When I am six, I find a lump.
I am six, and I don’t know a lot, but what I do know is that a lump means cancer and I’m going to die some kind of horrible death that can’t be spoken about out loud in front of children, but only mentioned in whispers and murmurs among adults.
I don’t tell anyone I have cancer. Because in the first place, it’s not someplace not embarrassing–like an arm, or a knee–and I’m very, very bashful on account of my mother won’t let me leave the house during the summer unless I’m wearing a sun bonnet. She says that only low-class people get suntans and ladies have to protect their skin because otherwise they’ll end up looking like truckers.
I am six, and I don’t know much, but I’m sure I’ll be punished if my parents find out I have cancer because I probably got it by doing something I wasn’t supposed to.
I am six and what my Japanese mother calls a psychopathical liar. She says this is a problem because if someone accuses me of murdering somebody else and I try to tell her that I didn’t murder anybody, she won’t know whether or not to believe me and won’t be able to come to my defense, and then I might have to go to jail for murder. I am worried that maybe I’ve given myself cancer by being a psychopathical liar.
I am six, and waiting to die. I’m not sure how long it’s supposed to take or what will happen, exactly. Maybe it will be all coughing-up-blood-in-a-hanky, like in the opera, La Traviata, that my parents watched on T.V. Or maybe it will be more like the movie Love Story–where love means never having to say you’re sorry.
I am six, and waiting to die. I lie awake at night, listening to the sound of my father’s typewriter in the next room like artillery fire, all the stuffed animals piled on the bed with me at once so I won’t die alone, my heart pounding, waiting and waiting.
Eventually, the lump goes away. It just disappears from the surface–reabsorbed somewhere deeper into my body, I think.
And that was that. Or it really should have been. But that bad seed, the secret darkness, it spread and spread and spread, and still . . . I wait.