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She was there while you had lunch

Written by Daniela Ronca

Illustrated by Marta Bianchi

One day in high school, she waited for the teacher to call her name, knowing that she couldn’t stand up and walk to the desk. All the other students were collecting their tests, one by one, nodding while the teacher pointed out the errors and commented on their grade. She also knew she couldn’t explain why she had to remain seated. She smiled trying to say with her eyes that she wasn’t disobeying, but that she just couldn’t stand up.

When the bell rang, someone had handed her the test. She prepared a few tissues in her hand, and quickly swiped the wooden chair. She put the jacket on, hoping it would cover the mess, and walked home.

Now she drives to the appointment with the seatbelt strangling her belly, and her mind making an

inventory of the doctors who visited her. She tells herself that this doctor won’t be poking the ultrasound

wand into her left side, where it hurts. No one thought that the pain was peculiar, and she never

considered it alarming. Someone had said her uterus lied flipped over, someone said that wasn’t true.

She hits the curb and the parking ticket flows out of the window, as she looks at the glazing façade of the clinic, which makes her think this time will be different. But her doctor waits in the basement, and he is late on his scheduled appointments.

Telling him what she thinks she has will make it quicker, she thinks, and so she does. He pokes the

ultrasound wand to the left side.

“You can’t handle the cure, that’s your problem” says the doctor, because she said the pill made her want to crash into a sycamore. She blinks and waits, but her diagnosis is never pronounced.

She keeps her doubt quiet, letting it tremble between her pain and her flesh. An interstitial doubt. Is that a word the doctor was saying?

“You are now listed for surgery. Any questions?” He says while typing with his index fingers.

“So no questions.” He says while still typing.

Her doubt bubbles and pops inside of her as she accepts what her mom has always told her. It’s all in your head. She wants to ask if rocking back and forth in bed with the rhythm of her wailing, if taking so many pills that they would put her to sleep for fifteen hours, if convincing herself that next time she would be pushing thought and run errands and forget about the pain, was normal. Her thoughts are sharing space with her diagnosis, in a vacuum place of invisible existence.

The doctor says all the information is in the pamphlet and that she can email him, although he replies only when he has some free time, which never happens. He remains seated behind his desk, as she leaves the room.

Five months later, she writes about how she’s learnt to silently plan her absence. When the time comes,

she retires in her room like a wounded animal, and she looks at the clock calculating the exact minute when her legs are going to become stiff as wood, with jolts of electricity running through her lower back, making her hands go numb. She listens to the growing pain in her belly, and it is so familiar. She bends over with her legs crossed, her skin turning red and swollen where she holds the hot-water bottle. She takes a glance at the clock again and she knows she won’t look at it again. From then on the pain will make her lose consciousness, sweating while she freezes, make her fill the bucket by her bedside with all that her body tries to purge. She waits through it until the pain feels just like a piercing sound in her head, and she doesn’t know if the pain is going away or if she just can’t feel anything anymore. She lays there in her dump sheets, where time stopped existing.

She writes with anger because the doubt turned into her chains. Her brain is an efficient machine that

erases the things that might destroy her. In fact, she isn’t sure those days were real. Maybe she could have been stronger, suffered less, ignored the urge to vomit. She writes with anger, as she disappears in the translucent reality where invisible illnesses belong.


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