Yesterday I went to the doctor’s office. As I left, having been assured that I would probably live for another year, I saw a grown woman in the waiting room in tears. I tried not to stare, because I’m sure she was already embarrassed.
“We’re setting up a room for you now, honey,” the receptionist said, and the woman nodded through her tears. Going to the doctor’s makes me nervous, because I saw both of my parents die of cancer. I always think I’m next. I know this is not very realistic, but it’s part of a small anxiety I take with me into hospitals and doctor’s offices.
But so far that anxiety doesn’t show very much externally. I don’t know what the woman’s situation was, but I was not as different from her as I seemed, hurrying calmly from the waiting room. I had joked with the woman who had taken my blood and also with my doctor. (The phlebotomist had a postcard on her board that said, “Always give it 100%, unless you’re donating blood.”)
Writing puts me on the narrow edge of survival. It cuts me up and makes me weak. It leaves me ready to burst into tears or say something inappropriate at any moment. But I love it too. It makes appearing normal in public more palatable. I am not normal; I have a goddamned book printed out in my bag. But I’m filled with terror also. I take the things I love most and relive or anticipate their loss on the page. It’s a privilege and a pain in the ass.
How close are you to crying and/or saying wildly inappropriate things in public at any given moment?