The fluorescent lights above me buzz as I force in a shallow breath. The air doesn’t seem to catch. Instead it just fills in my lungs like a balloon and then deflates – destitution. I am a fish out of water, gulping in air. I struggle to take another breath and glance sideways, hoping that the rehearsed steadiness in my demeanour will overcome the rapidly radiating panic which is gaining voltage. My cheeks blaze like the electricity in my chest as the heavy blush of suspected eyes burdens down upon me.
Don’t check your phone, don’t check your phone. Check your phone.
I pull out my phone. My thumb hovers above the unlock keys like a guillotine about to drop.
Somethings wrong. Everything is wrong.
I push past the security, allowing myself to become submerged.
Fuck it. I’m dying. Not really but maybe. Possibly. Probably. Not at all. I am.
I push ‘Send’ on my Search, holding my breath. It’s not much of an inquiry, rather an expedition. I know what I’m trying to find. I’m looking for It, my moving target of tragedy. There has to be a twist to my happy ending because it is not possible for the blissful monotony of life to last forever. My phone buzzes and I jump back. Another surge of adrenaline spikes within me. A text message.
“How long r u going to be? She’s screaming & hungry.”
I hurriedly clear the screen.
You can survive a minute without me. You can survive a lifetime without me.
I sense a bitterness stirring. Yes – bitterness. I like it so much more than that other sensation. I try to sit with the spark.. germinate it into an anger… unsuccessfully.
Not this… anything but this… The buzzing and the burn silently devour again.
“Sarah Fraser…” I stand to attention too quickly and then awkwardly trail behind a stout woman. She leads me to separate room. The smell of Dentyne Ice hangs around her like an aura, an artificial burst of sugar that stands out against the sterile blankness of the waiting room. It makes me want to gag and I almost do. Her eyes had looked right through me as she called my name. I focus on this fact, offended.
There is nothing sweet or endearing about this woman’s frank expression and abrupt march forward, just her sickly minty stench. It’s been a long shift for her, probably. She’s been around sickness all day, all year so maybe it’s numbed her to the helplessness that her chosen profession caters toward. I feel bitterness twinge again. This woman is not my saviour. She is no one’s saviour. I know that.
She ushers me into another brightly lit room. More buzzing. Fuck.
The door closes behind me as I sit down in the lone chair in the corner like a troubled child.
I shouldn’t be here. I have to be here.
I’m here again.
And there I was. My innocence was his bait and I pulled him in unknowingly. I was Lolita in overalls and Smackers lip chap. Cherry flavoured because the boys like it, or so I was told by my best friend, Marcy. I used to curl my mousy brown hair around my chubby fingers incessantly, delighted by the slightest resemblance of a ringlet.
When did he first see me? I couldn’t be sure. Maybe he was a ghost, always haunted me from the peripheral. His slightly aged beard seemed fluffy in appearance but bore its way across me like sandpaper, etching its way like a canyon. His smile was kind, I remember, with a crinkle in the corner of his eyes like a folded fan. Teeth clenched together but soft lips, competing against each other in tension. And though he was gone as quickly as he appeared, that smile stayed burned into my mind. It was a Cheshire Cat to my nightmares.
“Irresistible,” He caressed my collarbone and tightened his bear paws around my neck. His hot breath stuck to my lip, curdled milk stung my nostrils.
“Beautiful little thing.” Weight pushed against my rib cage. Crackling sticks and bone, a percussion building up to the big show.
In one tilted swoop, he collapsed on me as the ground beneath us opened up, swallowing the world. But my beautiful shiny red shoes stood grounded, unfazed, as if carefully placed to one side.
I remember blinking my eyes but they continued to fog over- the hazel dimming to soft grey. All I could see were the clouds circling overhead, like vultures. I didn’t think it was possible for someone to completely invade someone else but I know better now. His clumsy fingers were like insects that covered my body in blackness, bit by bit. The more they infiltrated and infested, the more I relinquished myself. Whatever fallout that fate may decide was never further from my grasp.
In the distance, an ice cream truck whistled. Chimes danced mellifluously against the wind’s current. So close yet so far away. The sun’s heated descent cast stark shadows among the trees and I could see the shimmer of his cold sweat spraying in the air. It fell to my body, a salty mist. I found myself floating through the jagged jerks of my own body, like I was a second too late for the physics of the motions to register.
Then, like any fairytale monster when the story is over, he dissolved into a transparency and I was still there, the survivor. But I didn’t survive, I had only endured. I turned my head and could sense the moist dirt painting itself against my cheek. As my eyes refocused, I found myself head to head with my favourite doll. I must have dropped her, my only witness. So there we lay, brown hairs tarnished by the clay of a mid-spring evening, discarded. Just lifeless eyes staring back at one another.
“Mrs. Fraser, what brings you in today?” A gruff voice fills the room. It never seems to be properly attached to Dr. Pierson. He was a miscast ventriloquist’s doll. A tall and lanky man in his early 40s, Pierson was as clean cut as a prepubescent boy’s skin. He was arguably feminine in most respects, especially his elegant hands that I knew all too well as they delicately examined my skin. I knew the backs of his hands more than my own. His voice, in contrast, was a trucker who smoked two packs a day and could crush a can of Bud on his forehead on demand.
