Diane, I remember after that really bad break-up of mine—the kind that doesn’t seem so long ago but is?—you were the one who pulled me out of my hall closet where I tried to hide from the pain, me there alone with the broom and the dustpan.
Later, when I moved to the much-smaller studio apartment where I live now, you were the one who unpacked my clothes. Here, years later, the places where you first put the folded sweaters and jeans remain the same.
And the day my doctor told me there would be no children for me, you were the one who met me at Starbucks and sat quietly as I cried into my latte.
But, Diane, I remember the good times too. You taught me how, as an adult, to ride a bike—as a child, I’d never really learned. And I never really had a best friend then, just a shadowy girl I’d met in kindergarten who followed me around through grade school, avoiding, as I did, games the other kids played during recess.
Diane, you told me most earnestly that you had no intention of ever having a child; that you loved your life the way it was. You made it OK for me to love my life just the way it was, too.
And then, not long after that, you told me you were “accidentally pregnant”. I don’t remember if I said the right things, or made promises to always be there for you; if I let you keep drinking your wine or if I stopped you by putting my hand on yours, saying, “The baby...”.
When I go to my own doctor not long after, the news for me is also unexpected. As she moves the scope around, a frown creases her forehead. She declares, “Bonnie, you have a fibroid,” and a few minutes later she presses a grainy black-and-white picture into my hand. I take it home and stuff it into the far back of the junk drawer in my kitchen.
I stop by your house the next day and notice you have your sonogram baby-image on your fridge. I can’t bring myself to tell you my fibroid news. You explain how you and the father will be moving in together. You shrug and say it’s really for the best since the baby will be here so soon. You rattle off a slew of plans. The look on your face is something I do not understand: contentment. It builds a wall between us, brick by brick.
Back at home that evening, I pull out my own crumpled scan. Smoothing it down, I look at it critically. The fibroid is roughly the size of a quarter. I hold it up against my fridge and firmly press a magnet to it. There. We both have alien beings growing in our bodies. Yours moves you forward to a burgeoning new life, but I don’t know how to share the news with you or anyone about my fibroid.
We do bike together that weekend, Diane, remember? One of our most-favorite activities. But on this day I realize it will be our last ride for a long, long time. When we do talk that afternoon, everything seems to be about plans for the baby. I feel guilty even thinking about anything else while in your presence. I wish for the ride to be over before it even starts. And, needless to say, I still don’t tell you about the fibroid.
The next day I scroll through my entire list of contacts, but none are good enough to fill your spot as my very-best friend. So I go to bars and clubs by myself and stay out late and drink too much. I try drugs whose names are just a jumble of letters and numbers. I sleep until 2 p.m. on weekends and am anxious for each day to fade into darkness.
You call me several times. I know you worry. But when I see your name on my phone I send you straight to voice-mail. I cannot bear to talk to you. Though I do want to yell at you, to shout at you, “It’s not my fault! The fibroid is making me do it!”
But I don’t. I bite my tongue and swallow whatever pills come my way, I drink vodka straight. Then one night, it all changes. I’m at a bar and I see myself in a mirror, in profile. I have a bump. A real bump. I gaze at it, my hand drifting over my swollen abdomen. In that instant, I stop everything and head home to sober up.
In another few weeks, my regular pants and skirts no longer fit so I buy bigger ones, looser ones. I start taking better care of myself. Orange juice every morning. A yogurt for an afternoon snack. Vitamins every day. I walk briskly around the block four times during my lunch break. When I stand on the bus, I rest my hand gently on my belly. People even give up their seats for me! I do want to call you. To share with you what is happening to me. But after behaving so badly, Diane, I am ashamed. I wouldn’t know even how to say hello to you.
One day at the gym as I walk on the treadmill, not even walking fast enough to break a sweat, pain suddenly slices me in half. I wake up in the hospital where the ER surgeon matter-of-factly informs me that they did an emergency procedure to remove the growth.
“You gave me an abortion?” I ask him in disbelief.
The surgeon gives me a most pitiable look. “No. Of course not. We just removed your fibroid.”
He says it so casually. Like it was nothing. But to me it was the only thing that still held us together, Diane! While it was with me, I could almost grasp what you were feeling and experiencing. And now it’s gone. I put my hand on my still-protruding belly. The surgeon explains it will take some time to for my body to regain its normal shape, and that I should take it easy for a while.
“I want to see it,” I croak.
His eyebrows shoot up, two bushy, grey caterpillars. “I don’t think that’s necessary,” he says.
I summon my strongest voice. I demand. But it’s too late. Already what was inside me is being sent to Pathology where it will be dissected, studied under a microscope, analyzed and proclaimed to be something not good, or nothing at all.
The nurse leans close to me after the doctor leaves. “It was the biggest I’ve ever seen,” she remarks, her voice a mix of awe and encouragement. “Pretty impressive you carried it for as long as you did.”
My throat grows thick. Yes, I carried it. I carried it inside of me. As soon as I think this I burst into inconsolable tears: Diane, I want you here, I think. Instead, I squeeze my own hand as hard as I can.
Two days later I am discharged. At home, the silence is palpable. I hear the muffled sounds of cars honking in air oppressive with summer heat. I go to the kitchen for a glass of water and there is the picture of my fibroid in its early stages. I take it with me to the kitchen table.
I consider sending you an e-mail explaining what happened. But when I start typing, the words don’t come.
So I take an envelope and stuff the picture inside, scribbling your address on the front and sticking on a single stamp. I hurry to the corner and before I can doubt myself I toss the envelope into the mailbox.
I go home and call in sick for the next three days. I am sure I will hear from you, but I don’t. My regular doctor calls, though, and greets me in her most cheerful voice. “So, the good news, Bonnie,” she says, “is that the fibroid isn’t cancerous.” She goes on citing some statistics and recommends more frequent visits to keep an eye on things. She pauses for a moment and her voice drops to a more serious tone. “The ER surgeon said you thought you might have been pregnant. You and I talked about that, remember? You know that’s not possible.”
I nod even though she can’t see me. “Yes,” I finally say aloud, “of course I know that. I just wasn’t myself.” My head is spinning. I didn’t even know cancer was on the table. “Well,” I say brightly to her, “that’s something, isn’t it? I don’t have cancer anyway.” I force a soft laugh and thank my doctor while I face and check off the realities in front of me: no cancer for now, no best friend—you, Diane—and, of course, no baby growing inside me, not before, not now, not ever.
fiction poetry "fact" photography