Saturday, July 6, 2024

The Chosen One


 It is late. And I am writing.

And he is asleep in my bed. 

We are learning how to be with each other.  How to witness each other. 

He leans on coffee. I lean on wine. 

We share rotisserie chicken. 

I do his laundry. He walks my dog. We talk.

I worry he will die a tragic death - like lovers often do.

I worry I will die too soon.

He rambles. He's messy. He's patient. He cradles me in tender affection. It is mildly suffocating and wildly comforting. 

I tell him he is no longer an extra large. He is a medium. I tell him he is handsome.

He tells me I am beautiful. And I believe him.

I look out the window - waiting for him, knowing he is nowhere near.

Today was a full day together and apart. 

I rush to get to work in the morning. He eases me out the door - sets me on a pace of calm.

I tell him I will drive him to his dentist appointment for a tooth extraction later in the day. I hate the dentist. I cancel at the last minute. Work gets in the way. 

They don't pull his tooth after he tells them about numbness in his left ankle. "I told you about this last night," he says. I don't remember. 

I get home before him. Change quickly into my naughty black pleather nurses outfit and a sassy red wig. I tell him it was part of my plan to care for him after his tooth extraction.

He tells me that "dress-up" is new to him. 

We visit his friend. He is 81 and in a nursing home. "Thank you for not letting me rot alone in here," his friend says. We are at each other's side. Smiling. We are perfectly aligned. 

We go to my clients and oversee the rehoming of exotic reptiles. We pick herbs from their garden. And lavender. It smells divine. 

We eat dinner at 9:30. I can hear him chew.  

We chatter and tease. He is slightly annoyed with me. I understand why. 

He is asleep in our bed. 

And I am here. 



I love this man. 

xo, Monkey Me

Thursday, September 21, 2023

Me and Tommy Lee

I am attending a writer's workshop in Rhinebeck, New York. I want to stand out in this group of 16 women and one man. I am trying hard not to focus on the one man that sits behind me, but he is delicious. Tall, dark-skinned, long, luscious hair pulled back tight. I want to ask him if he'll pull it up high, in a bun, just for me. He is lean, elegant, soft-spoken, and vulnerable in his demeanor and writing style - just my type. 

In my mind, his age is equal to mine, our bodies align. He is 36.

I want to have drinks with Judith. She is 87 and sits cross-legged in her chair. I want her knees, and to shadow her as she unapologetically celebrates her well-lived life.

I am entertained by the friends I sit between. They have known each other since they were 3 and 8. Their mothers were best friends. They live on separate coasts now but make time to travel, reminisce, and delight in what they have, what they lost, what they carry, and what they cherish. 

I am here because I want to be noticed. I like and respect the instructor. Her writing style speaks to me. I have submitted a personal essay for consideration in an upcoming book she is working on entitled, The Essential Essay: Crafting the Story Only YOU Can Write. 

"Give a brief introduction of who you are and why you are here," is her prompt. She turns to her left and nods to the person in the first chair to start. I am to her right. I do math and surmise I have 10 chairs and 20 minutes before I take center stage. 

I want to stand out. 

"My name is Shannon," I say when it is finally my turn. I know not to say my last name because people often get stuck on it.  Kennedy, wow, any relation to THE Kennedys, they'll wonder. 

"I am writing about my cancer as it collides with my sexual awakening," I say. 

"It's a remarkable time in my life. I am facing a stage 4, terminal illness. But we are all terminal," I add - pause for a ripple of muted giggles. 

"I am currently in remission and feeling just fine but I don't know for how long and don't want to waste a day, minute, or second of my time.” This cheeky rhyming is unscripted and usually means I’m on point and connecting with something larger than me. 

“My first instinct, after hearing my diagnosis, was to travel - see and taste places unknown.  But I am not permitted to fly, due to three pulmonary embolisms – a party favor from my last surgery. They tell me these can snap from my lungs and race to my brain by something as simple as a bump to my head, or cabin pressure. Instead, I have decided to travel inward - focus on self-discovery, self-love, and self-care. Part of that includes my sexuality. I have made the deliberate decision to stop pleasing men and for the first time in my life, ask that they please me - sexually."

The room is silent, all eyes are on me. I elaborate just a bit more. 

“I want to put this delicious chapter of my life in full view. But I don’t want to scar my family, especially my daughter. How do I do that? How do I know when to stop, what is too much, too raunchy, or too self-indulgent?” 

If I got an answer, I didn’t hear it. I already know the answer. It’s part of my voice, my purpose. It wouldn’t flow like this, it wouldn’t unfold like this, if it wasn’t meant to be written. 

I could always publish it as fiction, but I like owning it. This is my journey to the divine feminine - an energy force focused on my intuition, receptivity, and interconnectedness and the healing, harmony, and growth that arises from it. 

At the closing of our first day, we are given a writing assignment. The prompt is…

The hardest thing I… 

We are told to write for 15 minutes and limit the piece to 800 words max. 

