How to Talk About Your Cancer with “Shallow” People

I think it goes without saying that the Internet and specifically social media has changed the world…and yes, it’s okay to call me Captain Obvious. In a year of dealing with a major life change, it has actually made awkward small talk not so…well…awkward. I’ve always been a guy who doesn’t care for small talk. I’d rather talk about taboo subjects like religion and politics…anything…other than the weather…because there will at least be a dynamism to our conversation that would keep it interesting…I crave authentic interaction (and I know I’m not alone in that). Most everyone I run into knows what’s going on with me (because of the blog, Facebook, etc) and is usually pretty cool about it. Their body language alone shows me that they care and are concerned, even if they don’t know exactly what to say to me. Prior to the other day, I’ve only had one interaction where the person didn’t know what was going on and I used sly humor to not make them feel too uncomfortable (that was really my concern more than my own comfort…I just felt bad because they looked like a deer caught in headlights) but no matter how hard I tried, the conversation still felt pretty awkward. However, that person was at least a decent person with some depth so could handle news maturely.

The other day I went for a walk and ran into a dude that I worked with on a couple commercials a while back. I used to run into him all the time but this was the first time I’ve seen him in over a year probably. A little back story on this guy…and I don’t want to come off as judgmental here,  but he is probably one of the most shallow people that I’ve ever met. He is the type of guy that has no filter when he talks and makes lots of assumptions about everyone, including me. He believed that I was always on the same page with him because I was a” good looking guys guy” like him, which meant that all I ever thought about was drinking, partying, “hooking up” with random girls, money, MMA Fighting, and what cars people drove (if that describes you then, yes, I’m saying that you’re shallow). None of that is even remotely true about me (except the MMA thing…sorta). I always played it cool with him because I usually only saw him in a professional setting and I have to admit that I found it quite amusing when he’d put his foot in his mouth (which he did pretty regularly). My encounter with him the other day was one of the most awkward  encounters that I’ve ever experienced, and I tell you what, I’ll let you be the judge of him, I wrote the interaction (verbatim) that we had below, again, in the format I know best, a screenplay.

P.S.

I’m not worried about him ever reading this because I know he is too busy doing important things like the stuff I described above.

How to Talk About Your Cancer with “Shallow” People

by Alex Moore

EXT. San Fernando Valley Neighborhood Street – Day

ALEX, fashionable, artistic looking, strolls along a typical palm tree lined street in a San Fernando Valley upper middle class neighborhood. After tripping over a raised piece of concrete on the sidewalk (another typical thing in a San Fernando Valley neighborhood), he looks up to see a familiar face, GUY, buff, wearing a tight muscle shirt and a New Era baseball hat (still with the sticker on it). Guy does a double take.

GUY

Hey, what’s up, man?

ALEX

Oh…Hey dude.

It is obvious in their body language that these two are just acquaintances.

GUY

It’s been a long time. When was the last time —

ALEX

Uh…I ran into you at Coffee Bean a while ago.

GUY

Oh, sure…that’s right. Coffee Bean.

ALEX

You were outside on the patio. You were with this blonde–

GUY

Yeah, uh…Jessica…no wait….Brie.

(remembering)

Yes, it was Brie and you had just finished shooting a short film. Now, I remember. Man, how nice was Brie’s rack —

Alex interrupts Guy.

ALEX

Yeah, well I finished that short and it’s currently doing the festival circuit and we’re showing it to investors right now. You know, the typical LA filmmaker BS.

(beat)

What are you up to?

GUY

Same typical LA filmmaker BS, as well. Still partying lots…Staying active.

(beat)

I actually have my own production company now…with this guy….We’re doing commercials, web stuff, and are even developing shorts and trying to get this reality show going.

ALEX

Sounds cool man.

GUY

Yeah, it’s…you know…it’s a tough time economically right now…Digital cameras and the Internet have changed everything, man, so it’s hard to get something going,

ALEX

It certainly makes things cheaper. Which makes it hard for those of us trying to make money doing it. Anybody who has iMovie and a digital camera thinks that they can make content now.

GUY

Exactly.

(beat)

So you got that short going. What else you up too?

ALEX

Well, I’ve mostly been a professional Cancer patient lately.

GUY

Wait. What?

ALEX

Uh…I have Cancer.

Guy frowns.

GUY

Oh man, really? I dated this girl who had Cancer once. It was really sh***y. The Cancer…Not dating someone with Cancer…obviously. I mean, she broke things off with me, but–

Guy looks around. He looks flustered, uncomfortable.

GUY

So what type of Cancer do you have?

ALEX

Brain.

GUY

Brain? Holy Sh** man. That’s one of the worst kinds to get.

(beat)

Well you look totally normal. You could’ve fooled me.

(beat)

You don’t look retarded or anything.

Alex smiles uncomfortably. Guy, realizing what he just said, laughs uncomfortably.

GUY

Wow that came out wrong.  What I meant was…I knew this guy once, that I used to party with, that had a huge brain tumor and his whole right side was all fu***d up, and he couldn’t really talk or anything

(beat)

I felt really bad for him. He was a total pimp before that.

(beat)

I think he’s fine now — no wait that was someone else.

ALEX

Yeah, everyone’s experience with it, is different. It depends on where the tumor is and how good your surgeon is. I got really lucky. The only real bummer thing, at this point, is that I can’t drive for awhile, because I’ve had a couple seizures.

GUY

I sorta know what that’s like. I was so drunk at the wheel once that I passed out which I imagine would be like having a seizure.

(laughs)

I got a DUI from it so I haven’t been able to drive for awhile either…You figure out how to get around eventually.

ALEX

Yup.

GUY

So do you use  the “I have Cancer” line to pick up women?

Alex smiles and shows Guy his ring.

ALEX

Uh no…I’m happily married, so no need.

GUY

Man, if I was in your situation I would so use it all the time.

ALEX

I personally wouldn’t want to be single during this. I can’t imagine going through it without my wife. She’s a saint.

GUY

Sure, man, I hear ya.

(beat)

I wish I had someone like that.

ALEX

You know what’s cool, is that my wife is like that, and she’s also hot. So it’s a win-win for me!

GUY

That’s cool, man. I think I remember you showing me pictures of her…Brunette, right?

Alex nods.

GUY

Yeah, she is pretty.

ALEX

She is.

(beat)

She’s a great person too.

(beat)

Yeah, I think you really have to grow up in order to beat Cancer. Unfortunately you can’t afford to be hanging out in the “shallow end” of life anymore, if you know what I mean.

GUY

Yeah, I hear ya.

(beat)

Listen, I’m really glad I ran into you…You got this beast in the bag, I can tell.

(beat)

Just Keep ya head up, man.

ALEX

Quoting Tupac. I love it. That’s my attitude everyday, man.

(beat)

Take it easy.

Guy and Alex shake hands and slowly and awkwardly turn it into a “Man hug”. They then quickly walk away in opposite directions.

You are ill-equipped to handle Cancer if you are still hanging in the "Shallow End" of life.

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