“So small you’ll barely notice it,” the surgeon said as he whipped out the ‘Pacemaker’ display board and waved his finger over the ideal model for me.
“Tiny,” my husband, the ex-nurse exclaimed and rolled his eyes the way his fellow Cubans do when patronizing you.
Mesmerized by the thirty-five foot sized Big Ben the doctor would soon be shoving into the eight inch pita pocket he’d whittle out of my flesh, I felt faint, lightheaded, and nauseous. My normal, corpse-like pulse of 37 beats per minute shot off the charts. Did I just scare up a self-cure? “Right! Wish’n ain’t getting!” As a drag acquaintance once shouted at me, from the back of a convertible Cadillac in a Gay Pride parade, when she failed to get my attention after a fit of frantic waving, “Holy Homo!” she screamed. “Over here Mary! I’m in your face!”
My husband and the doctor rattled on, delightfully animated as they marveled over the advances in modern medicine; and how lucky I WAS to be born in this celebrated decade of new- fangled bits and babbles, mechanical wonders, and ingenious robots dominating health care.
Valentine’s Day 2018, is a day that will live in infamy for me. Stripped, shaved, and scrubbed clean with a vial cleanser labeled HEBECLEAN, I lay on the gurney, berating myself for indulging in that last slice of my husband’s butter creamed iced birthday cake, the size of my head topped with a Shirley Chisolm afro. What was I thinking?
What the hell? All my life, this Pollyanna had dieted. Denying chemically sweetened indulgences, I devoted myself to organic everything. Even my T-shits from Whole Foods are 100% organic cotton from Georgia. An avid jogger, I ran marathons. Long walks with my dog, Lucy Honeychurch, and swimming 50 laps (O.K. 25 if you count back and forth as one) 4 times a week are woven into the fabric of me. “Holy Homo! I might as well have eaten a tower of Little Debbie cakes, washed them down with a Mountain Dew, chain-smoked, and sampled every glittering drug offered me during my barhopping ‘Decadence Decade.’
A week after surgery, I stared at the man in the mirror as he removed the ‘user-friendly’ bandage. My stomach flip-flopped as I stared at his twenty foot long Frankenstein stitched scar; obviously hand sewn by a blind nun on the run after pilfering a case of Holy Communion brew filed under ‘Happy Holiday.’
I counted the mementos of war marking the battles of his life. The white corded scar from neck surgery ran horizontal to the latest scar on the walk of fame. Interesting how the two hernia welted scars meet the pink appendectomy stripe that overlaps the vertical slash, from intestinal repair surgery, to complete a triangle. Tres Gay! Including the latest reveal, he boasted an even half dozen.
The man in the mirror smiled back at me and somehow I didn’t feel quite as lonely as before. Patched as am, I knew he’d never abandon me when I wept over the deterioration of a body that once drove men to distraction. Looking in his eyes, I could tell he knew well the promise Lupus made to deliver complicated surprises. He’s the type who’d hold my hand and wipe away the dribble from my ancient plaid bathrobe when I’m even older than I am today. Together, our mechanical miracles creaking to a gentle stop, we’ll catch the last train to providence.