Friday, January 19, 2007
Alone in the exam room waiting for results. With no one here to look at, she picks up Family Circle. "Can This Marriage Be Saved;" a three-page ad with mothers telling how proud they are of their enlisted daughters; a Topomax ad which shows a woman with her fists clenched, wedding band clearly visible on her finger: "Do you worry about migraines even when you're not having one?" No. No, no, no, no, no.
Of all the folders here, hers is one of the thickest. Mammograms once a year, sonograms twice a year since that last cancer, biopsies, wires inserted to mark the spot. The surgeon wouldn't have even been suspicious yet, that's how good this lab is. The technician takes four pictures, picks up all the records, leaves her alone with the machine. She'll be back.
If she wasn't here today she'd be teaching at a senior center. When she started these workshops, over thirty years ago, it was almost but not quite her grandmother's generation, then her mother's. Now they're more or less her contemporaries. Mostly women. Mostly in good health. One man with diabetes. Another man left when he was hit by a car crossing Queens Blvd., came back for awhile, then left again when his son died.
A woman across from her puts her PDA back in her pocketbook and pulls out a compact, pushes her hair back in place, pulls out her PDA again. And she thinks of last night in the theater. A woman beside her pulled out lipstick five minutes into the first act. The smell as bad as perfume. In a dark scene change she crawled over her husband and the friend next to him to get to an empty seat at the end of the aisle. And, actually, she could see better there.
A hot pink cashmere turtleneck with a thick gold necklace. A tailored grey pants suit with a low-cut white lace top. Thick black beads. Three coats with fur collars (one of them purple). She wears jeans and a black top. No jewelry. And she refuses to hide behind the New York Times.
She enters and takes a seat in a room full of women. And one man. This was one of the first places in the country to focus solely on breast diagnosis, her doctor told her, years ago. It took six months to get this appointment. Ten or twelve years ago she recalls sitting here, bored, staring at the women around her, trying to guess for whom this was just routine, who would be called back for further tests. Then she was called back. Today she sits close to the one man.
So okay. It's been a warm winter. But remember, there was snow today. You had to be quick to spot it, but it was snow. And probably just north of the city much of it stayed on the ground. But then she comes home at close to midnight and finds a fly in the apartment. She's not kidding – only one window cracked, and it has a tight screen, but somehow this fly got in. Large, half dead, flying back and forth between her and the computer screen. Finally she traps him against a wicker cabinet in the bathroom. He doesn't even try to get away.