The Still Small Voice

I don’t know if I’m her or she’s me. There are twenty-eight years between us. Right now, as I watch the clock and do the math about how much time separates me from what I dread, I feel her. She’s scared. I’m scared. Maybe we are the same person.

She’s raw emotion, real and visceral. She plays hide and seek with her feelings. She needs scaffolding around her, protection from people she trusts. She wants to hear her mother tell her it’s okay, and she believes her, because her mom is always right. Always.

Cooler heads prevail in times like these, people who are calm and rational and talk her down off the precipice from which she fears she will fall. Everything comes to her in waves. She vacillates between giant feelings she doesn’t understand. She reacts, lashing out, screaming, sobbing. Guilt plagues me after she arrives. I’m grown up. I’m not supposed to act this way. I know better. But she and I exist in this shell together, fighting for dominance, trying to be brave.

She holds a grudge like no one else. She keeps receipts from decades ago, archives of people she’d never want to see again. She remembers that tech’s name. It was Tiffany. She doesn’t like Tiffany and I don’t either. She’ll never forget the crushing silence in the room as Tiffany pressed the ultrasound wand unmercifully into her throat and never once asked her if she was okay, even when she spoke up and said she was uncomfortable. She will never forgive Tiffany for not seeing the tears in her eyes, the way she was holding her breath and counting on her fingers, anything to distract herself from the abject panic setting in. She doesn’t forget. She’ll refuse her next time. She’s not kidding.

Words spook her. Words that fall off medical professional’s lips without any thought or regard. Personal offenses from the insensitive who will never know their crime. Words that punch and kick and leave her bruised. Words matter to her. She knows and I know what those words mean, that when you say “exploratory” it’s never a good thing. That means she’s in danger. We’re in danger.

She avoids. Hides. Shelters herself. Loses herself in what is tangible, what she can control. She gets furious. She spirals out of control when no one can see her. She would hate herself if anybody did. She fears what she doesn’t know and seeks information until it’s too much to process and she shuts down in self-preservation.

Time is closing now. One hour and fifteen minutes left. I will do everything to soothe her, cradle her, bathe her in love and sunshine. I will tell her that everything is okay, when I’m not sure if that’s true. I will tell her that she’s brave and she’s a fighter and she has nothing to be afraid of.

But I am scared. And I don’t have the courage right now. She’s me. I’m her.


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