"Things that interfere with writing well: Earning a living, especially by teaching."

-William H. Gass

Thursday, May 13, 2010

taking one's lumps

Among the many joys of being a woman is the special day when your doctor’s cold, dry hands stop in the middle of your boob, dig around, and retract to clasp behind his back while he says, “Okay get dressed and we’ll chat.”

“You have,” he says when you are fully clothed, “a lump that I’d like you to get checked out.”

It’s worth appreciating that in spite of a notoriously craptastic health care system doctors still seem to know not to tell you bad news when you’re naked. If only all men could figure this out.

You go out into the take-out window where a multi-lingual receptionist wearing unbelievably huge earrings calls the breast center. There is a whole center just for breasts. This is the last time in your life the words “breast center” will mean “nipple.” The wait on hold at the breast center is more than ten minutes. You ask for permission to pee, return, and still the earrings are on hold. You try to assume that this is due to an early lunch hour and not the overwhelming number of callers, but digest the fact that there is such a thing as a breast phone number in a breast center doesn’t exactly scream rarity. Yes, not a rarity. So you tell yourself, “My lump is unspecial, ordinary, boring. Like so many other lumps, forgotten and resting safely in healthy boobs across the world.”

Your coffee is sweating all over the counter, and you take a tissue to wipe it up. Everyone looks at you at once to see if you are crying. You raise your eyebrows as high as they will go, annoyed, while you wipe up the condensation. Your appointment is in two weeks, and you put it in your phone’s calendar under “Boob.”

You go home and go running. When your chest bounces in its sports bra you feel like you might be damaging something. Upsetting the lump. Five miles later, back home, your fiancé still asleep, you stare at them in the shower like foreign things. When you tell him, he is still groggy and just kind of rolls onto you, takes you under the blanket, and says that everything will be fine. You tell him that he had better not treat them any differently, and refuse to say which is the afflicted one in order to prevent favoritism.