I imagine Nice and topless beaches, women smoking and reading novels in the sun. I pretend I am comfortable undressing in front of men who go home to their wives, in front of women who have seen twenty pairs of breasts today, in front of silent ghosts who walked through these same doors before me, who hoped doctors would find it soon enough, that surgery, pills and chemo could save them.
Today, they target my lump with a small round sticker, a metal capsule embedded beneath clear plastic. I am asked to wash off my deodorant, wrap a lead apron around my waist, pose for the nurse, for the white walls- one arm resting on the mammogram machine, that "come hither" look in my eyes. This is my first time being photographed topless. I tell the nurse, Will I be the centerfold or just another playmate?
My breast is pressed flat - a torpedo, a pyramid, a triangle, a rocket on this altar; this can't be good for anyone.
Finally, the nurse, winded from fumbling, smiles, says, "Don't breathe or move." A flash and my breast is free, but only for a moment.
In the waiting room, I sit between magazines, an article on Venice, health charts, people in white. I pretend I am comfortable watching other women escorted off to a side room, where results are given with condolences.
I imagine leaving here with negative results and returned lives. I imagine future trips to France, to novels I will write and days spent beneath a blue and white sun umbrella, waves washing against the shore like promises.