Real, Not Fake

When I was diagnosed with inoperable cancer, my first thought wasn’t what you might expect. My first thought wasn’t “Why me?”

My first thought was “Why not you?”

This is a serious thought, I think, a logical thought, and not at all unreasonable, insensitive or anything. Why don’t YOU have cancer seems to be a more logical thing to ask, more logical than why do I have cancer. At least it does to me, but maybe there’s a reason for this. Maybe it’s because this is about me, that it is me talking, and because I have cancer, inoperable cancer.

Maybe this is the cancer talking.

The cancer is in my brain.

You should have this cancer; it should be in your brain.

I was diagnosed with cancer of the brain when I was thirty eight years old. I am thirty eight years old now, today, the day I am writing this. The doctors had a couple of theories as to where this cancer came from; they told me why I may have cancer, which is good information to have, I suppose, even though it doesn’t do any good. Knowing why I have it doesn’t make me not have it, nor does it answer why you don’t have it.

They thought it might be the cigarettes. I don’t smoke any more, haven’t for years, but for years and years and years I did. I smoked a lot. They thought this may be it, the doctors did. It probably is. They also said my brain and lung cancer may have something to do with TV actress Christine Baranski. I saw her on TV once, that actress, and now I have cancer, cancer of the brain and lungs and liver. That is 100% true. Christine Baranski may have given me cancer. She may have given it to me that one time I watched either Murphy Brown or Cybil, whichever show she was on. The doctors said this, they said it out loud.

The worst part I think about my having the cancer of the face, neck, and lungs, besides the obvious you not having it part, the worst part is that this makes the chances of me walking into a room and having theme music playing all the more slim. It makes it slimmer, is what it does, slim jimmer, Stephen King’s “Slimmer.” I am 38 years old and still think about what songs should be playing when I walk into a room, when I make an entrance. I am going to die before this happens, I think. I am going to die from this cancer, this cancer that I have and you don’t, and I will never walk into a room, never be introduced with music playing. This hardly seems fair or right or anything even though I am way too old to be thinking about things like this.

What I am guessing is that the cancer I received probably had nothing to do with the cigarettes, nothing to do with the fingernails, nothing to do with the Christine Baranski, even though that option probably seems the most likely. My doctors told me that the occurrence of Christine Baranski-caused cancer is high, higher than you might think.

It is like 80%.

80% of all the cancer of the brain, eyes, and ears is caused by Christine Baranski. I didn’t know this; I had no idea, but it makes sense when you think about it and even when you don’t.

In this movie I watched, a movie about the guy who wrote Where The Wild Things Are, he’s asked, the guy is, if he has any advice for young people. The guy says back, without missing a beat, he says “Quit this life as soon as possible. Get out, get out.” I wonder if that was fake or real, him saying that so quickly. I wonder that now with throat cancer, brain cancer, cancer of the limbs and legs.

My boys play a game called fake or real. They will hum or sing something, one of them will, to the others and then say fake or real. I’m not 100% sure of the rules of this game, I don’t know how it is played, but it is something like that. The worst part about having all this goddamn cancer is that I will miss my boys and that is real not fake.

When asked by an interviewer why white women were attracted to black men, former heavyweight champion of the world Jack Johnson said “Because we eat cold eels and think distant thoughts.”

That happened.

PT Barnum once ate an entire lobster without opening his mouth.

That happened, too.

I once watched an episode of Murphy Brown or Cybil once in 1988, saw Christine Baranski, and now am going to die from a cancer that you should have and I will never see my boys or be introduced walking in someplace, never come out from the back, from the dark, come up through the aisle to the tunes of something playing, something real and not fake.

Ben Slotky is the author of the critically acclaimed collection of short stories entitled Red Hot Dogs, White Gravy which is available at He prefers that if you buy the book, that you download it, as he gets $2 every time you do so. He is also the author of the popular blog and podcast “The Hill I’m Going To Die On” neither of which exist but probably should. You can follow him on Twitter at @benslotky. He says some pretty funny things some times. One time he said “I think out of all the bear-bears out there, my favorite is Bud Grizzly.” One time he spent an entire day talking about the movie “Hobo With A Shotgun.” He said something really funny once about Marcel Proust and LL Cool J that deserved way more recognition than it got.

“Real Not Fake” is the first song off his new album entitlled An Evening of Romantic Lovemaking which is wonderful and almost finished.