Breath & Shadow
Spring 2011 - Vol. 8, Issue 2
"You Can Never Be Too Thin… Or Too Blond"
“You look so HOT!” Ross emails to me. “I can’t wait to see you, and tell you all about my HAI workshop. I feel so open from it, and I can’t wait to tell you all my feelings and to hear everything that you think and feel,” he gushes.
I’ve met Ross twice, at billiards parties that I organized. I sense, as women do, by the second party, that he is infatuated with me. He hovers next to me before I make each shot, helping me with the placement of my cue stick. He rushes to help me put on my jacket. His hand touches my back as we leave the pool hall.
I feel puzzled. Ross is an engineer, clearly a brainiac, who talks fast and technical, and I’m a mellow artistic type who likes to ponder before I speak. He talks circles around me in the language of facts, which doesn’t interest me. I don’t understand half of what he’s saying, but I try to hide it behind an enigmatic smile. I don’t know why he’s attracted to me.
It must be the long, bright blond hair and my svelte body. When I look at my face in the mirror, with the cascade of blond hair, I think “not bad”. As I glance down at my body though, I think, “much too thin”. With all my clothes on, including my shoes, I weigh 95 pounds.
My usual weight is 117. I look like a bone rack. Perhaps to Ross, and the other men who have been nosing around, you simply can’t be too thin--a beautiful waif, like Kate Moss.
After the second billiards party, Gary, who I’ve just met, asks me for a ride home. I say, “Sure,” and off we go in my black Celica. As we drive down the Miracle Mile, he gently asks me, “So, is it cancer?”
My mouth drops open. I don’t know whether to be angry at his intrusive question, or appreciative of his concern. “How did you know?” I ask.
“It was the wig,” he says matter-of-factly.
Cover blown. As far as I know, he is the first to have seen through it. I feel exposed, vulnerable, as I do when I remove my wig and my clothes alone at night. Instantly the beautiful waif is replaced by a skinny crone, a few wisps of hair still hanging from my otherwise bald head. A bright red scar extends nine inches, from my diaphragm to my pubic bone. It still looks like a zipper, the staple marks dotting along on either side of the incision. A plastic bubble protrudes from the right side of my abdomen. This is the port that receives the chemotherapy.
I feel ugly without the wig. I’m a woman who needs my hair to feel attractive. When I’m out in the world with the wig on, I feel like a babe, not a cancer patient. With wry amusement, I think of Ross, and the others. More men have been hitting on me since I’ve been in cancer treatment than ever before. This fact is bewildering to me. It must be the wig--I’ve never been so blond. As if I was emitting pheromones, the men are drawn into my orbit and buzz about me hoping for my attention.
My mind slips into a droll fantasy. In my imagination, I go home with one of these men who has the hots for me. We enter his bedroom. He can barely contain his excitement. With a mysterious smile, I slowly remove my clothes. He watches, rapt, and as my clothing drops to the floor, I watch his expression slowly change. The excitement drains from his face and body, his emotions spinning in confusion. I stand before him naked for a moment, then my hand sweeps across my head bringing my hair with it. The would-be lover recoils in horror. I chuckle at the irony, pick up my hair and walk away.
Ross wants to get together and play pool, just the two of us. I don’t think we’re a match for dating, but I’m willing to have one date to get to know him a bit. After all, in his emails, he seems to have planned our future together.
After the billiards, we walk to Aroma Cafe where we can talk. We talk about his HAI workshop of course--he’s on fire about it. Then he asks about me, “Tell me about your life…”
I look into his eyes and say with blunt honesty, “I’m a recent cancer survivor.”
“Congratulations,” he says, too quickly. He looks like a deer that’s caught in the headlights, yet pretending to be casually munching grass by the side of the road.
"What is he really thinking?” I wonder. When Ross said he wanted to know everything about me, I don’t think this is what he had in mind.
A few days later, Ross sends me a follow up email wishing me well in my journey. It was polite of him to write. I thank him and go on my way, a crone disguised as a golden beauty.