This assignment does not appeal to me. I don’t want to focus on the hard parts of my life. Not here. Not now. And worse, I don’t want to hear other people’s hardships. Not here. Not now.

How do I turn “the hardest thing I…” into something lighthearted? 

I call my daughter, Ling and my best monkey, Robin. Ling has a wholesome idea – the hardest meal you ever cooked. Robin, in true monkey form, nails it. “Write about the hardest dick you ever had in your mouth. 

Clearly, she is BRILLIANT.  

Assignment: The Hardest Thing I … 

Write for 15 minutes, 800 words or less.

Date: 9/19/2023

We have created an annual tradition - running the Damon Runyon 5k cancer research fundraiser held in Yankee Stadium. Year one it was Ling, her fabulous husband, Pete, and me. Then there was COVID and it was canceled, and then we lost our focus. This year we are back and we added two new team members, my grandson Jacky Blue and Airport Man. 

If you are a Yankee fan, it is a HUGE thrill running up and down the decks and laps on the field. If you are not a Yankee fan, there is still a HUGE thrill running the stadium, passing the dugouts and home plate - eclipsed by the expansiveness of bleachers, billboards, and scoreboards.  

Afterward, we retreat to my house - lounging and rehydrating in the living room. 

In the center of the room, is a small chest that serves as a coffee table. It is the first piece of furniture I ever bought, and I love it as much today as I did when I first saw it roosted in a storefront window on Greenwich Avenue in 1983. Does that make it an antique? It wasn’t then but it’s been 40 years. What defines an antique and if it is, am I an antique? 

Inside the chest is memorabilia that spans the course of my life ranging from Congratulations on Your Baby Girl cards given to my parents, hair wrapped in waxed paper from a pixie haircut my father arranged, against my mother’s wishes, on our way to the World Fair, report cards and class pictures tucked between treasured memories of my father and children. 

My daughter lifts the lid to the chest and pulls out items that speak to her. First, a book she wrote in the 2nd grade titled, “The Monkey that ate too much Candy,” and reads it out loud. Airport Man focuses on a yellowed newspaper dating back to 1997. On the left column of the front page, is a picture of me as it relates to an article about female-owned and operated businesses. Beneath my picture is Oprah’s. I saved the paper not so much for the article but because my picture is above Oprah’s. 

He is seated, calf over thigh, in a low-ride, Jonathan Adler lounge chair. The paper is open wide, shielding his upper torso when Ling uncovers a ripped page from one of my journals, preserved in a plastic sleeve. 

“I know what this is,” she declares as she studies the list of names that line the left side of the page. “these are all the men you’ve slept with!” she spews. 

With that, Airport Man, folds down the paper and uncrosses his legs. All eyes, including my grandsons, are on me. “No, no, no… those are men I’ve dated,” I counter.  

“Why isn’t my father on here?” she asks. The list is so old that her father and my third husband are not included. “I ran out of paper,” I say, jokingly. 

No one is laughing. Especially, Airport Man.

She scans the names and screeches… “Tommy Lee! You slept with Tommy Lee?!?”

I stand, emboldened by my beloveds, and as best I can. defend myself. 

“Not THAT Tommy Lee! Not Pamela Anderson's Tommy Lee.” 

“My Tommy was a third-string quarterback for the New York, Jets by the time we… dated. He destroyed his career when he got into a car accident and blew out his knee.”

With that Ling, Pete, and Jacky Blue hastily departed. And I was left alone with Airport Man. 

Airport Man is furious – humiliated that my sexual encounters have been aired out in front of him. I do my best to calm him, knowing how ridiculous he sounds but understanding how vulnerable this makes him feel. 

I do my best to soothe him, “It’s been 40 years. 40 years since I briefly… dated him.”

Despite my efforts, nothing settles. 

On the morning of his departure, we wake to sheets that are tussled and bundled at the foot of the bed.

“Do you know how humiliating this was for me - to hear about your sexual escapades, in front of your family!!!” 

This is the moment I realize Airport Man is a staunch conservative.  

From this point on, few words are spoken. There is no morning sex. We ride in silence to the airport. When he exits the car, he will not hold my gaze. He is polite but abrasive. I am crushed. 

I wake several times that night… Tommy Lee’s cock is deep inside my mouth. I try to speak but his cock is huge, stiff and all-consuming. I am choking. 

The nightmare revisits me, over and over again. It is by far, the hardest thing I have ever had to swallow. 


Wednesday, August 23, 2023

Part Six - The Proposal

I am back in Fells Point, Baltimore. This time with my daughter, Ling, the world's best son-in-law, Pete, and our two dogs. It is the beginning of spring. The sun is warm and the air is refreshingly crisp. It is easy to distract ourselves from the reason we are here, as we mindlessly meander uneven cobblestone streets brimming with hip restaurants, festive pubs, boutiques, and galleries.

It's been 10 years since I was treated for cancer at Johns Hopkins Hospital. So much has changed since then. Both dogs that accompanied me, and gave me so much love and emotional support, have died and I am down another husband (due to divorce, not death). The treatment I received then was humbling and humiliating - four consecutive days of internal, high-dose rectal radiation, three surgeries, and a battery of tests. I lost count of how many people had their fingers up my ass or how many times I was sodomized by the radiation "wand."

