Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Well Woman

"What drugs you take?"
"What drugs. You take."
I am being cross-examined by the Kaiser nursing assistant who somehow skipped the role-play class where you learn to be empathetic to your client's need for privacy and tact.
“Yes.” I allow myself a little defiance, despite the “JESUS LOVES ME” in chunky letters around her neck.
“One drink a day,” she concludes and makes a note. How did she arrive at that? Is it because my hands are not shaking and my lipstick smudged? For all she knows, I’m hiding empty bottles down the back of the sofa.
"Er, female?"
"No. You have sex?"
"Every now and then."
No, sheep and pigs, is what I want to say, but I don't think my humor will translate well into Armenian.
"You put on gown, opening to the front." With that she disappears and I am left to wonder how to fasten the gown without strangling myself or cross-hatching my breasts whilst doing nothing to cover them.

The well-woman check-up is something I dread. It's not the physical discomfort (although I'm not a fan of the part when they sandwich your breast between two waffle irons), but the loss of dignity. And no one knows how to do that better than Kaiser.

"Next!" It's time for my mammogram. Holding the sides of my gown across my chest, I walk jauntily into the room. Got to put on a brave front, so to speak. The technician looks at my chest from under lowered brows, then without a word snaps the current plastic tray out of the machine to replace it with something that looks like it was made to hold earrings. Okay, I know I'm not well-endowed, but no need to make a big production out of it.

Back in the waiting room, I bond with the other señoras clutching gowns. "Ella esta muy mala," glares one of them at the technician who has just emerged from the room. The technician glares back. I leave as the señora is ushered away, grateful that I will be spared her screams.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Tender as Love

Your touch
sets incandescent
to swim in my blood
a shiver of atoms
through the layers
of my skin

your hand
slips warm against
bare back
brushes my belly
in a frisson
of nerve endings
their delight

on a landscape of shoulder
I pillow a kiss
pressing soft
like the curves
I fold against you

your nose seeks
my mouth
lips breathe in
the distance
and sweetness

and your fingers
move the hair
from my cheek
as if not a dance -
tender as love

Friday, February 15, 2008

Update on my ex

Alma, my sister-in-law as was, told me that Francisco is the pastor of a church near the border in Juarez. He’s doing well, she said, calls twice a month full of energy.

I could imagine it well. The Francisco I fell in love with. The man of God with a call to the Mexicans. But what happened? That was my future too. How come I am here in LA, raising a son by myself? Why did God abandon me? I wasn’t the one using heroin. I wasn’t the one who lied and deceived, the one who broke into houses or stole everything a person had, including their belief in God.

Why am I now the one subsisting in the struggle for money, rolling out the dreary routine week after week so my son can be fed, housed, educated. How wonderful that God has worked miracles in Francisco’s life. I am sure he thanks God with great enthusiasm before the congregation. But what about us?

I gave Josh the news on the way home from school.
“So, if he’s clean and doing well, perhaps he can come live with us.”
“No-o!” I shudder.
“But I want a dad.”
I inform Josh that Francisco has remarried.
“Does he have children?”
I don’t know.
“Doesn’t he care about me?”
“That’s what I said; I said, “Alma, does he ask about Josh?””
There is a silence in the back of the car. When I turn round, Josh is crying. He’s 12. He never cries.