Too Close for Comfort

Copied without permission from the Readers Write section of “The Sun” May, 2007.

The theme was “Too Close for Comfort”.

NOT ONE WOMAN LOOKS UP WHEN I walk into the breast-cancer clinic and sit down. We are invisible to one another as we anxiously anticipate placing our bare breasts between the cold metal plates of the mammogram machine.

Before leaving home, I placed a rosary in my pocket. Now, I secretly move my thumb and forefinger from one royal blue bead to the next. Some of the women appear to be reading magazines, but I can tell by the way they turn the pages that it is only to give the impression of doing something. Next to me, a pretty, thirtyish woman talks nonstop on her cellphone, her body turned away to muffle her conversation.

When it’s my turn, I enter the dressing room as instructed, take off my clothes from the waist up, remove my deodorant with the wipe provided, and put on a pink gown. Then I wait in the second holding area until I am called behind door number two.

I always wonder if the technician (who says little and smiles even less) ever tires of looking at breasts. She expertly takes four frames, two of the right breast and two of the left, then tells me to return to the waiting room and not to get dressed until I am given permission. If some abnormality is discovered, more pictures will have to be taken. All of us waiting women long to hear the same five words: You may get dressed now.

After I am finally given permission to leave, I exit past the young woman on the cellphone, who is the last one still waiting at 6:30. She rocks forward and back, cupping her forehead in the palm of her hand, taking no notice of me. As I rush past her, relieved to be cleared for another year, my hand slips into my pocket and closes around the rosary. My fingers trace the cross, and I ask the Lord to have mercy on this woman.

Back on the street, I feel hungry. At the bottom of my purse I find a small dark chocolate that I packed this morning — in case of an “emergency.”

I hurry back to the waiting room, tap the woman on the shoulder, and hand her the chocolate. Her cheeks are wet, but she smiles

Adele Sweetman
Pasadena, California

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Categories: Excerpts