My best buddy in college always dated beautiful women. One afternoon hanging at Gerry's apartment before heading off to one of our adventures, I was charmed to meet another gorgeous woman who I took to be his latest conquest, Nadine.
Nadine had just dropped by and treated me as if an old and cherished friend. I was looking for subtle cues that I should leave the two of them alone, but none was coming. Instead, she left an hour or so later, and I asked Gerry, "Why have you not told me about Nadine?"
"Pretty, isn't she?"
"Yes, but not my type."
"Exactly your type. You mean you are not dating her?"
"No. She has the looks, but...well, you know how if you shine a light at a deer, it will just freeeze and stand still staring into the light-- utterly baffled?"
"Yes, but Nadine didn't come off that way."
"She is not that way and that's the problem. I want the girl who will be baffled by a flashlight."
He was serious.
I was dating a wonderful girl so did not pursue Nadine, but saw her off and on at parties and dinners over the next few months. Then she stopped being around. Gerry explained that Nadine had a bad cancer and was pretty sick from the Chemo and Radiation. He told me all her hair was gone.
That, too, was tragic as Nadine had beautiful and plentiful hair reaching thickly almost to her hips. I said, "It will take her years to grow it back out as she had it." I was fishing, but the fish which bit was not anything I wanted to keep.
Gerry answered, "I don't think she has years, my friend."
"Is there anything we can do?"
"No, she is taking it amazingly well. She is fighting like Hell." He smiled, then laughed, drew on his cigarette and said, "Last week, she psyched herself up to go out, and I went with her. She had shaved her head so that it was shiny, and then -- you know she is artistic? -- she did this thing with glue and glitter all over her head, so that it was like sparkly gold, and purple. Here was this bald girl and she was the hottest woman around. She was loving the attention and danced most of the night."
We both sat, smiling, enjoying the bittersweetness of the story in silence.
Nadine died soon after that. I never saw her without her hair, but wished I had seen her with the glitter.
She was my age at the time, twenty-three, and in college. Her degree was progressing as she could pay for it. Nadine worked as a cashier at a Dallas/Fort Worth area supermarket, Kroger, that degree was going to take some time. Cashiers had little or no health insurance.
After her death, Gerry told me that she had racked-up enormous debt for her medical bills. All through her treatment, her employer had told her not to worry. Her paychecks kept coming, her apartment and utilities were paid, and, when she died, Kroger paid the medical bills so that her family would not have to.
There are real humans among us. Look for them.