Certain things make me feel like a good American: going to Target, balancing my checkbook, getting my teeth cleaned. Doing these things makes me feel good, pure, as if surely nothing bad could ever befall someone whose checkbook is balanced. Getting a pap smear. Logically I know this is not a “safe” doctor’s appointment. Cells could be abnormal, cancer could be detected. But a clean hoo hoo means that I am a good person so there you go. I am willing to put myself in the way of cells dividing. As you can imagine I was in heaven while pregnant, all those check ups, me married and pregnant, getting weighed, having my blood pressure monitored, jelly smeared across my growing belly. I wouldn’t have been surprised to find a pearl choker wrapped around my neck, I was just that good. So imagine my surprise on Friday when I went to the dermatologist to have some splotches on my neck looked at. I wear sunscreen. I don’t smoke. The dermatologist is another safe haven of health. I leave with free samples of Eucerin and assurance that I am good. But this time, this time was different.
There’s a fungus among-us. Of course the splotches on my neck are nothing a little Selsun Blue won’t cure. Despite the fungus inside I felt clean, until the end of the appointment when the doctor asked if I had any more questions and just because I was there I said yeah, you know? I’ve had this little spot on my breast for a few months? And I opened up my paper robe and the world slowed down, my body an hourglass, the sand falling away at my feet. The doctor looked at it, at me. She called in another dermatologist. He put on the visor with the magnifying glasses and I was exposed. 10x. No longer clean, pure, no longer good. I’m sure it’s nothing, he said, smiling beneath his magnified eyes, but we’re going to schedule you for a mammogram. And then it was over. The appointment was over and I went back to work where I traipsed into the bathroom stall every 10 minutes to open my bra and stare at a tiny spot next to my nipple that could be the end of it all.
At 5pm on Friday the doctor called me back. She said I really don’t want you to worry. I am almost sure it is nothing but you should have a mammogram anyway. But the thing is there are no take-backs on fear. You’re either good or you’re not and oh I didn’t really mean to scare you while patting my shoulder dappled with fungus is like gifting Christian Louboutins to a double amputee. On Saturday there was a breast cancer walk through my town and as Zoey and I nestled into my bed to take a nap together I could hear the hoots and the hollers, the cars honking their horns at the walkers all dressed in pink. Healthy boobies, Zoey said, which is what I taught her to say the last time we drove by the breast cancer walk and I rolled down the car window so she could wave at them. Sshhh, I said this time, Nigh-nigh time, and I shut my eyes and pulled the covers over my head. I have my mammogram today at 3. I am sure it is nothing, the doctor said. But I no longer feel like a good American. My checkbook is off-balance and I am not clean.