Parental advisory: The following contains graphic violence, strong thematic content, and pervasive language.
Many others have observed that one of the great luxuries of physical health is an ability to forget that we are physical. When we are ill, by contrast, our bodies insist moment to moment on their presence, their pains, their petty but consuming needs. These are times when we can safely use that overused phrase "I am literally..."
Five days out of surgery, I am literally deflated. I am literally drained. If Frankenstein had made me, this would be the point in the story where he'd flee in horror back to his rosy-cheeked Swiss family and try to forget that he ever dreamed me to material life. I am a hybrid human-mechanical monster, darkly scored in two great slashes across my collapsed chest. On either side, a small wad of gauze blessedly hides an open wound from which a tube snakes out and leaks fluid - now thick and crimson, now watery and yellow - into a clear silicone receptacle the size and shape of a toy grenade. These drains will be with me at least until Monday. Warm with my own internal heat, they nestle in specially designed pockets in my specially designed "post-surgical camisoles," of which I was prescribed two. The camisoles also have pockets for "softies," tear-shaped pillows that wait on my bedroom dresser (two A/B pillows and two C/D) for the day I am ready to play (as I did when I was ten) with the shape of my body, to make multiple, provisional reconstructions of my femininity. For now, concave is the version of womanly that suits me best.
I cannot run from me. And Peter, bless his stout heart, does not. He and I share a tendency toward squeamishness but have discovered together that this delicacy of feeling is simply not an option at present. There's shit that needs doing, and we're the ones to do it. Three times a day, more often when the flow to my drains is sluggish, we "repair" to the bathroom, where we have all but perfected our little routine of cleaning, stripping, emptying, and measuring: 2cc's from the left, 3 from the right. I tuck the grenades back into their holsters and we wash our hands again. Sometimes I dare a look in the mirror before I zip my camisole closed, sometimes I do not.
Thursday was hard. Dr. Lee had instructed us to remove the "tegoderm" bandages and gauze that covered my long seams. I already suspected from our discussion post-surgery and from what I could see around the gauze that he had not achieved the flat scape I had hoped for. For someone who intends to get implants, a surgeon will leave extra skin if possible, the better to accommodate them, but I've chosen (for reasons I'll save for another post) not to pursue reconstruction, and insofar as I had any aesthetic desires invested in my surgery (very small in proportion to the "I want to live!" desires) they all flew in the direction of Kansas. I had in my mind a tabula rasa, blank canvas, bare ground. But I found that I am moon-cratered. Where mountains stood there are now depressions. My body holds a rumpled memory of abundance.
I couldn't think immediately what they resembled, these transformed features of my new topography. Then it came to me: "I have Eeyore boobs, Pete. Happy birthday."
"Still have your honeypot" was his rejoinder.
Thus a gal who is literally deflated may feel her spirits lift and expand.
p.s. There's a lot that I'm finding unintentionally comical these days. Somehow I don't think Garnet Hill had me in mind when they sent out their new catalog, as apt as their tag may be. The image of exuberant fecundity (a little freezer burnt in transit) also gets spun in an unexpected direction by my present turn of mind: