a selection from:
Intoxicated By My Illness
by Anatole Broyard
(Continuing Part I: Intoxicated by My Illness)
While I was talking I wondered, Am I telling Jules the
truth? He didn't think so, because he put his head in the oven
a week later. As for me, I don't know whether I believed what
I said or not, because I just went on behaving like everybody
else. But I believe it now. When my wife made me a hamburger the other day I thought it was the most fabulous
hamburger in the history of the world.
With this illness one of my recurrent dreams has finally
come true. Several times in the past I've dreamed that I had
committed a crime – or perhaps I was only accused of a crime,
it's not clear. When brought to trial I refused to have a
lawyer – I got up instead and made an impassioned speech in
my own defense. This speech was so moving that I could feel
myself tingling with it. It was inconceivable that the jury
would not acquit me – only each time I woke before the
verdict. Now cancer is the crime I may or may not have
committed, and the eloquence of being alive, the fervor of the
survivor, is my best defense.
The way my friends have rallied around me is wonderful.
They remind me of a flock of birds rising from a body of water
into the sunset. If that image seems a bit extravagant or tinged
with satire, it's because I can't help thinking there's something
comical about my friends' behavior – all these witty men
suddenly saying pious, inspirational things.
They are not intoxicated as I am by my illness, but
sobered. Since I refuse to, they've taken on the responsibility
of being serious. They appear abashed or chagrined in their
sobriety. Stripped of their playfulness these pals of mine seem
plainer, homelier – even older. It's as if they had all gone bald