Just got home from a four-day stay in the hospital. I insist that washing my hair is an immediate necessity. It really isn’t. A warm and steamy bathroom seems to be the perfect place for me to hide from the fear twisting around my heart.
I have postponed the inevitable moment all the way through undressing, and I have postponed it though sinking into the warm soapy water. But I can postpone it no longer. So I allow my gaze to slowly and cautiously drift downward. To the empty space where my left breast used to be.
It is bruised…green and yellow and filled with black stitches covered with dried blood. It is such an indignity, so brutally ugly.
Quickly I concoct exotic mental plans to keep my husband, Jim, from ever again seeing me naked. Mutual passion has been such a strength in our marriage. But now, all of that seems over. How could I entice him with a lopsided and mutilated figure? I am only forty-three years old, and I am so deeply ashamed of my body for this betrayal. I lie back in the bath, waves of sadness washing over me.
The bathroom door swings open and Jim walks straight through my cloud of self-pity. Not saying a word, he leans over to slowly place his lips onto each of my eyelids. He knows this is my most favorite of our private “I love you” traditions. Still silent and without hesitation, he bends further down. I brace myself for the barely hidden revulsion.
Jim looks directly at my wound and gently kisses the prickly stitches. Once. Then twice. Three times. He stands up and smiles lovingly at me. Then he blows me a special airmail kiss, my second most favorite tradition, and softly closes the door behind him.
My warm, grateful tears roll down my cheeks and drop gently into the bathwater. The bruise on my chest is still there. But the one on my heart is gone.
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