The week started as the worst one of my life. I entered it with a seemingly terminal illness that doctors couldn’t diagnose and somehow left it . well, completely healthy, but with some major baggage. Baggage that meant I couldn’t look anyone in the eye and say I wasn’t completely sure magic wasn’t involved. I arrived in Portland, Oregon, on May 18, 2017. When I stepped off the plane, I fully believed I had a year left to live. I had been suffering from crazy symptoms that stumped every doctor on the east coast. Believe me when I say I got quite tired of describing my symptoms over and over again. Watery eyes in harsh sunlight, constantly ringing ears, pain that turned on and off like a light switch (depending on my mental state), daily nausea, lack of motor skills, and more. That’s without me even mentioning the more “positive” symptoms. On certain days I became stronger and sometimes my injuries or wounds would heal way faster than they should have. With the symptoms appearing and disappearing without warning, I didn’t blame the doctors for having no idea. Which is why I ended up in Portland, heading to be studied at the Portland Institute for Special Persons.
PISP was my last hope. If they couldn’t figure out what was wrong with me, I wouldn’t make it through the week. No—my illness wasn’t going to off me, rather, I anticipated ending it myself. About ten years with this illness had been long enough. The last year of my life had officially begun when I walked out the airport doors. I stood on the curb of the pickup zone waiting for my ride, Daichi, to pick me up in our yetto-be-named food truck. I spotted Daichi through a sea of taxis, leaning against what I assumed would be our truck. Weaving through businessmen and vacationers, I pulled my one measly suitcase behind me. To be honest, the truck looked as if it would fall apart at any second. I felt its pain as I wobbled slightly on my way to the truck. I had gotten used to being unable to walk in a straight line; so on a primal-ice cream truck level—yeah—I could understand the feeling of being on one’s last leg. “I’m not spending eight hours a day in that hunk of junk,” I teased as I closed within hearing distance.
Daichi looked up and beamed, walking over to embrace me in a bear hug. “Welcome to Portland, the best place to spend the last year of your life!” He finally let go, allowing me to breathe again. “Thanks for picking me up.” I opened the passenger side door and threw my suitcase on the floor. No extra strength on the throw. Maybe I was getting better at moderating my random strength boosts. “Don’t mention it. It’s the least I could do after being so behind schedule on the truck.” I hopped into the vehicle and shut the door behind me. I couldn’t tell if the rattling of the door was me pulling too hard or the truck being held together by tape and prayers.
Sitting down, I discovered a thick tome in my seat. I pulled it from under me and settled into the seat. “Daichi, what in the world are you reading?” Black leather and gold lettering covered the front cover. “The Lesser Key of Solomon?” “Oh, that,” he said, grabbing it from my hands with a grin. He tossed it in the backseat. “You never know when you’ll need a book to pass the time.” “But a book of evil spirits?” Not that I knew what the Lesser Key of Solomon was, but that was literally the subtitle. He shrugged. “Why not?” “You’re right,” I agreed. “Not the weirdest thing you’ve read.
” I brought my thoughts back to the truck. I had left Daichi to do most of the planning while I was getting my move to Portland together. There was no use in wasting my last months by bemoaning a lack of planning. “Are you saying now I have to do more than just provide the credit card scanner app?” Despite the potential added work, it was good to be with him. “Yeah, man. We still need a permit and a name. Do you even have the app? Also, the paint—” “Let me stop you there. Do you have something so I can write this down?” “Yep.” He pulled out a piece of paper and handed it to me. “Okay,” I said.
“I’m not even worried—we’ll just start a week late.” I shrugged with a smile. “That’s the attitude,” Daichi said as he merged into airport traffic. The silence was short-lived as he told me about his weekend. “So, have you ever had a goose honk at you? ‘Cause they are terrifying.” I turned and looked to him. “Daichi . Were you sober?” My best friend placed one hand over his heart. “Well, I would never . William Patterson.
How could you think such a thing?” “Oh, I don’t know. Maybe because you haven’t been sober one weekend since you met Erin.” “True enough.” He nodded as his smile turned to an exaggerated frown. “True enough.” I could always rely on Daichi for a good story. It was part of the reason I had chosen to spend Operation One Year Left here in Portland, Oregon. I glanced at him as he navigated through traffic. Whether I’d be partaking in his less-than-legal shenanigans, I doubted it. But hey, maybe I’d get a miracle and leave PISP as a cured man, leaving me free to party with Daichi.
“Did you ever talk to your roommate?” he asked, snapping me out of my daydream. “I haven’t. I just agreed with the landlord for the place this morning. On the tarmac, actually.” My last-minute stunt earned a side-eye from him. I knew I had pushed the risk factor too far when Daichi, the king of risk, gave me weird looks. He pulled the truck into a parking lot and brought us to a stop. “We’re here.” I looked out the window and saw a rundown storefront with a sign barely hanging—if it even was a storefront. The sign was unreadable and the inside looked empty.
I couldn’t even imagine what we’d be picking up from this place. “Where is ‘here’?” I asked, skeptical we’d want anything to do with supplies from a place like this. He lowered his head. “Erin wanted me to pick something up . ” “Oh, go ahead.” I waved him off. He returned shortly, stuffing something into his jean jacket as he jumped into the driver’s seat. The next stop for equipment wasn’t far off. Although I had no idea what the miscellaneous cooking machine we hauled into the truck did. Daichi was the chef.
My cooking skills only extended to Easy Mac and Pop-Tarts. My responsibility was the payment app, and I already had that. “So besides this lovely truck, what do you have planned for the next twelve months?” “Like, four doctor appointments,” I said after brief contemplation. He stared at me. “Is that it?” It was. Beyond that, I had nothing planned. Maybe a dentist appointment and a few dates, but beyond that, I was stumped. I changed the subject. “What do you have planned?” I asked. He shrugged as much as he could while struggling to place the machine inside the truck.
“I don’t know, but I’ve got, like, twenty-three whole years to figure it out.” “Twenty-three?” “Yep. I know Erin will get me into something I won’t make it out of. So I’ll probably only make it to fifty.” It was my turn to stare. Our conversations were certainly bleak lately. What did I have to look forward to? I had to create an opportunity so I didn’t waste this last year. I wouldn’t spend my last months the way I had the previous ones in Maryland. What could I fit into the next few months? Not quite getting the proper lift, we banged the machine into the back of the truck. I needed to stop thinking to myself and focus on getting it into the truck.
I sighed. Whenever I focused, my muscles always overdid it. “Okay,” I said, “on three. One, two, three!” Daichi grunted as his end barely cleared the lip of the truck. My end of the machine, however, jerked in my hands as I lifted it easily into the air, nearly tipping the weight of the machine onto him. I recovered quickly and managed to push my end way up and over the lip, pushing it much farther into the back of the truck than his side. My eyes went a bit wide at the show of strength. I wasn’t surprised, but I was worried Daichi would say something. “Well,” he brought his finger to his lips, “that was weird.” He shrugged and turned before walking back to the driver’s seat.
I exhaled. I wasn’t sure why I was hiding this from him. He was my best friend after all. With the machinery in the truck, we called it a day. We then went to his place to hang out. We played Mario Tennis, watched random TV, and just generally messed around until my introversion wanted me home. Daichi drove in relative silence on the way to dropping me off at my new beginning. I hated beginnings. Whether it was being unable to say hi to Jessica in the halls of high school or just being a dense and sometimes awkward male, I didn’t have great luck with first impressions.