A year ago, I was in Reno, Nevada, a town I knew nothing of outside of the show Reno 911! I was there for work, opening a new restaurant, training the new staff. A few days into the first week, I was in front of one of my classes, trying to figure out an icebreaker. So I said, “we’re going to go around and everyone say their name and… their favorite movie. Like, my name is Mike and my favorite movie is Young Frankenstein.” They went around in the same fashion and I gave nods or raspberries to their movie choices. Then, we got to a cute brunette whom I had seen in my class two days earlier. She said her name, then she said, “and I guess my favorite movie is The Big Lebowski.”
I did a mini-fist pump and said, “Yea, I knew I liked this chick.” The rest of the class laughed and we got on with our agenda. But, for the rest of the day, we kept catching each other’s eye and made small talk before she left for the day. On Saturday, as we were finishing up for the night, she began to ask me what plans I had for my day off, if I was going to go and check out the town. I said that I wanted to go out, that we had been in a casino for a week and it was already starting to wear on me. I wanted to find a bar, draft beer, maybe some live music, and no slot machines. She nodded and told me there were some cool places like that in town and it shouldn’t be too hard to find. I nodded and looked at her. She looked back at me and asked, “So, do you want to party?”
I nodded, “Yes, I do.” She smiled and told me that she would slip me her number later on. I called her when I got back to the casino, she picked me up and I spent every night I had left in Reno with her. We danced, drank, sang karaoke, went to the movies, smoked pot and wondered why the coolest DiCaprio movies always had him on an island at some point. We both forgot about our lives at school or back in California and it was harder to say goodbye to her than I could have possibly imagined. Over the summer, I have visited her twice since she’s moved to Las Vegas. Unfortunately, the distance was a issue for us, (Las Vegas is about a five hour drive and Reno was even further.) and we have remained just friends.
Until she messaged me earlier this week. We chit chatted back and forth, but I was honestly wondering why she had hit me up. We had only spoken and texted briefly since the last time we saw each other and I told her to call me, hoping everything was ok.
It was not.
She told me that she had been to the doctor and that she was told she has cancer. Skin cancer of the multi-syllabic variety that the doctors had discovered when doing a biopsy of a mole on her stomach. I responded with the only word that I came to my mind.
“Yea,” she said. “I had the same reaction.”
“Well,” I said, “it’s skin cancer and it’s topical and they caught it early. I’m not a doctor but those all seem like good things.”
“Do you think so?”
“Yea, plus you’re young, you’re in good health, I think you’ll be fine. I’m not going to tell you not to worry, because I know you’ll worry, but I do think that you’ll be ok.”
She laughed and told me that I sounded like Seth Rogen in 50/50. I laughed and then proceeded to run down a scene from the film in my (very good) Seth Rogen impression and she laughed more. I asked her if she had seen the movie and she said she had. We talked about it and how Seth Rogen really was a good friend, that he took it on evern when Bryce Dallas Howard didn’t and even if he used it to try to get laid, he looked out for Joseph Gordon-Levitt the entire film. We both agreed that our favorite scene was after JGL ate the pot cookies for the first time and saw the finger painting of Rogen on the wall. And for the next three hours, we laughed and talked about her cancer, about smoking pot and because her cancer was found in a mole, she named it Fred Savage, after the actor who played Number Three, the Mole in the second Austin Powers movie. We laughed and laughed and laughed, so hard that I had to cry into my pillow, I was screaming so loud. As it got later, or earlier in the morning, we started to say our goodbyes. She said that she was really glad that she called me and really needed to talk it out and laugh like that. I told her she could call me anytime she felt and we could laugh it up again. She laughed and told me that was just what she needed.
“You need to laugh?” I asked.
“No,” she said, through a smile I could hear over the phone. “I need you to be my Seth Rogen.”
I don’t know if she and I would’ve started talking if it weren’t for The Big Lebowski, but I think we might have. I don’t know if we would have reconnected and found so much emotional catharsis over her situation if it hadn’t been for the movie 50/50. But, now, more than ever in my life, I truly believe in the power of films to touch our lives, inform our feelings and all that nonsense about the human spirit. I know that I love her in a way I’ve only seen in films, we do things like couples on screen do and that if I reference a movie, she knows it as well. I love films and I am grateful for the connections that they have helped to make in my life with my friends and families and with her. No matter what happens, that will never change and I believe that we will both find our happy endings.
The movie we went to see while we were in Reno? Sucker Punch. I love that movie.