Yesterday I spent the morning at the dermatologist to have three suspicious spots on my body examined by a skin doctor and his attending student physician. This is something I have put off for far too long, and I was hoping they’d look at two of the smaller affected areas and shrug away my worry. But no such luck, unfortunately, and the examination took twice as long as I had hoped.
They took a biopsy of each spot and sent them off to a pathologist to be examined, and I don’t know yet which one if any will need to be excised. This is not my first rodeo with skin cancer — I had my first basal cell carcinoma removed in 2006 when I was only 31 years old. I have lost count of how much skin I have lost to the knife, and I had resigned myself then to the fact that this is the hell I have to pay for playing fast and loose with sun exposure when I was young and didn’t know better.
I see a dermatologist at the other end of the valley and planned a more scenic route than I would normally take to calm my nerves. And since I have a playlist for every mood and occasion, obviously, I flipped to one with a library of songs recommended to me by various men in my life — this seemed fitting since I have assigned every skin cancer scar a masculine name and identity.
The moment after I released the emergency break, the following song played. It’s by a band from Manchester and Salford, England, and it was recommended to me by one of my best friends in high school, a friend who played a key role in how music would shape the rest of my life. His name was Jason Schroeder, and it was specifically because of him that my love of music grew from the size of Madonna’s mole into an entire cathedral replete with lush percussion and a nave of stringed instruments. I honestly did not know music until Jason made me my first mixtape.
Electronic – “Get the Message”
Next up was a song by M.I.A., a British rapper of Sri Lankan descent, an artist recommended to me by one of my ex-husband’s best friends named Roger Thom.
M.I. A. was born on July 18, 1975 and happens to share her initials with Marlo. Up until this summer I had not ever met a single person who shares my birthday, although I did go to high school with a woman named Beth Bagwell who was born on July 17, 1975. She was the most popular girl in my class and, go figure, I was at the opposite end of that spectrum. I did not fit in with either the popular kids or the nerdy ones, and landed somewhere on the fringe where most of my friends were either quirky, smart boys or those who sat beside me on the third row of the Honors Chorale.
On my flight back from Europe this summer I met a flight attendant who was born on July 19th. He looked exactly like Anderson Cooper, and he too had never met anyone who shares our birthday. We bonded over this surprising connection, and to celebrate he brought me extra bags of pretzels throughout the 11-hour flight.
M.I.A. – “Paper Planes”
Immediately following was a song by an artist named Thomas Arsenault who goes by the stage name Mas Ysa (pronounced MAHS EE-sə), someone introduced to me by Brian Meyers, a guy I dated in 2016. I have several of his songs on a playlist I made before I headed to Europe, and that playlist includes this song as well.
Mas Ysa – “Why”
Just as I pulled into the parking lot at the clinic this last song shook the dashboard of the car as if I had just driven over a landmine. An old college friend named Charlie Capen introduced me to this band and loaned me one of their CDs. They have dotted my musical landscape ever since.
Low is an indie rock band from Duluth, Minnesota and is made up of a husband and wife team named Alan Sparhawk and Mimi Parker. They happen to be Mormon, and I got to see this duo in 1997 as they played to a crowd of about 40 people in a barely lit back room of a house in downtown Salt Lake City. I have never seen a show where the audience showed such reverence for a band.
Low – “White Horses”