I’m trying on pants. It’s a department store, and I need something for a party.
The dressing room isn’t big enough to see my reflection. I step outside to look at myself in the three-way mirror.
I hear voices. A conversation. A father and a child are in the stall next to me.
“Do these pants look okay?” the adult voice says.
“They look good, Dad,” the boy says.
“You sure? I really want your mom to like’em, they feel kinda big.”
“You don’t think they’re saggy? They seem saggy. You know what, I’ll look at them in the full mirror.”
He leaves the stall and I see the man behind the voice.
He’s bone skinny. And bald. I step aside so he can look into the mirror. He is inspecting the fit of his slacks.
“They do look a little big,” I offer.
“Really?” he says. “I KNEW it.”
He tries on another pair. They fit much better.
He tells me he needs to look sharp for a wedding. His first wife is getting remarried. He’s a nervous wreck. He wants her to see him at his absolute best.
And he doesn’t feel his best.
“I’ve lost twenty-three pounds, man,” he says. “All my friends say I look sick.”
That’s because he is sick. Colon cancer. He’s had two surgeries. He just finished chemo. He doesn’t want to talk about what he’s gone through, and it’s none of my business.
But he does say: “They tell you the nausea’s bad. Man, it’s worse than anything you’ll ever experience.”
Doctors just ran tests to see if treatments have gotten rid of it. He’s got an appointment on Monday to get the results.
He’s won’t say he’s worried about it—but he won’t say he isn’t, either.
“I’m just sick of it all,” he says. “I’ve gone through a lot, I’m so exhausted, keep wondering if I’m gonna even be here in a year.”
I can’t imagine.
His boy walks out of the dressing room. His father’s mood changes. He puts on a fake smile. He’s a new man, suddenly. From sick to superhero, in only a matter of seconds.
“Whatcha think of these pants, buddy?” he says to the kid.
The boy shrugs.
“Aw come on. We want your mother to see how spiffy Daddy can be.”
The man recruits the help of a female sales-associate. A woman with far better taste than yours truly—I couldn’t dress a salad at gunpoint.
She selects a black sport coat and black tie. He looks classy, not overdressed. He is dressed formally enough to watch his ex move on with her life.
He asks my opinion on his new get-up. I tell him it’s a nice suit.
After he redresses himself in everyday clothes, he bids me goodbye. “I appreciate all the help,” he says.
I wish him luck.
He thanks me and shakes my hand. So does his kid. They leave.
I’ll probably never see him again, but that doesn’t mean I’m not thinking about him.
If you can hear me, God, please give that man good news on Monday.