ou are a person who wears a wig. The dead hair of a stranger on your head is the scent of your long-dead grandmother. Her last days still haunt you and you’ve been smelling her everywhere lately — on the red line in the grocery store, in the new apartment, in the closet, in your mouth.
At every doctor’s visit for an entire month, you were asked about her breasts.
You are a person who wrote obsessively about geography and culture and religion until you became a person who writes obsessively about the body, about dividing cells and the slightest twinge or itch. You apologize every day for assuming your body would keep up with your brain, for thinking that your body would always feel like yours. You talk to your body and you talk to the cancer because it’s a part of your body, always has been. This is the one truth of your ever-changing reality. Change is a shadow that shifts through an afternoon and into night, over the surface of the ocean, and you must saw off your own head and replace it with a stranger’s, or sink forever.
You are a person with asymmetrical breasts now. You have been fucking the same man for more than six months. He knew your breasts when they were smooth, flawless, and he knows them now. He understands the difference in pressure each nipple can take. You wonder about fucking someone new, and at what point you should introduce your scars. Will the left nipple still hurt? Will you ever want to fuck someone who doesn’t know those breasts?
Will you ever want to know someone who doesn’t know who you used to be?
You are a person who considers freezing your eggs, but decides against it because cancer has not altered your aversion to motherhood.You are a person who can wear a bikini to the beach without tucking and plucking stray pubic hairs because you’re completely bald there, too. Smoothest wax you’ve ever had, and you didn’t even have to tip.
You are a person with a broken web of purple scars.
You are a person who sees an acupuncturist twice a week.
You are a person who attends support groups. You are a person who smokes a lot of weed — weed replaces whiskey and wine because your liver can’t take anything else. On her fourth vodka tonic your cousin asks you why you keep taking hit after hit. Are you in pain? she asks. No, you say, but immediately feel as though you misspoke.
You are a person who understands exactly why old people use rollator walkers—the ones with seats—and you also are a person who knows the term rollator. You see an old woman perched on her seat in the middle of the sidewalk and think, That’s what I need. And you mean it. You could really use one.
You are a person who understands losses are necessary for gains, that losses and gains arise from a singular event. Reality and reflection. Terra incognita means more now, the midnight of an unrecognizable landscape. You take comfort in the possibility of obliquity, of slanting angles.
You are a person who nearly forgets your 36th birthday. You wake up early to spit saliva into a straw for a study on meditation and stress in young adults with cancer. You are overjoyed to still fall in the “young adult” category.
You are a person who spends an entire day masturbating and has no doubt it was the wisest, healthiest use of your time. You are a person who lets your seventy-eight year old father carry bricks and boards while you stand and watch. He wouldn’t let you help, and you think it’s the kindest thing he’s ever done for you.
You are a person who shit liquid for months before visiting a doctor, every organ seeming to have a problem. You finally said how you bled every two weeks, how tired you felt, how dry your skin and mouth, your family history. After testing your blood for everything, the doctor said, You need to quit your job. This is only stress. She also wrote a prescription for a mammogram, because of your grandmother, that you promptly lost at the bottom of your purse and still hadn’t found five months later when your hand brushed against a walnut-sized lump in your breast.
You are a person who holds loss in your hand like a polished charm.
You are a person divided between too many responsibilities you don’t want, and too little of all that you do. You carry a brittle balloon and any drop or puncture is fatal.
You are a person both grounded and dislodged, loose in the universe, a mortal, and your legs ghost beneath you as you release any expectation of another step. Every step toward a burning door that is also the way out. Keep going. Loss and gain cannot exist without each other.
The path ahead shifts unexpectedly, and all the shadows turn to water.