The map told me to turn, so I did. And after making another turn, I remembered where I was. I had only been there a couple weeks earlier, which aptly illustrates the severity of my directional challenges.
Later, I’ll put the map on to get out of there, too.
I took the elevator last time, but only because I didn’t know where I was going, and didn’t realize the outdoor staircase would lead me to the second floor. It felt like a moment from a cartoon the first time, rising from the first floor to the second with blind shame as I exited with a perfectly able body.
So, I was making up for that mistake this time, taking the stairs up the zigzag climb to the upper level.
I was handed a clipboard and told to fill it out, told to make changes if there were any, even though I had filled out the same clipboard during my last visit two weeks before this one. I had to fill it out anyway, every time, they told me.
So I did, hoping this would be the last time.
It was probably the pen, I thought. That’s why I was here again. The universe was sending me a message about that pink pen, the one I had used and kept during my first visit. Because, it was pink. And it had the name of the place on it, which I knew would help me remember for next time.
I just didn’t think that time would be so soon. I half-promised myself not to swipe pens anymore, before shaking off an empty commitment I knew I wouldn’t keep. It wasn’t because of the pen. The universe had bigger things to pay attention to.
When I opened the curtain and waited for my turn, I felt one of those inside laughs, the observations you tell only yourself because you’re either alone and don’t want to appear crazy, or in the presence of strangers and also don’t want to appear crazy.
She’s wearing the same shirt as me, I thought. We match, I inside-laughed, understanding it was impossible for me and this elderly woman five chairs way not to match.
Saying we were wearing the same shirt is a stretch, too, not because of the pattern or color, but because what we were wearing more appropriately resembled a poncho, or a tree skirt, than a shirt. There were no arm holes, which I suppose took pittiness out of the equation, and also meant we couldn’t really do a twirl without giving everyone a show.
I wonder if anyone’s ever done that.
Who am I kidding? I was back there for a show, at least that’s what I was telling myself. They only wanted to see me again because they wanted another look at my ladies.
They can say “additional imaging is needed” if they want to be all proper, but I was on to them and knew they really just wanted to give me another opportunity to pose in this floral tree skirt and capture a few more photos. Because, I must be photogenic.
At least that’s what I told myself in the days between the call and the “let’s pancake you down” again until you fear that by moving at all or breathing too hard you may mess up the entire exam – which may require another callback.
I heard the tech tell me everything was fine as I used a white wash cloth she gave me to wipe warm gel from my armpits, spots she missed, understandably. And then she laughed at my expression, because it was “so serious,” she said. I don’t think I was even thinking about the exam.
I’m pretty sure, when she walked back into the room, I was marveling at how tan my legs looked against the stark, white sheet below them. I was critically impressed with how long my melanin had held on. Genuinely. And she thought I was stressing about the exam.
Nah. Not really. A little. Maybe a little more than a little, which I didn’t realize until I could feel my heart beating through my tree skirt as she watched an ultrasound machine and stopped every few seconds to capture photos.
I mean, this is one of those callbacks you don’t want, right? Ever. The imaging center is the place that you want to lose your number, like that one guy who just doesn’t understand that it’s time to give up.
Move on, imaging center. We’re done now.
But I will keep my umbrella, the one you gave me for making my appointment in October, in recognition of Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Yep, I’m aware.
And, thanks for your callback, I guess. Because now I’m fully aware I’m okay, too. And I’m grateful. You can keep those extra photos.