I look up, wiping invisible dirt off of my hands
“…Found another one.” I managed to blurt out. I had memorized a whole introduction to my visit but the words just bottlenecked in my throat, all wanting to spill out simultaneously.
“Another what? A lump or a mole?” I could hear the vexation in his tone but there was also a decent attempt at disguising it.
“A mole. It’s changed and I’m sure that it wasn’t here last time. It doesn’t look like the rest.” I try to feign nonchalance but the shakiness of my own voice breaks the disguise as it echoes in my ears.
He stares silently for a moment. His lips part in attempt to say something but he holds whatever it was back, swallowing it down.
“Sarah, that would make number 5 in the past three months. We’ve cut out 4 already and like I suspected, they came back perfectly normal. Do you remember me telling you that we need to show a little bit more restraint and monitor new concerns as we go forward.”
“This one is different.”
“Please, just look.” I don’t mean for it to come across as begging but it does which doesn’t stop me either way. Without missing a beat, I bolt up and start to undo my jeans before he could protest. His posture deflates.
“Alright. You know the drill. I’ll leave the room for a moment while you get yourself ready.” He didn’t look at me as he talked, turning and closing the door behind him. The buzzing swells in the room again.
As I peel off clothing each day, the nakedness haunts me, whispering to me, telling me to search. This is why I despise showers. The constant battle between cleanliness and confrontation is a daily feat.
On good days, I can undress and clean myself without glancing down. I let the scorching water sanitize my body, not trusting my finger tips to explore their own home. Always careful to moisturize my skin, I hover over the surface as I let the coconut oil glide its way across. And as I hold my breath, I smooth over my breasts, terrified to find any lump or bump, relieved each time to have beaten what only feels the inevitable.
On bad days, I stand there, naked and cold, glancing at the folds and dimples. I study and scrutinize, believing that it is within my capability to prevent the turmoil. And at the same time, I am aware that it is not. But it is, but it is not. Sigh.
It was a bad day that I found the mole. I had never noticed it before, or maybe I had. It didn’t matter. It looked like a tiny spider squashed on my leg. I run my fingers over it, silently panicking but holding steady. My body had betrayed me yet again. I try to rationalize but I look closer and closer and closer. Closer. I see the insect in all its glory. I memorize its twists and turns. My skin feels foreign to me again. If I could uncloak myself from the suit I wear, I would. I would step outside of this tainted body that has betrayed me. I sat in the sun soaked bedroom in silence, allowing the darkness to encroach back in.
“We’ll keep an eye on it, okay? It looks like a Spitz nevus and I’m fairly sure you had it during your last mole check up.” He turns his head lamp off and takes off his gloves in two loud and precise snaps.
Fuck. Just slice it off. I need it off. I want to scream but I just nod.
“Take a picture of it and look at it in 3 months. If you are still concerned, come back and we will talk about the next steps forward.” He smiles. It didn’t matter if it was genuine or not. At this point I don’t care. And with that, he is gone. I sit for a little bit, trying to silent a carnal moan reverberating deep from within. This was suppose to be a release. He was supposed to be the one who saves me.
My phone interrupts the room again.
“Honey, I just need to know what’s going on right now… Did you see the Dr yet?”
I sigh. While I would give my life to him, he is destined to stay locked behind these doors, caged into a splendid isolation. An unadulterated life that doesn’t need this infestation to take hold. I won’t let it.
There’s only one thing left to do.
I get dressed, trying to mend what was left of my scraps of dignity, a patchwork bandage against the bareness.
The blissful state of mind before the storm, I wish. I feel the grief before I can touch it – and its taste is liquid velvet for the dark void. Dark void? Needs to be filled. And endless desperation to control the uncontrollable. I’m sick. Maybe. Maybe not.
You can never be sure and the vulnerability aches within me. Our bodies are ticking time bombs.
Google the beast – the possibilities are endless and the numbers are against us. Search my body and the internet. For answers to a question that I am ignorant to. Was it because he almost ended me? That I could taste death’s iciness in my mouth like a cavity? Was it because his touch smothered my skin, casting it in a blindness that only I could sense. Maybe. Maybe not. I’ve grown accustomed to living between the lines hoping that life will find me and not death, knowing and not knowing.
I touch the knife to my leg. The alcohol still evaporating, the sensation is cool against my skin.
I just need to feel safe. I will be free.
The baby is sleeping in her crib as his thundering snores rhythmically serenade her. The humming connection sways between them with each breath. They are two rooms away from me, cushioned from my turmoil. I hide in the bathroom, shunning myself from the peacefulness.
I just have to. Get. It. Off.
Pushing it down, blood swallows the knife and I feel the searing stab of metal separating the flesh. The pain is pulsating and encompassing…and it is real, tangible. The panic no longer dominates. Instead, I am frenzied. A race against time before the pain becomes too intoxicating, I begin to saw making sure to cut enough margins around the mole. A climax stirs and builds upon itself as my hands tremble to unhinge the last sliver of tissue.
If I could just unzip this suit and be free…
And then it’s done and the fog dissipates for a moment.
The first full breath of air feels cool as it satisfies the longing. My body falls into the cold muddled tiles, taking deep breaths as I let the crimson of my wound invade the faux marble. The blood pools around the discarded mole, the spider called Nevus. Its excommunication tastes more luscious than any candy. I savour the taste.
An exterminated spider and I am in control again… for now.