i walked the 2.5 miles to the doctor's because i haven't taken the metro since march 6th. because walking seems preferable. even on a day expected to be so hot that it made the national news the night before so that my parents called me to warn me about my own weather.
my two concessions: practical footwear and a denim skirt with holes that operated as air vents.
oh, and also, i skipped the mountain that is the upper part of 13th street by cutting down park to 11th.
i arrived huffing and puffing and sweating like someone either in the throes of menopause or stepping out of a piping hot shower.
as i leaned forward to have my temperature taken for admission, a bead of sweat dropped from my nose. because i was masked, this wasn't visible to the woman scanning me for symptoms of COVID, though i had also forewarned her that i'd just undertaken an epic hike in epic heat and my temperature might be elevated as a result.
sweat weeping from my masked nose, she waved me in.
i can hear nothing anyone says now. it is all like the adults on charlie brown.
it is all like the elaborate game of fakery i used to play before i felt confident enough in who i am to tell people the things i needed them to do to accommodate my disability.
it is like i am perpetually in a bar in grad school trying to grab hold of the last thing the person i'm talking to said, so i can construct a sentence that vaguely connects to the conversation they think we've having. (legit, the only transferable skill i took away from a russian summer school class at cornell.)
we no longer live in a world in which it matters that i have adjusted. we no longer live in a world in which my adjustments mean anything. a world in which my bending my own self is enough to make up for the fact that i have 70/30% hearing loss. everyone is now, by necessity, unaccommodating. all of you, you are so hostile, muffled by your masks.
saturated in years of medical abelism and possessing an invisible disability, i've long been reluctant to call myself disabled-- initially, because it felt inaccurate then because i felt i'd not done the academic work and, latterly, because of the invisibility and the privilege that comes with that.
a bunch of bullshit, really, because it has become quite obvious now, the degree to which i am, and always have been disabled by my hearing impairment.
i lean towards the plastic barrier. (secretly, i wish i could press my ear against it. as though the plastic barrier could become my ear trumpet and suddenly every wah-wa, wahwawa-wahhhh would become perfectly intelligble.) i speak louder in the hopes she'll do the same (she does not), as she asks me to repeat aloud to her all the information i have just written down on a form.
it feels like a minefield in all of the old ways, but also new ones.
my blood pressure reading is high. the nurse takes it twice. anxiously, i try to calm myself, try to exude calm, try to imagine beaches and waves and warmth, to not think about the fact that i am seated next to a scale and the next step in this process is, inevitably, that she's going to weigh me and i need her to not say that number aloud.
because i cannot be sitting at home alone with a number. i cannot live with a number. my management of my decades of disordered eating hinges upon my never ever having a number.
i am anxious about her saying that number aloud and i am anxious about having to ask her to not say that number aloud and i am anxious about the fact that i didn't think to have her take my weight first so that would be over and done and then she could get a normal blood pressure reading without me having to sit there in agony, anxious about a high blood pressure reading, trying to calm myself so it'll be lower, eyes closed, imagining some poster from a british doctor's office in 2015 with a fucking beach and a fucking sand castle and a fucking shovel and bucket.
so many times, with so many friends, over the course of so many conversations in these last months, we've reflected on how the new trauma opens up all the old traumas. how it circles back on itself, we circle back on ourselves, so that we are able to navigate now because of then, but there are these moments where, like an accordion stretches wide then collapses, it sits all together.
the moment where one man's sexual overture is another man's drunken shove is another man's drunken shove is another man's hands on your wrists, holding you down when you were 18 and saving yourself for marraige.
it collapses, all of the moments, bending in, so that my high blood pressure reading is all of the other high blood pressure readings that threatened my access to a birth control pill that i felt comfortable with, that wouldn't result in a weight gain that would trigger my issues with food, a single pill with the power to light up that whole dark road.
i sit next to a scale and ask her to repeat what she said, through the mask, as she takes my other arm for the second reading, as the threat of my own weight clouds out my visions of beaches and waves and sun.
the gynecologist, i hear clearly. the same one i'd spoken to in a televisit last month, when i brandished the thing that is not a lump and is not in my breast before a camera on my laptop.
she spoke loudly, less muffled. there was no plastic, excepting the face shield, which seems more navigable than the partition.
she felt the normal breast and then the abnormal breast, which also felt normal. because it's not a lump and it's not in my breast. though, even after this visit, my referral will read: 39-yo female with lump in breast tissue.
language matters. this imprecision irks me.
i'm currently enrolled in an online course on online instruction techniques. this week, we are learning about assessments.
there is a hard space in my chest cavity. it is hard like bone. was "39-yo female with a hard space in chest cavity" not an option? was this question multiple choice? obviously, OBVIOUSLY, it should have been short answer.
but at least i can hear her when, very clearly, precisely, as though this were a statement that imparted more information than it actually does, she informs me: "it's definitely something, but it might be nothing."
wherever you go, there you are.
i'm to be dispatched for an ultrasound and then sent to something that has been repeatedly referred to as "adult medicine," but which i seem to only be able to recall as "the adult doctor," which makes it sound as though, in my infinite wisdom, i have thus far only been consulting with a pediatrician.
but then i thought i was being referred to the adult doctor after the televisit. it is a mystery how i have wound up hiking 2.5 miles in blazing heat to meet the midwife i already met online a month ago.
she seems genuinely surprised that the situation on my chest has not resolved itself since we last spoke. that the month of ibuprofen and only using my right arm to hand-crank my pandemic laundry didn't do the trick.
in masks, we seem so stoic.
in this mask, i feel very zen. in ordinary times, would i feel different?
i'm cognizant that this is a worrisome situation. intellectually, i'm aware, it's problematic, to say the least.
but honestly, relieved of the burden of having to go home with myself and a number attached to my weight, the hard part on my chest feels like such small beans. i am living for today! and, today, i do not have to go home and live uneasily alongside a pantry and fridge full of food.
i leave this appointment with an unidentified mass on my chest and a continuing ability to eat cake. in the here and now, this equates to a win.
when the lab tech does my blood work, the needle gets hung up and she has to wrestle it out. it bleeds for the rest of the day and leaves a plum-colored bruise that stretches across the inside of my elbow like a body outline for a tube of bonnie bell chapstick.
it's a hard place, not a lump. it's my chest cavity, not my breast. it's definitely something but it's probably nothing.
the sun is shining. it's the hottest day of the year. the clouds are blue, fluffy like egg whites.
i stand on the sidewalk, sweating, waiting, doused in purell and donning my third mask of the day. waiting on the communist who's coming to pick me up in a car with barely functioning air conditioning and karl l. marx vanity plates.
that night, we'll make pizza, turning my oven to 425 degrees, which'll fill the apartment with smoke, set the fire alarm off for ten solid minutes, and send claude scurrying into the bathroom in terror for a full hour and a half.
and i remember being so melancholy, when i was writing about jackie, when i'd arrive at the late julys in her life. the height of summer, when anything could happen, but also when things were somehow nonetheless, even at their height, on the cusp of winding down.
every day here, in DC, they predict rain. every fourth or fifth day it does.
it's a hard place. it's definitely something, but it may be nothing. i'mma rest easy and eat cake for now.