Three-hundred-ninety-nine-month-old balls of dough kept in the fridge.
With time, they age and rise,
farther than a
two-year-old could have imagined.
She can’t remember exactly when it started. It could have been that morning when she was two. She was lying in bed with her mother, but she hadn’t been there all night. They must have gone back to bed after Dad had gone to work, once Susan and Marcy were on the bus to school. Or maybe she’s not remembering well; her mother was never soft, it’s difficult to imagine the two of them naked, in bed. But she can feel her mother’s breasts, soft, in the cup of her hand. She knows it did happen. She can see it in the furthest point of her mind, a photograph taken the day her memory began to record her life in mental images.
Yes, she sees it there, herself, two, lying in bed. The covers white or off-white, maybe even more of a cream. Her mother’s skin soft, freckled reddish-brown on arms and legs that wrapped around her as if hugging. Hugging soft and naked and tinted with red spots, just like the pubic hair she had seen, which was lighter than her aunt’s, which she stared at whenever her mother went to the bathroom. She had been surprised when her own came in tough, dark, and she tried to shave it away but was only left with needle-like points that stabbed into her thighs for two days until their tips softened next to her skin.
At that point she was already disappointed that hers were already so large and heavy. Full moon areolas. She was embarrassed to show them to Julie Tree at the sleepover. They were flat, wide, but they should have been taut, small. She could see them already growing, expanding, so different from those ones she had felt at two.
She can remember it so clearly, really, and she knows that she was two and that they were the softest things she has ever felt. Warm, as if the insides of her mother’s body were welcoming her to come into its most intimate cranny on that morning made for the two of them. A morning for her to bury her head into the place between armpit and chest that still smelled like warm milk. They were perfect. She could touch them. Small enough to fit in the cup of a toddler’s hand. And yet somehow she already knew that when she grew up, her breasts would not be just like that.
Hers would be big, much bigger than a toddler’s palm. So big that they could cause a ten-month-old to choke on the outpouring of milk, too fast and too voluminous to suckle. When her daughter was an infant, she grew at ten times the pace of a normal baby, climbing from the sixth percentile to the eightieth because her milk was so dense. She carried enough for the world.
They were big enough to sustain an infant and tantalize her three-year-old son, who had been weaned for over a year but went right back to the chest when one night he asked and she let him. Why not, she wondered. He won’t be able to latch on. But he latched and sucked and she provided. He was getting some, her milk, he said. It was good. Sweet. And she did feel that, sweet, as she comforted him to sleep again, offering to him that most primal form of nourishment again, an aspect of their relationship she had believed to be gone. And she saw them growing larger yet as she let him suckle. And she feared their size but he kept on suckling.
She wondered if they would still grow as she weaned, with the rest of her body that was always growing into a new body of womanhood. Or if they would shrink, milkless, sagging with the weight of nothing.
She remembers the day that she received the phone call. She had just gotten home to her mother’s house, on break from school for Christmas, when the phone rang. Moments earlier she had been at Christie and Jacqueline’s school for a holiday celebration. Miss Diamond was now Mrs. Weisbrott and taught kindergarten instead of third grade. She remembered her from third grade and she still liked bears, they were hanging all over the bedroom, mostly friendly. Christie and Jacqueline’s mom wore make-up, amber lipstick; without it she wouldn’t have recognized her face. They talked while the children ate cupcakes. Sprinkled. She asked her how her aunt was. That was when she felt it: a hurricane of anger.
“She’s fine.” Bitterness.
“She still smokes.” Teeth grit into the hollow that would cause a crack weeks later. When she would go to the dentist and find out she needed a root canal.
She could hardly say the words. Gritting. After months of chemotherapy, a mastectomy, she could light another cigarette. And another, hour after hour, day after day. As if her life were full of nothing.
She said it again, she's fine, anger flooding.
And then she went home and she got the phone call and she immediately wanted to take it back because she heard her aunt’s voice crying she heard the tears streaming into the words that uttered that it was back the growth from her breasts to her blood now and she was not able to know why it happened to her and poor Gary who was feeling cursed and blaming himself for his bad luck that landed on her and her poor kids who did not deserve this now or ever and she could not…
She could not comprehend, but she knew it was happening. She had already known. She felt responsible. For blaming the cigarettes. Even though they were likely a cause, a contributing factor. When she hung up the phone she went upstairs and buried her head into the pillow, as if she could disinter the sentence with which she cursed the cigarettes and the anger that she knew did not cause her aunt’s cancer but that she felt was somehow responsible. She buried her head into the pillows that felt as soft as breasts and longed for them to nourish her, full, but they did not smell like milk. They never would.