1. Checked email.

2. Read an article about the genetic roots of trauma.

3. Imagined the next scene in a short story I’d begun at 4 a.m. during my most recent bout of insomnia—a poltergeist coming to consciousness during the adolescence of a girl named Radya. In the next scene, perhaps Radya’s parents will bring home a younger brother. Perhaps Radya will be unpleasantly jealous.

4. Thought of my mother’s scarred breast she fought to keep. I disagreed but never told her. I’m glad I didn’t.

5. Reflected on the winter so far, mild. On how January feels anticipatory for something colder.

6. Hoped for blue skies.

7. Listened to the names of women being called: Annette, Selma, Sue-ying, Carmela, Mary, Doreen, Rosa.

8. Watched new women enter, struggling with awkward gowns, open in the front. Modesty is an odd beast, I think, for odd breasts.

9. Glanced at the magazine collection. AARP. People. People. Us.

10. Scratched my armpit. I remembered not to put on deodorant this morning. The resultant stickiness is unfamiliar.

11. Wondered what it’d be like to stop shaving my legs. Not my armpits. Don’t think I’d like the feeling of hair there. Wondered what it would be like to have no breasts.

12. Studied the upholstery pattern on a chair: olive green with ivory scrolling, a gesture at gracious formality under fluorescent lighting. Institutional denial. This is a waiting room, and everyone knows that waiting rooms are microcosmic hells.

13. Noted that the technicians’ voices—as they call us to the hallway with the row of little rooms—are unfailingly upbeat. As if this is a place anyone wants to be. As if cheerfulness works.

14. Admired an older woman’s motorcycle boots.

15. Wondered (again) what it would feel like not to have breasts (again) after thirty years of having them (small as they may be). Would I feel eleven (again)? When I was eleven I cut my hair almost to the scalp. That girl, she was beautiful.

16. Started mentally sketching out tattoos. Not a butterfly, though I’ve seen wings where breasts were once. Inverted angels, angels flying into themselves. Mine would be something graphic and puzzling—Escher-like.

17. Stood when they called me back in for more images. They can’t seem to get my pictures right. I’ve never been very photogenic: asymmetrical smile. Nerve damage from an oddly-angled passage through the birth canal. I have a love-hate relationship with euphemisms. Let me try that again: through my mother’s vagina.

18. Dealt with the tech assistant’s manipulations by affecting cheerfulness. (I know, I know.) When things are awkward, how much I try. I try to set the young woman at ease as she squeezes and twists my dense, beady breast tissue. I wonder, would I be able to do this to scared women? The shy or the sensitive? How would I get through their sadness and fear? I would rather be me, for now, than her. I wonder if that feeling will soon change… if I learn I am suddenly sick.

19. Back in the waiting room, I sit (again), the ultrasound still to come. I sit in the same chair, with the same non-view… outer chairs encircling inner chairs, as if we are to be having conversations. We are not having conversations. In our laps, magazines or phones or hands or laptops. We are all of us looking down. Maybe in.

20. Finally, I leave to take a blanket from the warmer in the dressing room. I’ve been here over an hour, and it is cold in the room, despite the balminess of January. I accept that I am cold. I reject my stoicism.

21. I marvel when a nurse comes in to put on music. The song is “Over the Rainbow”—the wedding version with the ukulele and the Hawaiian singer, not the Judy Garland version. Judy was tragic I recall, even at age sixteen, before the marriages and the drugs and the life led in front of a camera. I read they had to corset her teenage body to make it seem more childlike. Her voice, though, could not be corseted. I once traveled to Hawaii for a wedding. I remember walking out of the airport and breathing deeply in. How everything expanded. How warm the late night air was and how it felt, though I did not believe myself sick at the time, like healing.


Kirsten Kaschock is the author of four poetry books and a chapbook: Unfathoms (Slope Editions 2004), A Beautiful Name for a Girl (Ahsahta Press 2011), WindowBoxing (Bloof Books 2012), The Dottery (University of Pittsburgh Press 2014), and Confessional Science-fiction: A Primer (Subito Press 2017). Coffee House Press published her novel Sleight in 2011. She teaches at Drexel University.

Photo by Dinty W. Moore