After the surgical placement of radioactive seeds around my tumor, a team of medical professionals inserted the wand, estimated the correct position, and then scurried out of the room to X-ray me. The X-ray showed the correlation between the seeds that surround the tumor and the placement of the wand. More often than not, they would get it wrong - too far in, too far out, too far left, too far right - which meant they needed to hustle back in, remove the wand, and reposition it. I don't know what bothered me more, the fact that they performed this abrupt pull-out and reinsertion without so much as a dinner invitation, or that they left me alone on a table, with a wand up my ass, during the X-ray process.

After day two I asked for lorazepam. A lot of it. And lubrication. Prior to this diagnosis, I wasn't accustomed to having objects shoved up my ass, so the process was... unpleasant.

This is now my reference point when considering ongoing cancer treatments or any diagnostic measures. "Do you have to shove anything up my ass?" I ask. If not, whatever they have in store for me doesn't seem so bad.

At the time, internal radiation therapy was new for rectal cancer. The research came from McGill University in Canada. I was the 16th person in the United States to receive it. I need to pause here to remember, with love and gratitude, Ricky, who found the trial and forwarded it to me. I met Ricky through my blog back in 2012. She too was diagnosed with breast cancer and like me, was disfigured by "Dick Dock," Memorial Sloan Kettering's chief plastic surgeon. Sadly, Ricky lost her battle with cancer in 2017.

The tumor was undetectable after the radiation but I elected to go ahead with the surgery so they could prove I had a complete pathological response. It also gave me peace of mind. But if I could do it all over, I would have elected not to have 18 inches of my large intestines, including the sigmoid section of my colon and rectum, removed.  It also meant I would be sporting a stoma (and the dreaded "bag") for 9 months until my chemotherapy treatment was complete. Once recovered, I'd be back for another surgery, this time they would use part of my colon to create a faux rectum. What they didn't focus on (or I blocked from my memory), was quality of life issues - a condition known as LARS (lower anterior resection syndrome) - that I would face for the rest of my life. For more information on LARS feel free to Google, but trust me when I tell you, I am a high-stakes gambler every time I pull on a pair of white pants.  

Because how we react to situations shows the true spirit and character of someone, this is one of those situations I am most proud of.  After tossing my husband (whom I loved very much) out of the house for his online fantasy infidelity, and after surgery left me with a stoma and an underlying, bulbous hernia that I called, "my baby head," I was one chemo treatment in when I traveled to New Orleans with my daughter, two of her friends, and my best monkey friend, to celebrate Halloween. I wore a black pleather, naughty nurse outfit with snaps down the front. Underneath, I spirit-glued grotesque, faux scars over my real mastectomy scars, and wore black Spanx boy shorts to cover my dreaded bag. All night long I ripped open my dress and watched people gawk at my mangled breasts. I was also pushing the arrest button, knowing it is illegal to expose your breasts in New Orleans if you are a woman and if (this is the important part) you have nipples. But my nipples are also faux, as is my areola, so I'm free to taunt my faux foobs up and down Bourbon Street. 

Mr. Jones continues to text and call during my time at Fells Point. Noticeably absent is Airport Man. 

"They postponed my PET scan," I text Airport Man. 

"It's back on for 3:00 pm," I update him hours later. 

When the procedure finally begins, I text him a picture of the radioactive vile of glucose being injected into my arm. 

Still no response. 

This is the first time I recognize a pattern. If things get heavy, he disappears - reappearing 24 to 48 hours later with an upbeat, obnoxiously positive text that avoids the situation altogether.

"How is the weather there?" He asks the following day.

As hard and illogical as it is for me to admit, I need him. I need him to distract me from my cancer. Even with the tenderness sent my way by Mr. Jones, it's Airport Man I want. 

"Listen, Sweetheart, you're going to marry me," Mr. Jones announces over the phone after the PET scan is over. "You're going to be fine. I'll make sure of it. You'll get the best treatment available and I'll never leave your side."

"I can't marry you," I tell him, "I'm dating someone." 

"He doesn't count," Mr. Jones counters, "He's already married!" I have been honest with Mr. Jones from the beginning, and he has been completely transparent with me. 

Ling and Pete do their best to keep me focused on having fun and I am grateful for the love, dedication, and support they show me. 

We have a long, liquid lunch at the outdoor bar at Sagamore Pendry - a luxurious, recently restored, 1914 building that is now a five-star hotel in the heart of downtown Baltimore's, Recreation Pier. 

"You don't need a man, Mama. You have us," Ling reminds me. 

"Mr. Jones asked me to marry him," I tell her. 

"You can't marry him!" she insists. 

Maybe we will get married here, I imagine, letting my Calgon Moment take me away.

To be continued...

Thank You For Encouraging My Joy of Writing

Thank You For Encouraging My Joy of Writing

Shannon E. Kennedy


Photo by Joan Harrison