I spent a summer interning for a Supreme Court justice. She was old, her hands translucent as onionskin, and she told me to think. "I mean really." I watched closed family court trials in Kew Gardens, criminal cases in Jamaica, and sorted estate papers for an attorney on Fifth Avenue. A man micro waved his baby. The D.A. told me all he did was deal with scum all day. I wasn’t going to be that type. Corporate law, M & A, Entertainment… it’s neat and clean… manicured fingernails. I was certain I would be a lawyer based on the smart-ass, never-mess-with-Stephanie thing I had going on. Teachers tell you. Your parents tell you. Everyone thinks because you’re quick and sass you should be a lawyer. The freedom music swells.
Lawyers push papers, spend most of their days trying to find billable hours; some of them go home to sob, dreading Monday. Surprisingly most of my closest friends are now lawyers: my college roommate, my ex-boyfriend, my cocktail chiclet partners (there are at least 5 of them). Some of them hate it. HATE IT. Others are optimistic. I’m certain many law school students are there because they’re uncertain about life. Everyone always told them; everyone can’t be wrong. Cut biscuits.
Learning, studying, libraries, essays. I could lick it up, like salt off a palm before the shot and lime. I excelled. So what stopped me from joining the ranks of the confused? A doctor’s appointment…
“Okay, now you’re feeling a cotton swab. Just taking some of the cells.” Oh, God. “It might pinch a little, is that okay? You’re going to feel this. Okay, now I’m staining the cervix with acid; it might sting.” Oh, god. “Okay now you’ll feel that 10 seconds of severe cramping I told you about. Are you ready?” Just do it already. Don’t tell me about it. Get this over with.
“Now, you’ll feel quite a few pinches. Those are the biopsies.” Quite a few? Oh my God, that means that there are a lot of abnormal cells. “Okay, here’s the first.” I felt my arms stiffen, pressing into my chest. “You’ll feel a pinch— ready?” I heard a snapping sound, a clip, like a lock of hair out of the way and the sides of the blades clicking back together. It was as if something hard was just snipped away. My legs jumped like they do just as I’m falling asleep at night—quick, involuntary. “Okay, now another.” Oh my god, that was the worst part, like clipping off a fingernail too low, snap. “Now, I’m going to put on this black medicine to stop the bleeding. Your discharge will look like tobacco for the next few days. Okay, you’re all done.”
I was shaking, and I wanted to cry. He moved the electronic table to a seated position asking me not to get up too fast. “Are you okay? Dizzy?” No! I’m fine. Get the fcuk out and let me put my pants on. Let me get out. Hurry up and leave already! Get out of here.
“I’m fine.” He left, and I was able to finally stand, the groin towel fell, damp with my sweat. Before I sat on the chair with all of my things, I slipped a few pieces of tissue in my underwear and put on my socks. I started gulping in air; I was too nervous to stand. I had to get my pants on before the nurses came in. I was hot and nervous and the next thing I knew, I was back on the table with two nurses, one on each side of me, one taking my blood pressure and the other waving an ammonia packet in my nose. I thought of gray chopped meat that had passed its expiration date. “Her pressure is 75 over 40.” I knew that was low. The nurse that had just taken my blood pressure began to wipe my face with damp gauze. I kept thinking of the fact that she was taking off my make-up and I worried that my skin would look uneven. They asked me how I was feeling, but I wanted to be silent. There was no use for language. I didn’t care to explain to anyone what I just went through or how I felt about anything. I lost interest in speech, nodded my head, and went mute.
That cancer scare was as real as a Buick. In retrospect, it was my oars. I turned around, said no thank you to law and decided to do anything creative. Yes, we know, even accountants can be "creative." I’m talking getting your hands in it, glue, markers, and colors. Thank the governing forces, okay God, that I was fine, cancer-free. I wouldn’t be the writer, photographer, art director I am now had I not been faced with the idea of death. Life is short, a shrublett, and man, I’m not getting out of here without following my compass. Fuck a watch, it’s all about the compass. I hope you’re following yours.