Before she started telling you the story, she would have said, before anything else, “This journal entry has a happy ending.”
The red light on her phone was blinking. Somehow she’d missed a phone call when she knew that nobody would be calling her. Not on her cell anyway. Her husband was out of the country, her children only TXT now, and her mother would only call the landline (because she’d never bothered to give her her cellphone number) and always when it was way past bedtime (because figuring out time zone difference becomes a lot harder once day light savings time change is (not) taken into account)
The unfamiliar number shown had the local area code. With smart phones nowadays our relationship is discreetly judged by whether you show up as a name (from Contacts) or as a mere phone number. The persistent blinking red light indicated that the person had left a voice mail. She was annoyed. Really. Who in this day still leaves voice mails? She dreads checking her voicemails on the very few occasions when some un-indoctrinated people leave them. The problem is they never ever come out clear. Press 1 to repeat the message. Press 1 to repeat. Press 1. Often she ends up pressing 7, reasoning that if the message is important enough, the person will surely call back.
It was a call from some doctor’s office but she could not make out which. She did not think twice when she missed another call from the same number later that day. The call showed up as a mere number and therefore automatically deprioritized. Funny how stupid her logics sound in hindsight.
She jumped when her phone suddenly rang in the midst of the somber silence as she and her children huddled in front of the television, watching the retelling of the horror in Aurora, CO, unfold.
Hello. You need to go in for a follow-up. It’s probably nothing. But we just want to make sure. They noticed something… that looked… calcification…
She held her breath and blinked. She’d forgot about the mammogram the day before.
The doctor wants you to schedule an appointment with the hospital right away and she will fax the order in. Call me right back and let me know the time.
She knew that the doctor’s office was concerned when they waited to hear from her. She went back to sit in front of the television at first as if she had just received a phone call from a telemarketer. The chaos on the screen made her comment out loud how fragile life is.
She remembered the call and what it could possibly mean. She wanted to cry.
What if? No… It can’t be, right? No way this is happening to me. Maybe I should be freaking out now? She asked herself. Let’s see how good I really am at compartmentalizing.
She shook her head violently. Stop thinking about it! There is nothing you can do about it except waiting until Monday morning.
When her mind immediately, out of habit, presented silver linings to the worst case scenario, “I can finally quit my job!” I am such a fucking idiot, she chastised herself, ashamed and worried that if her friends who had fought and survived knew this was her first thought, they’d be offended by how she’s trivializing the whole thing. It’s not a fucking excuse! This is no child’s play. For some people, this is real. Too many people actually.
She shook her head violently. Stop thinking about it! There is nothing you can do about it.
She did not tell anybody about the phone call. In fact, by Monday, she herself had forgot about the follow-up appointment and almost missed it. She woke up late on Monday morning because for three nights she stayed up channel surfing. She cried through Brideshead Revisited.
At the hospital, the technician made her stay for the result. Just in case he needs to see something more, she said.
When she pulled her book out from the purse, she felt guilty for not feeling anything. Maybe I should cry, she wondered, what’s the proper behavior at a moment like this? When the radiologist walked into the gowned waiting room and called her husband’s name, she was startled by how scholarly he looked. Almost bookish. Like a professor. He blurted out even before their hands parted, “Everything looks fine,” and smiled. “I didn’t want you to walk down the hallway wondering.”
The humid air rushed into her lung when she pushed open the heavy door to the garage. Her breath suddenly caught in her throat. She fled into the car and shut the door before the violent tears came.
You are such an idiot, she murmured.