Regina Tips an Object Toward the Light
It was a freak accident, that’s for sure, but I hear it’s not that uncommon on the Suwannee these days, and what with so many personal watercraft and with it being Memorial Day weekend, somebody was bound to get slapped by one of them, at least that’s what the ER attendant told me. Never had a case quite like mine though, he said; squashed flat my two breast implants and broke 4 ribs on one side and three on the other. Seven, my lucky day. I survived a double, radical mastectomy only to have all that plastic surgery work popped—with one thwack of a flying fish.
Now, this may sound funny, but it really isn’t. It could’ve been a lot worse. And there’s more I haven’t said yet, because the breast thing is so big, but I lost a tooth, have a broken nose, and my right shoulder was wrenched in its socket. I’m wrapped up so tight, I look like a mummy, and if it weren’t for the blessed pain killer pump I can push when I need it, I wouldn’t be telling you any part of this story at all.
It was a giant sturgeon, a Gulf sturgeon someone told me, only mine was supposedly not that giant, maybe just a teenager, a hundred pounder instead of two; a five footer instead of eight or nine. Still, you take a hundred pounds of live fish meat encased in what just about amounts to metal armor and smack that up flat against your front—while you’re cruising along on your fancy little jet ski at about thirty miles an hour—and it’s a wonder I’m not—what’s the saying?—in Davy Jones’ locker!
Well, here I am with a helluva story about a flying fish no one seems to have an explanation for, and two high-end breasts popped like beach balls. There was a poem about a fish I recall from childhood, maybe from college, too; I think it was called something like “The Big Fish.” No, it wasn’t, after all. It was just called “The Fish.” In the book from my childhood, there was an illustration of a huge fish—like the one that landed me—with a mouthful of old hooks and line, and the woman who catches him—I think it was a woman, least, that feels familiar from English class; yes, a woman, I’m sure of it—catches this huge fish and then lets it go. She has nothing to prove to the world, but she sure proved something to herself.
After the cancer, my breasts actually looked better than they did before, and I thought I was going to live like I had looked death in the face: not take it for granted, no subterfuge, no lies, not do anything I didn’t think was really worth doing. I even spent a couple of months telling the whole truth to anybody in every situation. Let me tell you, that can get you killed; lying is a fine and honorable art, and I had to relearn it much as someone who’s lost the use of their legs needs to go to rehab. Still, humor aside, I was a changed woman.
Now I have to wonder. There I was chasing down life on a Jet Ski, my perky breasts in my Land’s End mastectomy bathing suit with better cleavage than most twenty-year-olds, and a fish—a giant fish—jumps out of the water and backhands me one.
The surgeon came in earlier with some new implants for me to consider. He held two different kinds, one in each hand, both saline, but with different particulars, makers, and costs. He shifted them around his fingers, and they were catching the light coming in from the window. All I could see outside was the top of the maintenance building and blue sky all around it, but the light was catching in the globes the doctor held in his hands, and I couldn’t hear him anymore as he spoke; instead I was thinking.
I remembered the end of that poem about the fish, something about rainbows and more rainbows, then she lets the fish go, the one she worked so hard to catch. I wondered what would happen if I did that. Not worry about truth or beauty, no abstractions. Not worry about whether I have a new life or am self-actualized or realized or living up to my potential. No breasts, just my big old eyes looking out at the world. I thought, you know, I’m going to go flat this time, and if I decide to Jet Ski again—and I’m darned sure I’ll be thinking hard about that—I’ll go bare-chested and proud of my scars. Let people look, then let them look me in the eye, and I’ll tell them my fish story.
Ever notice how so many people can’t really look you in the eye? How long can you look straight into another person’s eyes before you feel compelled to look away? I looked right in that doctor’s eyes, and I didn’t say anything for a few moments. He stopped fiddling with the implants. He looked toward the door. His arms slowly descended to his sides, his hands clutching the implants.
I counted the seconds until he looked back, and when he did, it was at my chest and not my face.
So I told him to go.