On every visit, the breast cancer wing tries to trick us,
potted plants and skylights filtering
afternoon light. But the truth is exposed
by the waiting room chair;
hard, textured plastic that dots the backs of my thighs
beneath the pale blue examination gown
that pools in an excess of fabric around me.
It ties in the front and I clutch it
closed with a fist.
I have been waiting a while,
passing time with inconsequential things like
biology homework. My mom quizzes me with flashcards,
I insist. We break the stark silence,
A cell is the basic unit of life. It contains—
I don’t think I’m reacting to this in the right way. There is
on how to respond
to the moment
the ultrasound shadows black on the lump,
lonely, lying in the dark room.
Across from me, my mom watches. Her discomfort
manifests in the incessant bounce of her knee.
The cell regenerates,
She looks at me as if she mistakes my quiet for bravery, but
I have just been waiting for someone
to tell me if I should be feeling gut-empty,
neck-pricking fear, or blood-thrumming courage. I cut it
down the middle, feel nothing.
I am apathetic. I am inconsolable,
only none of us know it yet. I make notes
—prophase, metaphase, anaphase—
off the paper, the cells won’t stop dividing.
I often find inspiration in the investigation of the relationship between a person and their own body during illness, and how that relationship is altered both physically and emotionally. In what way do you react when your body begins attacking itself from the inside, building illness cell by cell from within? This piece was particularly inspired by the void that is the passive act of awaiting diagnosis. So much fills this time: impatience, avoidance, misunderstanding, and a desire for a return to normalcy. However, mostly, it is filled with so many types of waiting: the titular rooms themselves, diagnosis, and waiting to understand.
Rebecca Poynor grew up in Memphis, Tennessee. She is an emerging writer and MFA candidate in the creative writing program at Virginia Commonwealth University. Her work can be read in Rogue Agent. Currently, Rebecca lives in Richmond, Virginia.