You Once had a Test

Sitting in the chair, you are reading a book. You are curled there, like a cat, feet folded neatly underneath you and a blanket pulled up to your chin. Though you are deep within the story, you are distantly aware of the rain on the windows and then suddenly, a tap on the door. The tapping is light and at first you are not sure that it is really there, but the sound drops a bomb in your belly that belies the truth. You once had to take a test, and if you failed, it meant you had cancer and you would die. You most certainly would not have children. You lay back on the cold padded table and you could feel the crinkle of the table liner even through the gown and on a sliver of skin exposed by a tear in the paper. Legs spread wide, you placed the balls of your feet on the cold stirrups and a hand on your flat belly. Your palm grew hot at the thought of that belly staying flat, always flat, and you left a wet patch on the paper, in the shape of a panicked handprint. You can remember that your knees shook a little, in modesty and at the cold. You could not decide if socks were appropriate so you did not wear them, and the cold of the metal went from the soles of your feet up through your bones. Your doctor, a nice enough beast, reached up and inside you with metal mouths and cotton tipped sticks; with a long plastic poker that ended in a brush, and you felt the pinch as he took a piece of you out. It was a piece that might spell your doom, but which, in the end, did not. You passed the test and all was well and your belly did not stay flat. You remember the day that the phone call came, when you found that you had passed the test. You picked up the phone and the nurse asked if you could hold for the doctor, he had your results and wanted to tell you what they were. You considered hanging up just then. You had thought, for a moment that you would be saved that way. Until he said cancer, until the words reached your ears, you did not have it, and you could go on forever pretending that everything was fine. But the words did not come, there was a “negative” and that was all, and you hung up the phone, and moved on. Years went by and there was a dance, and then a boy. There was a wedding and a house, and then you had born a son. You had raised him with the boy, who had turned into a man, and your son was brave and strong. He protected you, and the house and even the man, though the man would not admit to such things. The boy grew up and out, too big for your house. He went off to strange lands, and you were afraid. You were again at home alone with the man, and you both waited by the mailbox for letters. The boy wrote and told of the sun and how it beat down on the sand, and blinded him. He wrote about home, and what he missed; he wrote of you and the man, and a girl who lived in town. He wrote of bullets and blood, but never his own. In all of the letters the boy was brave and strong, and you wrote back to him with love and hope. When the letters were signed, you would seal them with a kiss, and again, by the mailbox, you would wait. Today is it raining, raining and cold on top, and so you take your book off the table, where it too often sits and you curl up, like a cat on your chair. You are sitting there quietly, reading your book, when there is that tap on the door, and the bomb in your belly. The man is not home, will not be for hours. You are alone in the house, and it is raining. You can see through the etched glass, the distorted shapes of three men in dark clothing. Two of them marked with just enough color on their lapels to detonate the bomb. But you are in your chair, curled up like a cat, against the cold and the rain, and they are outside. They tap gently on the door, so quietly and insistent, and you think that if only the words do not come, then everything will be all right. If only they stay right there, on the other side of the glass, then your son will be fine, and it will pass.