Today, I went to the doctor because I found a lump when I was taking a shower. I found the lump on Sunday, so for four days, I feared for the worst. Through my own examination and web research, the signs all pointed to cancer–and not in the way that you say, “I have a headache,” then go to WebMD and self-diagnose that you have a brain tumor. (Don’t act like you don’t know what I’m talking about. We’re all freaks.) This was one of those situations where it really seemed like it could be cancer. I decided to limit the people I talked to about it–I didn’t want the sympathy. I was mad. I was scared and I was mad and I was hurt and most of all, I didn’t want to die. I didn’t want to fight it either–I just didn’t want it to be. And when I’m upset, I want to retreat–that’s just how I react to things. I don’t want to deal with it head on… I want to collect myself. I want to go to Super Dollar Magic Kingdom.
Freshman year of college is weird. Weird and hard. You’re trying to figure out all these things about what it means to actually be in college, and there’s always a wrench that gets thrown in there. For the most part, it was easy. Just the basics of being a college freshman, but as the end of the Spring semester approached, the wrench happened. Things weren’t right at home, and because of that, I didn’t go back that often. I removed myself from the situation because the energy wasn’t the same: it didn’t feel like the place full of love that I left. My parents were arguing more, and it was weird because my parents always loved each other. They still do to this day. But at that point, it didn’t feel like it, and soon after the arguing started, they would call me. The conversations were always ambiguous, but it always led to the same conclusion: things weren’t going so hot for my parents.
So one night, I grabbed my friend Kasi, and we went to Pearsons: the dining hall/run-down dorm that no one lives in anymore. There were couches in the lobby, and we went there because we knew no one else would be there at midnight in March. I immediately bought myself a Coke because… Coke cures most ailments, and I lost it. I cried and I yelled and I cried some more, but it was interrupted–we heard the sound of a malfunctioning machine, and as we looked over, we saw a dollar bill floating gently to the floor. Jesus once cured with leprosy, Moses parted the Red Sea–and on a cool March evening, a Coca Cola machine gave me back my dollar.
And like all good things, it completely went to our heads. Kasi and I looked at each other in amazement. Could it be? Could one of the main sources of non-human dollar thievery actually be giving us our money back? It was the vigilante of Coke machines, and we didn’t care–we took advantage of its kindness. We figured out that the machine would spit the dollar back out every ten minutes, and it wasn’t long until our friends became suspicious of why we would come back to our dorm with six cokes in hand.
We made an agreement: we would tell two other people, one apiece, about our treasure trove. We would invite them into our ranks, and they too would experience the beauty that was what we had titled “Super Dollar Magic Kingdom.” So, I told my friend Ellison, and she told Bridget. Soon after we decided that to clear up roommate issues, they had to tell their roommates, so then it was the six of us–we would take turns with the machine, inserting the same dollar in every ten minutes, and over the course of a month, we cleared out the Coke machine twice. But after a while, it became more than a Coke machine. We talked about our business there: the stuff that didn’t matter and the stuff that did. And at the end of the night, we would sneak back into Copeland Hall with backpacks full of drinks just because we could. And when people would ask us where we got all the Diet Cokes from, well, we’d just lie.
The fateful day finally happened that we returned to Super Dollar Magic Kingdom, and the machine had been replaced. Apparently, after about 110 beverages missing, the Coca Cola company finally got the picture and decided to start charging again. And with that, the saga of Super Dollar Magic Kingdom came to a close. In college, we all grew apart and together and apart and together, but when we reached our senior year, we were celebrating the final 100 days until graduation with the rest of our class, and we all ended up back at the same table. Sadly, there were no free cokes, but there was free champagne, and that’s pretty much all you can ask for in life. I don’t know if they remembered it, or most of the stuff we had been through, but when I looked around at that table, I saw the people that had gotten me through college–all at the expense of the Coca-Cola company.
I was a mess waiting for the doctor to arrive. He asked me the basics: allergies, family history, smoking and drinking habits. I didn’t understand why we couldn’t get straight to the real issue. But when he finally mentioned the lump, I felt dizzy. I had been swallowing all this for nearly a week, begging someone to give me an answer that only a doctor really could. He inspected it, and then quickly responded, “Justin, that’s not cancer. You’re fine.” And then, naturally, as an entitled grad student I tried to explain how many things it had in common with cancer, and then he explained how many things the lump didn’t. He said, sometimes, things just grow–we don’t know why, but it’s a cyst. And it will probably go away.
Then it was over. All the worry and panic and stuff was just simply over like that, but it was the four days waiting that was harder than the actual visit. I wanted to be back in Pearsons on the nasty couches. Not because I want my college life back or because I can’t let go. It had nothing to do with that. It has to do with the five other people I was sitting with. We need people, and we need that support. We get through and manage life when we lean on each other–and the fact that anything can be solved over a Coke, regardless of all that carcinogenic aspartame.