This Existence: Rosie

“This Existence” shadows the relationship between Rosie and her husband, Adam, as she battles cirrhosis of the liver from 2011-2013. Rosie, married twenty years and is herself almost twenty years older than Adam, is dependent upon him for care. Rosie was born in Tehran, but emigrated to the US in her 30s. At the age of 40, she met Adam who was then 20. Adam is one of the few individuals who does not judge Rosie, yet he tells people who ask that she suffers from cancer to avoid the stigma attached to cirrhosis. Adam explains, “With cancer, it is nothing of your doing.” In spite of certain closeness between them, Rosie is often lonely. Rosie shares, “My anxiety comes back. I’m scared. I’m lonely. I’m sick. I think what will happen later. I am very scared of my life. I very soon [sic] call to Adam or somebody.”

In 2011, I met Rosie and Adam when Rosie was temporarily housed at a nursing home in Los Angeles. She intrigued me and so did Adam, who wore a t-shirt from the Chicken Ranch, which is a brothel in Nevada. Adam told me about how Rosie loved to have women from the neighborhood visit their home so that Rosie could read their fortune. After her illness, Rosie was largely confined to her bed. She rarely wanted to go outside because she was self conscious about her appearance. She used to watch Gone with the Wind on repeat. I sat in one room with Rosie for 8 to 10 hours a day, while Adam was at work, driving a bus, or hooking up with sex workers. At her funeral, Rosie’s sister spoke about how Rosie’s once friend filled home was left empty during years of illness.

Rosie passed away in 2013. In his poem “When You Are Old,” W.B. Yeats writes, “How many loved your moments of glad grace, And loved your beauty with love false or true; But one…loved the pilgrim soul in you, And loved the sorrow of your changing face.”