So far, I think I have the biggest bandage of all, Bernie whispers to me loud enough to be heard by the 25 other people in the waiting room.

Bernie, don’t talk so loud.

I’m talking loud?

We’re sitting in the office of the doctor doing Moh’s Procedure to remove the carcinoma on Bernie’s nose, which has gotten steadily bigger over the past few months (the carcinoma, not the nose). Everybody but me has white bandages on some part of their body. But not as big as Bernie’s.

I think you should just take the whole thing off, Bernie tells Dr. Loosemore when he examines him.

That’s what I plan to do.

I mean the nose, too. He turns towards me. Not just not-knowing, also not-nosing.

I’m not paying attention because I’m too busy musing about the doctor’s name. Loosemore, I think to myself. Can’t think of a more perfect name for a surgeon. Or for a Zen practitioner, come to think of it.

He’s removing the carcinoma membrane by membrane, with lots of waiting time in the anteroom, so off we start discussing the Auschwitz retreat again, which just ended the previous weekend. I whisper, Bernie blares (he’s hard of hearing, and assumes we all are, too):

What was new for me at Auschwitz this time, he broadcasts, is that given my stroke, I would have never gotten to Auschwitz, I’d have been dead long before that.

The other white bandages stare.

You’re talking loud again, Bernie. You’re right, If you limped heavily and couldn’t use much of your right side, you didn’t even merit a selection, they probably just got rid of you somewhere along the road.

Remember the Sauna, he proclaims, where they took people’s possessions, clothes, hair, and even their name, so that all they had was a number? Genro and I started talking about what we’d take if someone said we have to go to Auschwitz and can only take one suitcase.

More stares.

Genro packs for a trunk, not a suitcase, I say.

He started listing food, clothes, pictures of his boys, his spiritual books.

What did you say when it was your turn, Bernie?

I said I’d just kill myself.

Nobody’s staring anymore, they’re just looking down on the floor.

Bernie peers at his iPad, checking for the 10th time that day how many people have registered for the Zen Peacemakers’ new membership platform. There’s an aquarium right in front with colorful vegetation and fish, probably to quiet down folks’ anxieties. If Bernie gets any more quiet he’d be asleep.

Another hour passes. Why don’t you just go and leave me here? he says.

Good idea, I’m off.

No sense in both of us waiting on account of my nose.

I wish I could bring Stanley here.

In my next surgery.

His next surgery is the very next day, when they’ll close the hole they made. And by the evening, when we sit at the table over pasta, we know it’s more serious than we’d realized. The carcinoma is embedded in the bone of the nose, it’s aggressive, and they couldn’t take it all out. There will actually be two small surgeries to cover everything up, and Bernie will need radiation to get out the rest.

Can I come? asks Stanley with an enthusiastic wag.

Don’t be ridiculous, Stan.

You know what’s good about all this? says Bernie. Usually they take off membranes and they put them under the microscope to see if there’s cancer in the margins, and we don’t know till they tell us. This time we know it’s there.

And that’s good? I ask.

No suspense, says Stanley happily from the rug under the table. Neither of his humans are eating much and he expects big left-overs in his bowl any minute.