The Angel In Your Breast

by: Christine Stoddard1

Going through the motions of life, until you realize you are grievously not alone, and that time is therefore fleeting…

angelinbreast-artowrk-by-sciepro

Even a pancake breakfast can turn ominous.

You were sitting in IHOP when the doctor called. He cleared his throat before introducing himself, but you already knew it was him. He breathed the way grownups on The Peanuts talk.

He asked about your morning and you said it was just another Sunday. You scraped your fork against your plate. He replied that he and his wife had just come from church and that he had thought of you doing the service. You, half-accidentally, flooded your pancakes with syrup. Then you reasoned that it was real maple before you and you were sick of the Aunt Jemima at home.

He asked about your daughter and you said she was starting her very first catechism class. He talked about how his grandson was starting his. While he went on about that, you opened a packet of grape jelly and grabbed a butter knife to smear that gelatinous purple lump into oblivion. You opened another packet because one wasn’t enough.

He asked about your husband and you said he was at home tiling the kitchen floor. You didn’t tell him it was because your husband had fired the contractor after he caught him flirting with you. You opened another packet of grape jelly instead.

“So you’re alone?”

“Yeah, I’m alone.”

But you were not alone. I was there, fluttering in your breast until I tucked in my wings and curled up inside of your nipple.

He paused. You took such a big bite that someone might’ve confused that bulge in your cheek for Minnesota. You barely chewed before you tried to swallow, but it wouldn’t go down. You reached for your orange juice and glugged it heavily in your attempt to solve this predicament – pushing, squinting, hyperventilating – and all the while, the doctor was as quiet as Charlie Brown in the presence of the Little Red-Haired Girl.

“I don’t know how to tell you this, so I’ll just say it. The test results came back. You have seven months to live.”

You swallowed. Hard. The kind of swallow that flushes the face and inspires tears. Mike hadn’t believed you. He didn’t want to believe.

“Have faith in me,” you said.

“In this sick house of worship, I’m an atheist,” he said. “You’re not sick.”

“I’m dying.” You had heard me whisper it before bringing my knees to my chin. I made no promise of salvation. I promised company. I promised dignity.

“You’re living.”

Remember, O most gracious Virgin Mary, that never was it known that anyone who fled to thy protection, implored thy help, or sought thine intercession was left unaided.

“Carla?”

O Mother of the Word Incarnate, despise not my petitions, but in thy mercy hear and answer me.

“Yeah?”

Inspired by this confidence, I fly unto thee, O Virgin of virgins, my mother.

“Did you hear me?”

“Yes.” But you said it quieter than the sound of a mouse scurrying under the altar at St. Anne’s. Even from your breast, I hardly heard it.

To thee do I come, before thee I stand, sinful and sorrowful.

“I’m very sorry, Carla. I was going to wait until tomorrow and call you into the office, but something in today’s homily…”

O Mother of the Word Incarnate, despise not my petitions, but in thy mercy hear and answer me.

“No, I understand.”

“It’s a lot to understand. Maybe you could come to my house this afternoon. My wife is making blueberry pie. You should bring your husband.”

I told you to save the ‘Amen.’ I told you to wait until you were in the doctor’s parlor, savoring that pie. I told you to wait until Mike’s lip quivered. I told you to wait until the doctor explained why.

So you held it. I sighed and clung tighter to your nipple. A discharge oozed out and ran down your breast.

“Okay, I’ll call Mike. You’re still at 3917 Fauquier Avenue?”

“Good. Yes. Say 3 p.m.?”

“Sure.”

“Great,” he said. “I really am sorry.”

“Thanks.”

Then you hung up and stared at your pancakes until you realized an hour had gone by with you doing nothing but staring, and your daughter was probably standing in the parish hall with her palms cupped like a waif. When you put your hand to your breast, I purred. You jumped up, threw cash on the table, and hurried to the parking lot. A few hours later, you pretended to eat blueberry pie while the doctor said the tumor in your breast was as bulbous as Snoopy’s nose. But unlike Snoopy, it had no charming dance. No sweet pantomime. No funny sidekick. This Snoopy was a killer.

I told you no lies.

 

Christine Stoddard is a Salvadoran-Scottish-American writer and artist originally from Virginia. Her work has appeared in Marie Claire, Cosmopolitan, Bustle, Ravishly, The Feminist Wire, Latin Trends, The Huffington Post, and beyond. In 2014, Folio Magazine named her one of the top 20 media visionaries in their 20s for founding Quail Bell Magazine. Christine currently lives in Brooklyn, where she is the associate editor for For Her and the creator of “Forget Fairytales” comics. Learn more at WordsmithChristine.com.

  1. Header artwork by Sciepro. []

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