The Annual Exam

It’s all so familiar
And so unfamiliar.

The light at the left turn
onto the street is still impossibly long,
the parking lot is still cramped, like it
made space for just one car too many.

The waiting room still greets
its visitors with fluorescent lights,
its tables lined with women’s magazines
and business cards advertising $500 pregnancy photo shoots.

The cups in the bathroom still perch
skeptically behind the toilet seat,
the oil diffuser works to dilute other smells
with a calming, hearty lavender.

The walk to the clunky physician scale
still leads me down the brown braided corridor floor
and past the doctor’s office door,
almost always slightly ajar.

There’s Jenny in her dark pink scrubs and white sneakers,
humming as she whimsically wraps
the blood pressure cuff around my left forearm.

And the patient room…. the patient room.

Those slimy purple latex gloves,
the miniature swiveling stool,
the bottle of goop and the magical wand
that used to connect my ears
to the sound of my baby’s beautiful heartbeat.

A room full of gadgets with an eye towards life,
now all cruel artifacts of her death.

I sit and stare at a blank spot of space on the wall
and breathe into that tiny refuge.

This annual exam,
so excruciatingly different from last year’s,
and yet the same.

“No history of breast cancer in your family, right Kathy?” my doctor asks.

“That’s right,” I nod my head,
and keep breathing into that blank spot on the wall.

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