This morning I woke up with a sentence already formed in my head: I will commit to my life. It hung there as still as an icicle and nothing rushed in to push it aside.
I lay in bed for the longest time. Light was pouring into the room, cut into threads by droplets of water on the window pane. I counted my breaths and imagined the window as a tray with hundreds of tiny glasses of water.
Under the covers, I lifted my hand up to touch that tiny pebble beneath the skin of my right breast. I discovered it Sunday a month ago in the shower, but who knows how long it’s been there. Don’t feel it, I thought, and rested my hand on my belly, lightly, as though it were someone else’s hand touching me for the first time.
My index finger lay on top of my belly button, feeling the blood tap out its rhythm beneath my skin. I slowly pressed my finger into the hole. It felt like I might be able to reach into the center of my body, clear things out, make things right. The sides of my belly button rose and fell against my finger as I breathed. I thought of being at the beach, how the tide rushes up against my legs, then pulls away, how the sand erodes beneath my feet. Sometimes I stand there and pretend I’m a statue, enduring centuries of time in a few cool minutes.
The furnace clicked on and air began to circulate through the bedroom. I thought about making the call to the doctor. I’ve thought about it all month. But instead, I closed my eyes and drifted a moment. It was easy to imagine that this was how the moment before death will be–
Stop, I said and resolved to rise.
When I pulled back the covers, I watched my forearm swing on the hinge of my elbow. Amazing, I told myself. My hand was like the hand of God, pulling back the curtain, revealing—what?
My body, with its tiny, invisible flaw.
No, don’t say that.
My legs began to bend and curl in their complex way, finding their path to the floor, my head and torso lifting as if pulled by strings. Almost without thought, I thought.
I sat up, then stood. Look at that, I said aloud, as if someone else were in the room.
Yes, it’s wonderful; enjoy it while you can, I replied.
I remember most of the morning that precisely: the scent of wood and dust in the doorway, how the brass door handle felt cool in my hand, the click of my ankles as I walked down the corridor. I can recall exactly which thoughts followed which actions. For instance, I pulled a loose string from my blanket, and thought of how, after my mother died, I’d found a box in her closet marked “Pieces of string too short to use.” And, as I slid my arms into the sleeves of my bathrobe, I wondered how the robe would fit me if I lost this breast—or what if I never wore the robe, ever again?
Stop, I had said, but I went on. I imagined the robe hanging here on its skinny wire hanger, unused for days. Eventually, it would end up in Good Will, or the alley, collecting dirt and mold and rain.
I walked into the kitchen. After breakfast, I decided, I would call. As I filled the kettle with tap water, I looked at its scourged copper bottom and wondered how long it would hold up. How strange that objects often outlive us. I measured out a tablespoon of coffee into the grinder, and suddenly found my free hand there at my breast, my fingers pinching around to find the thing. It’s the size of a coffee bean, I thought.
The kettle built up into a whistle, like a siren. I stood there and listened, my feet smarting with cold as they rested on the slate kitchen tiles. I remember my mother telling me once, It’s a sign someone’s dying, cold feet. . .
Shh. Then I thought what I always think when it gets too difficult. You don’t have to call today. You can call tomorrow.
OK, I said aloud. That’s a comfort. Thanks.
Photo by Jonathan on flickr
© 2012 Nathan Alling Long. All rights reserved.