As our shapes re-emerge from the thinning steam, Sheila pushes the button and once more we disappear. She repeats this ritual in silence until my hands and the soles of my feet are wrinkled. I don’t want to leave this white hard shell. I want to stay here forever, tucked away from the world. Invisible. Safe.
We talk, our breaths spilling in white gusts, and that old, fairytale London, where the wolves were very much real, comes back as vivid as a story whispered in a child’s ear. And something else, something surprising, begins to happen. For the first time in years, perhaps the first time ever, I’m sharing memories with my older brother.
I couldn’t sleep, so I thought about the life I might have had. The man who might have loved me, tied his future with mine. The books I could have published. The places I would have visited. I said goodbye to all of them, each and every possibility, the husband I’d never hold, the stories I’d never see, the countries I’d never cultivate. Bright spots reduced to errant shadows, I loved them. Then I let them go in my heart.
The doctor shows me cross-sections of my breasts on her computer screen. The images look like something from the Weather Channel, a satellite tracking a monochrome storm.
“You see here,” the doctor says, pointing out a line of tiny white spots, innocent as grains of rice. “And also here.”
At New York City street fairs, there’s always a booth claiming: We will write your name on a grain of rice.
Why write someone’s name so tiny it can’t be seen without a magnifying glass?
Who perfects an art like that?
When the doctor shows me the cross-section of my breasts, the grains inside, the microscopic tears that beckon my death, I think: Oh they’re pretty.