When Illness Is A Secret
I swore to hate the woman who told me to undress, who sat me on the examining table, and who took my father away to talk with him outside my presence. I hated her for her chilly brusqueness, for having seen me in my underpants, and for having mentioned within earshot the words cystic fibrosis.
I go to readings where writers stand there, in their bodies, laughing and getting choked up as they read what they’ve written about experiences they’ve had, in those same bodies, and I think: I could never do that. I could reveal my life in my stories or I could reveal my body in person, but no way could I ever show myself that much in my body.
Because she is old, my mother performs the Sabbath ritual very slowly. Sitting in front of the brass candlesticks given to her by her mother, she looks as if God is pressing down hard on the top of her head. Her face juts forward, and the top of her back is rounded. Because she is demented and her short-term memory is shot, it’s impossible to have a conversation with her.