"Does it hurt when I do this?", the doctor asks me as he pushes on my chest.
"How about this?" He presses again, changing the area of impact slightly.
I nod and wince.
"Well, honey, I would say just lay low for a bit. Take a few asprin. It may be nothing more than a pulled muscle. If the pain continues after a week or two, come back in and we'll X-ray you, alright?" The statement is followed by a flash of those handsome, white teeth.
I hear his smooth voice touch my ears. He is using the trick that doctors keep up their sleeves. It makes you forget that there could be something deadly laying dormant underneath your skin, now surfacing, ready to take you over and force you to suffer miserably for years.
He leaves and I dress.
Home now, I continue as normal. The routine that fuels me must be done, pain or not.
Mentally I yell at myself for lying to the doctor. I told him it was a minor chest pain that started only a few days ago.
I didn't feel it necessary to go into details. Does it really make a difference if the pain, now intensifying over the period of three months, keeps me up at night? Leaves me unable to focus? Has me crying some mornings on the bathroom floor, gripping my skin until it starts to bruise?
My omission when he asked may be an answer.
The battle I am having goes on until the lights turn off.
I shut the door.
I slip under the covers.
I feel sleep come.
Mixed into my dreams are such strange things. I do not rest easy. And suddenly, as happens to all of us at one point or another, I immediately wake knowing the answer. But, instead of becoming instantly aware of of where my keys are, or the title of a song I have wracked my brain over, I know the source of my pain. I know where it hurts.
I know why it hurts.
My legs swing over the bed. I feel the wave of nausea come. My chest feels like it is being destroyed from the inside out.
What to do. What to do.
The bathroom seems like the logical destination.
I stumble through my bedroom, gasping for air and tasting my tears. The light flicks on. I think I am sweating more water than my body holds.
The mirror is before me.
I close my eyes and let the images from my dream flicker past my wet, hot eyelids. I let my thoughts simmer for only a moment.
I am not naturally brave. It s now or never. I open my eyes to white knuckles gripping the sink. I notice fresh vomit.
I unbutton my shirt; a process lengthened tenfold by my uncontrollably shaking fingers.
Naked, I stand.
The blade easily pops out of my razor. I rinse it.
I cut cleanly around my left breast. The face cloth in my mouth muffles the screams.
I realize this is one of those moments where adrenaline makes you do miraculous things. Like a mother, lifting a car to save her child. Instead, I am allowed to cut myself as deep as I need to.
Deeper and deeper.
The sternum appears. Funny, it's much whiter than I thought it would be.
The sink is now stained with blood. My hands are dripping. My feet make ripples in the puddles on the floor as I try to stay standing.
I know I am seeing things I never should.
The flesh peels back easily.
I will pass out soon. I must be quick.
My heart is still beating fiercely. It is angry at this intrusion.
I do not feel bad.
The valves and veins cut without effort. I pull hard until I hear the final snaps and the powerhouse of my body lays soft in my hands.
I watch it struggle for life.
And, just as my dream told me to do, I turn it over slowly.
There, in the bottom corner, your name is etched.
It is scarred and poorly stitched. Pus oozes from the open sores surrounding it. The yellow and green infection looks like that Granny Smith Apple crayon in the sixty-four count box.
Now all the hurting makes sense,
My body was rejecting what didn't belong.
Free of the intruder, the pain disappears.
I fall to the floor, bleeding to death.
I could call for help, but why?
They would come, put my heart on ice, sew me back together, and tell me how lucky I am to be alive.
No thank you.
Lord, please take me tonight into your arms. Alone.