I’m on the 2:30 train to Cranbourne.
I’ve just met a new friend, Jane, in Melbourne where we spent three lovely hours wandering around the Art of Banksy exhibition followed by a wonderful lunch at Dymocks bookshop. I had vegan shepherds pie accompanied by ginger & lemon tea. I’m feeling tired but also a little bit proud of my new lifestyle efforts of the past couple of weeks. Gluten free and cutting out all the crap have paid off – I’ve lost 2 kilos of the 30-odd I need to shift.
Jane and I laughed so much through lunch. There was an ease with her I don’t easily find with people. We seemed to have the same unfulfilled dreams and hopes for a future we feel certain we can change around. We spoke of owning our shit and living life to the beat of our own drum. We nodded at the acknowledgement of the impenetrable cage we had built for ourselves that only we could tear down.
So when we finally came to say goodbye at the station we hugged warmly knowing this would be the first of many visits.
Before we hugged our farewells Jane had a sudden urge for hot chocolate. On a whim, I bought one too.
Sitting on the train, I sip on the hot chocolate. I wince. So sweet. Too sweet. My body has already adapted to healthier food and drink. I try a couple more sips but can not go on.
My hands are full – a Banksy poster that reads “Fight the Fighters, Not the War” and a Stephen king book called “On Writing”. The irony of paying for the poster of an artist that is anti capitalism and anti establishment is not lost on me. I look at the cup. I have to put it down. I bend over to place it on the floor. And that is when I feel it. A feeling in my right breast akin to something digging into me. Looking around to make sure no one is watching, I surreptitiously adjust my bra. The feeling remains. I bend over again to check. Yep. A painful feeling of pressure.
I go there. To the death thought. It is never far away, ready to haunt me whenever Horace my lizard brain calls it forth.
“When was the last time I had a mammogram? Last year when they checked the cyst in my left breast. And all was well and I was told I would only need another one in three years time. Or was it two? Is there a lump in my breast?“
I pretend to scratch my face and push my arm into my chest. I think I can feel something. It’s definitely uncomfortable. The train is full now and my stop is the second last one – an hour away at least.
I try to read the Stephen King book. I can’t think. The words fall short of my brain and I close the book knowing it is useless.
Horace is in full swing. “You felt something similar yesterday but dismissed it as your bra digging into you. Now you know it isn’t that. Maybe you should bend over and feel it again. It’s probably a tumour.“
Someone has farted which momentarily interrupts my thoughts. As much as it is a natural body function I do wish people wouldn’t let their wind go in a tightly packed train.
My mind drifts back to my breast.
The train stops. So many stops before I finally get to my own. A lady sits next to me. I don’t do well with the close proximity of strangers. It’s why I don’t come into the city that often. I adjust my bottom in the seat. As I do so, I catch a glimpse of her. She’s Asian, long dark hair falls about her face. She oozes a certain poise that I have always dreamed I had.
I pull out the book and start reading. I don’t notice the lady beside me leave, strangers seated so close, yet transient presences in each others’ lives.
I do notice the man who eases his way into the seat moments later. I tense slightly. Immediately I think how automatic it is that a man sitting so close elicits such a reaction. He’s wearing a neon high visibility jacket, and has a long scraggly beard.
I carry on reading. Why do these seats have to be so close together?
“You’re a fan of Mr King I see.”
I look up. The man is smiling at me. His teeth are rotten, and he is weather-beaten, dishevelled. I smile at him.
“No, I’m not a fan of him I’m afraid. I find horror too scary to read. This book is about his process on writing.”
I notice a book in his lap though I can’t quite make out its title. It’s been well read, I see that.
“I’m the same, but my wife, she loves Stephen King. Can’t get enough of his books.”
I smile and return to my own book, where I feel cocooned and removed from a world that increasingly feels foreign. He does the same and I smile at him reading, the tenseness in my body long since gone.
The rest of the journey passes by with my thoughts oscillating between my right breast and all the words of inspiration Stephen is giving me. All the words I may never get to write.
The man next to me rises. We are getting off at the same stop. I resist the urge to run to my car. Instead I walk slowly willing myself to ponder on my day and cock my head towards the sun.
Horace settles in.
Was I too talkative today? Too revealing? Did I listen enough? God knows I can be a bit over talkative. I hope I didn’t come off like a crazy woman. I am crazy of course but you don’t necessarily want to let people know that when they first meet you. Is she thinking I’m an idiot? Oh god I’m an idiot. What was I thinking, why did I say those things?
I get to my car, open the door and sit inside. I pass my left hand into my right bra cup and squeeze my breast. I can’t feel anything. I bend over to recreate the sensation I had in the train but the steering wheel is in the way. I rest my head on it.
I decide I need food. Camembert, blue cheese, grapes and pear. I go to the shop. When did everything get so expensive? It’s like the price of food just took a massive leap. I decide life’s too short – I may be dying after all – and five minutes later I’m at home off loading the $82 worth of shopping.
I finally succumb to the urge I’ve had since my train journey began. I rush to the bedroom, tear of my blouse and bra, flop onto the bed and have a good feel around my right breast. I’ve never quite got to know my breasts in the way the breast cancer brochures say you should. Hence I’m not sure if there is a lump or not since my breast is very lumpy anyway. I wouldn’t really know if a foreign one has taken up residence amongst the regular lumps.
I decide that today I’m not joining the three generations of women on my mothers side that have died at the age of 60.
I get dressed. As I carve up the pear and place the cheese onto the plate, along with the grapes and crackers I decide today was in fact a good day. A rare good day. I bite into the pear smothered in blue cheese, one of my favourite delicacies. A slight pang of guilt hits me – it’s not vegan – but it tastes so good. I flop back into the sofa and close my eyes.
Today, apparently, was a good day and no, it is not my time to die. Not today Horace, not today.
Until next time,