The Bagel That Broke Me

I have a dog named Bagel, remember — the chicken killer? This isn't about her.

Today I have an appointment at Seattle Cancer Care, some extra special follow up on some abdominal and lower back pain I have been having for several months now. When I really stop to think about my medical history, I suppose the signs and symptoms leading to this visit can be nerve wracking. I've learned, however — to not let my mind run wild with all the possibilities. In chronically ill land, this means: avoid Google.

After my initial consult with not one, but two doctors, the general consensus is: I am fat. Well, not exactly that. But it totally sounded like that.

So, they have ordered some tests — but before I do those tests, I have to eat something. Problem: I am not hungry. I am never hungry or always hungry. Since my thyroid was taken out, it is one extreme or another. But for the purpose of the test, you don't have to twist my arm. The sooner I eat something, the sooner I can take the test, the sooner I can leave here, catch a ferry, and return to the perfection that is my life.

The kitchen is closed (of course). For thirty minutes. My choices are: wrapped sandwiches or breakfast type food. I see a donut. I want a donut. But two doctors have just told me that my tummy issues are because I am fat. I walk away from the donut.

Next option: a bagel. That's it: bagel, cream cheese, and a cappuccino. That's enough, right?

I purchase the biggest bagel I have ever seen, ask the woman to toast it and she points to a self-serve counter and says, “There is a toaster and bagel slicer for your convenience.” “Thank you,” I say. When what I really want to say is: that's a $5 bagel, I suggest you get to slicing lady.

I walk on over to the bagel activity area. The bagel slicer is not intuitive.

Sidebar: I use this word intuitive a lot. Mostly to describe things that's the not intuitive. Intuitive means instinctive, easy to figure out on your own. Without help. This bagel slicer is not something I would ever give to anyone. Even the people I dislike.

So I look around and grab a (plastic) compostable knife. That's what the label on the utensil holder says: compostable. As if not being compostable would stop me from using it. It is Seattle after all.

I begin to slice into my humongous bagel with my (useless) compostable knife. It begins to shred, as bagels often do.

Did I mention the cappuccino is my second coffee of the day?

Did I mention two professional people called me fat?

Did I mention I have to eat to get out of this place?

I fidget with the bagel slicer. I look around to see if anyone is approaching the bagel activity area, someone I can ask for help, maybe? No one.

I look around the eating area. Half a dozen people. Patients. Some with masks. Several of them bald, common at Seattle Cancer Care. Sick, well, here. None of them look like they will appreciate my bagel slicing dilemma. If you are in this hospital, you have bigger problems than this.

I start to slice again, shredding the edges of the bagel with the stupid earth and slice un-friendly knife. I feel the tears coming. My head hurts. My face burns. My stomach aches. My chest is heavy and for a second i think, I'm going to die, right here in front of this bagel activity station, surrounded by sick people. How did i get here? Why am I here? What stupid lotto did I win to have such a shitty vessel of a body? I was 22 once, 7 months pregnant, and shocked at a doctors news that I had a heart disease. I thought that was the worst thing that could ever happen to me. Fifteen years later, doctor visits I have lost track of, bottles and bottles of pills, one diagnosis after another. The sheer probability of one chronic illness layered one on top of another is mind boggling. To me. In this moment.

I finally use my fat fingers to slowly tear apart the bagel. It occurs to me that I could use one half to wipe the tears off my face. Slowly. Evenly. Breathing through my mini-breakdown. It comes apart easily. Definitely not what I thought was going to happen. Just a fat, easy going bagel giving me a bright spot in my weird moment of weakness. Like it was just meant to be.

I debate using the (very technical) looking toaster. I catch a woman, walking by. One with hair. And ask her to help me. She does, and I return to my mission to get this over with and go home.



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