My Face is Up Here

March 16, 2013 § 1 Comment

We sit, scattered like marbles, in our own corners. Different ages, skin and hair colors, more gray than not, some dyed. I am the youngest by far and a rookie. The look of fear or veiled bewilderment is the only thing we share. Could it really be me? Am I the one in eight?  She’s older, has raised her kids, let it be her.

“Whetstone,” the nurse calls in an Eastern European accent, so it comes out “Vetston.” I am led to the Gulag. Here, I enter a tiny dressing room and undress from the waist up and wipe off my deodorant on her command. I put on a blue apron-like gown that opens from the front to expose one breast at a time. This puzzles me a bit. So much modesty when I will be sticking my bare breasts into a vice grip at any moment? Out of the dressing room, I join four women already dressed in blue gowns, waiting. I feel like we are some kind of cheerleading squad. Give me a B! I think, but decide not to share. They are reading Good Housekeeping and Vogue as if they are Bibles. They might turn to pillars of salt if they look up. They are scouring the pages for good news or weight loss tips. Idleness will make them think too much. So will eye contact. It’s my turn.

The technician, a pleasant, petite woman with an Indian accent, chooses her weapon. It is a narrow pillar with two plates of Lucite, chest high. There are handholds on the sides. I was expecting cold steel. Maybe with blades? How bad could Lucite be? You can see through it. She locks it into place. “Hold the handle and don’t breathe,” she says. Lucite is an evil liar. It can be very bad. I try my best to follow orders because my breast is stretched and pulled onto the shelf and compressed. My breast looks, well, long. Perky may never happen again. “Ow!” I say.

“I have to get close to get a good picture,” she says, as if it is a family portrait. Maybe it is. I hold my breath for the amount of time it takes me to swim across the pool under water.

The torture device guaranteed to make me “just a little uncomfortable” outdoes itself. Why didn’t I go to Med school, with an undergrad degree in electrical engineering? Surely, this innocuous looking, medieval feeling instrument was designed by a man.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Back in the waiting room, clothed again, I see a new crop of faces.  I count off by eight, but only get to six. Maybe it will be one of the ones in the back. I know I shouldn’t hope this, but I do because then I won’t be the one.

The radiologist, a man, shows me my scans. “Nothing to worry about,” he says as casually as you would say, ”cream, oh, and two sugars.” I want to cry, but he is cute and I don’t want him to think I’m irrational. “Are you sure?” I ask.

“Sometimes the tissue presses together and looks suspicious. Some women are lumpy. It is not a growth.”

I want to kiss him on the mouth. I am happy to be lumpy. On the way out, I pass by the waiting room. It is silent and full of awful imaginings. I feel guilty for a second, knowing at least one of these women has a disease that could be killing her as we all watch.

I rush through the doors and take a deep breath.  Safe in my car, I turn on the radio, The Commodores proclaim, “She’s a Brick—House!” The universe has an odd sense of humor.


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