October 22nd, 2008: In the past few weeks, I’ve noticed a shift in my interests, especially food and music. I used to spend a lot of time anticipating and enjoying meals, regardless of whether I was cooking for myself or dining out. In the months prior to my surgery, I’d been going to lunch once a week at Boulette’s Larder in the Ferry Plaza food cathedral. The nuances and concentrated flavors in Amaryll Schwertner’s cuisine took my palate to a whole new level of refinement. I had never apprenticed myself to a kitchen before this, and the rewards were awesome. Since the surgery, I can still taste, but I have very little interest in pursuing flavors. True, my diet has changed dramatically: no sugar, no white bread, lots of fresh vegetables, especially green. As for music, the presence of opera in my daily life has evaporated. I can hear but I don’t listen. These days opera requires a level of concentration that I find very difficult to muster. Before, I felt no effort; my capabilities had been honed for decades. Along with the lack of desire is the lack of memory of desire. I not only don’t put on Figaro or Don Carlo, I forget that I own those recordings.
Now I have a new pleasure that happens when I’m talking with friends. If I were to name the dominant memory of my post-surgery weeks, I would say, “Telling people I love them.” My previous boyfriend Chester used to say to me, “Wow, you sure are gushy.” Meaning that I would tell people directly that I loved them and how much our friendship it meant to me. I’d reply, “Hey, when my friends started dying in the late 80’s and early 90’s, they’d tell me that they loved me. I learned to say that I loved them too. Then I started telling that to a lot of my friends, regardless of their health status.” In the past weeks, during phone calls, I’ll go through my current health bulletin and listen to what my friends’ are up to, and when there’s an opening I’ll jump in to tell people how much I care for them. How much I’ve learned from knowing them. How much I appreciate some sweetness or talent or special trait that is uniquely theirs. To me, that’s the center of the phone call. When I say those words, my body and feelings and memory lights up with the joy of knowing that person. It's a feeling that I want to prolong. And often, they respond with a warmth and perception that’s gratifying to hear.