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Good Narrative Principles

The Limits of Mauve

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I have been waiting for 3 hours to get a mammogram. Three long hours. Around me are women in blue gowns each of whom have adopted a variation on a finite theme of fastening the robe.

Some tie the two dangling chords around their slender waists. Some tie it in the front but that doesn’t quite do the trick. The breast has a tendency to flop out. One woman, a spirited conversationalists (unfortunately or fortunately for me she was jabbering away in Spanish and my feeble take on the language zeroed in on arbitrary words that still remained locked in my head. So that my running translation would sputter and falter at critical junctures) her breast, long and large was fully exposed for all to see.

As if she was saying a big fuck you to the inherent drama of waiting.

Friends suggest that I should take something, anything to relieve the anxiety. But the suggestion doesn’t stick. This is an anxious situation, so why should I blunt the feeling? My fuckin’ life is at stake after all.

I should feel anxious.

I get into the mammogram theater. Pose. Am shifted around like an uptight mannequin. Hold your arm up. Relax your shoulder. Tilt up your chin. Higher. My head starts to bobble in fear. Relax your shoulder. Relax it. Down girl. Don’t breathe. How are you doing?

And then I’m deposited back out in the hallway to wait.

I monitor the time passing on my phone. The battery life has tipped to the red zone. I can’t compulsively check email. And strangest of all I left the house without something to read. I had this idea that an 8:30 appointment implied in and out. There is a hearty pace implied in an 8:30 appointment. Spring out of bed, whip out your breast. Squeeze it and have it blessed.

But it didn’t work like that. And so I am thrown back to my inner resources for entertainment and sheer coping. I watch my companions to the right and left of me in Waiting Room #1 — the ones who were with me say 2 hours ago come and go.  One woman remains. She’s finished her fat Nora Roberts novel and winds her long legs tight. We exchange information about alternate side of the street parking. The time to move her car comes and goes and still she waits. Her phone rings. I hear her telling a friend, I assume, that they saw some lumps and want more images. She looks alternately angry and upset.

This is not a happy place to be.

Some patients are called and set free. See ya in a year they sing. And I feel like there are only so many get out of mammo hell cards to play in any given round. And my chances diminish.

I am greedy for health. To go back and think about gardening, my failing writing career.

And still I wait.

I try meditating. My new tool. My new toy. It works for a few moments. But the noise of nurses walking back and forth, laughing behind closed doors then leaving again, the names being summoned to either the mammo theater of the waiting room alcove where I sit is too damn distracting.

I open my eyes and my heart hammers loudly. As loudly as before I started meditating. Without missing a beat the anxiety rushes from heart, to stomach, to knees. And so I stare at the empty mauve Ultrasound room. Unoccupied save for a bouquet of plastic flowers perched on top of a cabinet to the left of the burnt out fluorescent fixture the kind with cross hatched grill protecting it.

The mauve paint of the room matches perfectly the mauve I’ve seen in many surgeons exam room. Something about mauve and what? A comfort of bringing your closer to death. A calm that is meant to lull you along.

Saying softly “no one gets out alive”.

And then they tell me (after another image or two) that in fact I’m OK.

I am thirsty. I am moist in all the wrong places.

But I can go home and cook dinner tonight and prepare for next Thursday.

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