — not for Rasputin, anyway. Rasputin’s star burned dimly, if at all.
Then there was the day I got the test results.
“Good news and bad news,” said the oncologist, like he was setting up a joke. He looked at his clipboard and flipped a sheet over. “Oh, I’m sorry. The good news is for someone else.”
“What’s the bad news?”
“We found something. A tumor in your pancreas. Very advanced and very aggressive.”
“Jesus. What was the other person’s good news?”
The oncologist rocked back on his heels and then made little circles with his arms to balance himself. “Same thing, actually. We just couldn’t find her tumor before. It’s all relative.”
“It’s not relative.”
The nurse burst in. “I’m sorry to interrupt,” she said, “but I just heard that thirteen people were shot at the U.”
The oncologist wrapped his arms around her. “You just cry all you want to,” he said. He had a good bedside manner.