I can’t sleep.
I’ve broken the rules: had a large dinner, a glass of wine. Played a video game dance contest with friends.
My brain still spins.
The obsessed cat – a guest in my home – is buried, face-first, in my breasts. He gives the occasional grunt and purr in his sleep and tries to get even closer. Sometimes I think he would burrow straight through my skin. I’m worried about how he will feel after tomorrow.
My fingers tap my skin, prod gently over the space where I know a small titanium chip has been implanted. A “marker” they told me. My first step towards becoming bionic, I think.
And my children. Each time I get out of bed to check on them again, they are sleeping peacefully. I know they are scared. But it doesn’t affect their sleep. I need to sleep.
I sneak into the bathroom and pull off my sleep tank. I stare at myself in the mirror: hair going white so rapidly, new lines forming across my brows. Not the laugh lines I have seen for years. Now lines of worry and stress. I pull my Janet Jackson pose, cupping my hands over my breasts as I stand topless.
Only they do not feel like my own anymore. They’ve been invaded. They are killing me. They are an enemy.
I missed the time. We all do, I guess. We never realize how quickly it will pass. 11 years old in the doctor’s office, cautioned against worry. “Worry is a trigger.” 16 years old in a new office, praised for my fitness. “You’re on the right track.” 28 years old with my obstetrician. “You’re an extremist.”
34 years old, the night before surgery. With a lump that’s taken on monstrous proportions. I
think it might devour me.
I missed the years of glowing health. Missed the years without that lump. Now, everything divides: I still live in a middle/before, and tomorrow begins the ever after.
The house sleeps around me. My flesh is chilling with my bloodless hands. The circles beneath my eyes leave me looking bruised and injured.
Fear rules me like the worst master at this moment. The laughter has choked in my throat. No amount of “chop them off” humor can make this night palatable. Tomorrow morning, this mirror-view will change forever.
They are only breasts. As one witty friend has pointed out: “you don’t need them to walk or live.”
Strange moments flash: both children nursing. The way my daughter approached those times with absolutely terrifying ferocity for this first time mom. They way my son wanted to treat them as everything – food, comfort, pillow.
I face myself and ask, who will I be? The endless night gives me no reply but silence.