exhausting self or unfathomable other. exhausting other or unfathomable self. my willfully occult psychology doubles back over itself, diffuses, becomes a sourceless source of illumination, some place no shadow falls. my willfully occult psychology becomes rock candy pressed to the roof of the mouth by the tongue and held: no accounting for taste, the wear and tear of my internal wallpapers, the tenth conversation i’ve had about the linea alba buccalis in my mouth in recent memory.
you know it’s from the detergents in your toothpaste, my surgeon told me three years ago.
you know it’s because you bite the insides of your cheeks, my hygienist told me last year.
you know it’s because you grind your teeth, a helpful waiting room stranger told me a few weeks back.
i always figured it went back to my misaligned jaw, but what do i know? because i don’t. i don’t know, i explain, that’s the way they are, i say, that’s the way they’ve always been. you get tired of talking about your body. you get tired of explaining the gynecological blood pressure spike, the iron deficiency, the cherry angioma on your chest. on your scalp. inside your left wrist. couldn’t you please look at your notes from last year?
that’s the way i always remember it being, i say, that’s the way it’s been since i was a baby, i say again and again it is corrected: well let’s just check, let’s just be sure, you can’t be too careful. actually, i think you can be too careful. but i don’t know that i should be allowed to make the call on what gets that next step, so i take them all. i irritate the surface. i push the limit. i don’t do enough. i think about it too hard. i won’t think about it at all. and then! every time. every fucking time the phone rings. or: i don’t know. another day, another anomaly. another day, another diagnosis. but i shouldn’t think about it like that.
oh, medicine, that’s the way of it. off to our latest assignation on some storm-scrubbed heath. this time, let’s be sure to take some notes. photographs. get some persuasive quotes from celebrated experts in the field. i forgot to count how many ceiling tiles demonstrated water damage in the sonogram room. i forgot to ask if i could inspect the clear plexi panel of clouds up there, lit from behind with fluorescents, just so i could say, hey p.! i’ve looked at clouds from both sides, now, also. i wrote him some letters. i’m still writing one of them. i guess i’ll never stop. there are some people you never stop writing letters to. that's all i can really say about that, these days. i forgot to get down the exact wording of that, i need to get it right. i need to get it exactly. i need to do it better. i need to write it out again. and then there’s. you know there’s. i’ve been there. i’ve been. hello. hello. do you read me? what is your 10-20? what is your
you get tired of defending your cancer to clueless people who think they know everything. it’s not easy. it’s not hardly nothing. it’s not the cancer version of the sniffles. it’s not a good cancer. there is no such thing as a good cancer. the five-year mortality rate of this cancer has gone up a full point just since i was diagnosed. is that two percent any less dead?
oh, wait. i can’t even count myself among those numbers yet, can i. i was already acting like i could. learned my lesson, or rather: learning it. ouch.
and yet so many helpful strangers have so many helpful answers for me. why it happened. what i should do. what i shouldn’t do. what i should eat. what i shouldn’t eat. what i should wear. i’m a winter, turns out. pale skin. (too pale?) dark hair. (you've checked into this thing on your scalp?) it’s a cherry angioma. a strawberry mark. it’s a nice shade of red for me. it’s in the family of reds that i prefer. you know, bold colors. clear colors. never orange. only very specific shades of brown. what i should think. always what i should think. how i should frame it. what it should mean. how deep i should let it go. what i shouldn’t let it touch. what i shouldn’t let it define. how it can improve my life if i only let it!
stupid fucking cancer.