I’m sucking down a chai by Oprah as I speed-walk to my therapist’s office. I’m raining sweat. I smell like a Subway Sandwich restaurant. Summer in the city. At least my feet look good. I glance down. My legs are covered in scars. I put none of them there deliberately, so calm down.
I’m fish-belly white. I rock a moon tan. My skin doesn’t get glowy or golden, it just gets whiter, like I’m a sparkly Twilight-style vampire. Then, in a sad attempt to do what it’s supposed to do, it sharts out a spray of new freckles and moles. I develop strange and alarming moles that I stare at curiously when I need something to worry about.
I’m 90% sure I will develop melanoma. Because cancer, that’s good to fantasize about. “I never even saw it coming,” I say in the mirror some mornings, hair on end like a duck’s ass, my eyes still puffy and strange from sleep. “I had no idea,” I murmur to my shell-shocked reflection. That will be a lie. Because as morbid as I am, I’m also painfully responsible, and (it has been well-chronicled) deeply afraid of death. I see my dermatologist once a year. She examines my body like she’s Rachel Weisz in The Mummy, and I’m the legendary book of the dead.
She circles a few moles, sometimes samples are taken. We’re watching a few. They shift and change as years pass but they are, for now, benign. “What’s this?” She’s pointing, the blue gloves baggy on her hands like she’s never actually done this whole doctoring this before, at my snake bites. “Cobra,” I say, “liked what he found so much he came back twice more.” She doesn’t blink or laugh or smile or roll her eyes. Probably because this isn’t a funny joke. It’s less funny for a dermatologist who, I figure, knows a snake bite scar when they see one.
I didn’t realize it was totally ridiculous that this seemed to make sense to me until later in the day. I’m blushing now, the way I always do when a joke doesn’t work. I shrug and look away. I’ve been naked for twenty minutes but this is the first time during the visit I’ve felt ashamed. “I have slow clotting time,” I explain. “They had to test it a bunch when I was a kid.”
Cobra bites sounds cooler. Though I used to think the fact that it takes my blood too long to gel up and scab was pretty awesome in and of itself. That’s because I was (and totally still am) an anglophile. As such I’d heard that Queen Victoria’s kids all carried the gene for hemophilia (another clotting disorder) and decided, using the transitive property (because, math) that I must in some way be related to England’s dumpiest and most cherished Monarch. The secret princess dream. I can’t be the only one who’s had it. Real talk: Sometimes I still do.
Sometimes, after a long day, when my body is one giant knot and the underneath of my fingernails look like I’ve just dug my way out of a grave, I force myself into the shower using the princess fantasy. I’m a displaced royal forced to live a challenging life. But my royal clan has found me, and before tomorrow’s celebration, they will see me bathed and perfumed and allowed to sleep in a big, clean bed.
In this scenario, no one is sure where I’ve been. No one totally trusts me. Important people think I am an imposter. The truth is I’ve been raised by an anti-monarchical farmer and his wife and the only thing wrong with me is a chip on my shoulder about the current government.
I can’t even princess-dream right. I nod off planning my reforms and an elopement with a palace stableboy. “See,” I’ll say to the court, “Station means nothing!” I’m a rebellious outsider in my own fantasies. Lame.
I’m five minutes late to therapy. Since I started working from home it takes me longer to get to her office in Koreatown. I’ve been running late everywhere lately. “Do you think that’s related to the drugs?” I asked my prescriber. In a roundabout way he explained to me that it was, but not the way I thought.
“The idea is that you’re less anxious now,” he said. “So whereas you would arrive places five, ten minutes early, now, well....”
I laughed, “Now I can’t be bothered?” He nodded with a smile. This is probably also why I can’t wake up on time anymore. It’s a bit frustrating at the moment. I wake up with my alarm clock, get up, tottle about, then inevitably go out of my way to get back into bed because I can probably steal another ten or fifteen minutes.
Who is this person? Timeliness used to be this thing I waved above my head like a golden lasso. I judged others and myself. Not now. It occurs to me that I’m pining for a symptom. I never thought my anxiety helped me at all. Now, with it receding in this particular arena, I miss it. Becca was never late anywhere. Becca got places twenty minutes early and walked around the block until two other members of her party had arrived. My stomach falls slightly as I think about this, what I’m butting up against: I’m not quite sure who this new Becca is. I don’t dislike her, but I don’t know her very well, and I worry about the other Becca sometimes.
I’m in the elevator now going upstairs to see my therapist. She is going away on vacation for a month. She does this once a year. Last year, in her absence, I fell quietly to pieces. When she got back our first session was just me sobbing about how I didn’t think I could keep doing it anymore. Best I can recall “It” was staying alive.
Now it’s our last session before she goes and I feel... okay. I don’t feel like I’m on the precipice of anything other than good things. Maybe this is me trying to rationalize my tardiness. It could be, I’m tricky that way. But maybe it isn’t. Maybe it’s the truth. It feels like a test, it feels like the new Becca is being given run of the roost, and I don’t totally trust her. She seems like the type who’d throw parties when her parents are out of town. She seems like the sort of person who can put out a candle with two fingers and some spit. She seems... fun.
My therapist opens her door the instant I buzz. “Sorry I’m late,” I say.