Do you like my warmth inside your ear? My fingers tapping the dimples in your back, the part where your hips become an idea? I will sit with you and wait. I will protect you from the light.
“Why is it so bright in here?” You say. My fingers are cold around your waist. “And cold! How long do they expect me to wait here in this blue paper dress?”
The walls look away. The bulbs hang like dumb mutes, their eyes fixed on thick white space. Your thighs begin to sweat. I’m there between them where I like to hide when you get excited.
We’ve been looking at funeral homes lately, you and I. We imagine the people inside, condensation dripping from their foreheads like sweat. Lipstick and face powder painted on leather. They wear their favorite indigos and mustards like skin, as if they have all their organs intact underneath. They sleep in oak coffins for a century. People come to view them like art.
“I prefer to be cremated. I don’t want anyone getting confused thinking that they can hug me,” you said moments after we drove past the fifth one on Mackey Street.
You wondered if that was a very Christian thing to say and instantly marked the sign of the cross on your chest. Doing this made you take your right hand off of the steering wheel. I leapt into your abdomen, shot sugar juices into your limbs. You swerved a little off the road, and pulled back in as an old woman in a lilac wide-brimmed hat walked into your car. I pulsed in your feet. You barely missed hitting her. “Jesus, almighty. Protect me from Satin,” she yelled, and hit the hood with her lilac purse.
It was Sunday, and the lord was with you.
His voice is a warm cup of cream soup. I watch you watching his fingers touch your breast without gloves. He calls you “baby,” and your temperature boils as the room becomes crowded with movement. The ceiling light bulbs yawn and stretch their backs. I feel the heat of their glow throbbing on your forehead. The walls come closer to listen to the curious papers rustling on a clipboard as the man thumbs through. What does yellow mean? Do the pink papers signify cancer? The blue – death? If there are less papers, is the prognosis is better? His white coat waves me in to snuggle.
But I stay alert listening for signs of hesitance: Phlegm cleared from the throat. The avoidance of eye contact. A language helper. Umm. Uhh. Suddenly, I don’t want him rubbing your shoulders.
You want to leave the room. Burn pictures of him that you don’t have. You want to bathe in scalding hot water, prick your skin apart with safety pins to let the poison out.
He clears his throat, and looks at the wall behind you. The wall winks at him. He calls you Ms. Sweeting. It is hard to breathe. He takes a deep breath of your air.
Inside the ultrasound is a tiny creature clambering within the static weeds of the screen. The doctor compares it to a tangerine. But to me, it looks more like a baby troll screaming inside the womb of a banshee. It breathes as radiation filters through it. It is alive, unlike you.
“Why didn’t you come sooner?”
You’re 26. You’re a Christian. You don’t drink. You go to church.
“I don’t know. I didn’t really know what to look for.”
He sits on his chair. The wheels squeal against the hard white tile. It is a metallic sound like the smell of blood being squeezed from your breast and into a needle. I think of the dead people in funeral homes with their organs squeezed out.
“What do you think? Is it bad?”
He sighs. “I think we’re gonna have to do a biopsy. There are some spots here on the lump, so it’s definitely a tumor and not a cyst. And you know, you had it before in your family. But you’re a young lady, so I’m hoping that this is just a benign fibrosis.”
“Ok. So when do you need to do this?”
“As soon as possible.”
I cling a bit too tightly to your throat. You can barely breathe as you agree to a time for next week. I can hear the walls murmuring to the light bulbs in the ceiling, as they glare fluorescently at the wheels screeching beneath the doctor’s chair as he moves it back and forth. The room stares at you like the women in church do after you’ve missed a few Sundays. He hands you a pink slip and tells you to take it to the nurses’ office.
It surprises you how lightly he lets you go. No marmalade “baby” or cottony strokes to pad your release. There is no more contact besides the pink slip with his signature and office number and a date stamped on it.
You make your way outside gripping me near your heart where the blood slows to a trickle. Maybe we can choke the tumor this way, cutting off its blood supply. Your limbs are light. Your eyes become simple.
“So, how everything went?” A nurse you chatted with before, greets you in the lobby. You are supposed to know her from your childhood. A neighbor? A coworker of your mother’s? I cling to your throat. Your voice staggers out.
“I have to come back next week for a follow up.”
“Chile, you gone be alright. I just get mine check last month. They saw something, but they said it was just fluid. Chile, pray to God.”
“Oh. Take some of these mangoes I pick from my tree.” She goes behind the same nurses’ counter you had just been to, and takes two mangoes. She takes your hands and puts them in. Her hands are saccharine and slushy. You almost pull away from their gross moisture. “Chile, you aint suppose to refuse your blessing.”
“Alright. Thank you. I’ll see you.”
“Yeah. God spare life.” You suddenly notice how the pores in her corpulent nose are bursting with whiteheads all the way down to her mustached lips. You might want to vomit. Was your grandmother this angry when people reminded her of her death? Did she feel her breast crying against her chest like an open wound? Did it hurt to look at the world?
The quarterback security guard breathes in too much of your air as he opens the door. The woman being wheel-chaired to her car wears sickly circles beneath her eyes and a scowl. She wants more MS-Contin. The dreadlocked man walking by who yells, “Yessai, rasta princess,” sickens you with his gold-teeth smile.
Your hands are cold. I steadily pump myself into them as they clench the steering wheel. I force myself into the bulge of your calves, weighing them down against the gas pedal. The sedan howls as we jettison out of the parking lot, onto the highway, searching hard for beauty.
•••Having worked as a freelance journalist for Nassau papers, Nakia Pearson’s taken her writing abroad, producing articles for expat magazines in Japan and China. She writes poetry, nonfiction, essays, and short stories. She is currently publishing short anecdotes of her bike trek from Beijing to Paris in the Nassau Tribune.