I got called back after my mammogram this week. They wanted to do an ultrasound on the right breast. I went in Tuesday, but they were so backed up that I left without being seen. Two days later I got right in and was lying there, looking up at the ceiling, my first thought being how plain those acoustic white tiles were. One didn’t match the texture of the others — a replacement.
“You need a poster on your ceiling,” I said.
“Yes” the tech said, busy at her task.
I flashed back to college when Nickie, one of my freshmen roommates (it was a triple), slept on the top bunk. I was on the bottom, and Lee Ann was in the single bed. Nickie had tacked up a full-length poster of Olympian swimmer Mark Spitz above her bed. His perfect body was the first thing she saw every morning and the last thing she saw every night.
I didn’t get it. Maybe it was the moustache.
Now I wished for Mark Spitz in his red white and blue Speedo or Michael Phelps in his, one of them on the ceiling, anyone to take my mind off why I was there.
Michael Phelps was too young for a sixty-something woman, so I wished for Brad Pitt or Burt Reynolds.
Wait! Is he dead?
“This is bad timing,” I said. “I’m a full-time care giver for my sister, so if this turns out to be anything . . .”
“I don’t think you have to worry,” the tech said.
As I stared at the acoustic tiles I had another flashback, this time to my grandparents’ house on a holiday, and my cousin just a year younger. As we lay side by side on the strangely uncomfortable sofa bed/couch, one of us said, “I wonder how many tiles there are on the ceiling.”
The other one said, “Let’s count them.”
What else could two pre-teens do on a lazy afternoon while everyone else was digesting dinner?
The pattern was irregular, and the boxes were different hues, but they sort of followed a grid. One square would be one big tile, the next square would be four or six boxes taking up the same amount of space. It was just one more funky thing about the house my grandfather built for his family of six.
We decided to copy the pattern onto paper before we counted them. He handed us some graph paper to help us keep our lines straight. The living room was big, with a piano, the couch, two chairs, three doorways, a telephone stand and staircase to the basement where the kitchen was, maybe 20 feet by 25 feet. It took us hours to draw that ceiling. We even skipped more pie when everyone else went downstairs for round two.
I don’t remember how many boxes there were on those acoustic tiles, but it was more than 400. Our grandmother taped our graph to the back of a painting hanging on the wall. Who knows whatever happened to it? Both grandparents are long gone, along with another cousin, my dad, and assorted aunts and uncles.
“I’ll be right back,” the tech said, breaking my reverie. “Don’t lie there and worry now.”
I looked at the white ceiling tiles. How did I get from them to 1967?
Now, as I sit in my front yard, before going inside to my sister and the two dogs (one of them needy), TV blaring, moment lost, I have stopped to write down my flashbacks.
My jeans are rolled up, shoes off. Summer outdoor dancing starts in four weeks. I need my feet to get as tan as my legs. I need the sock line from walking the dogs to go away.
I have no paper when I plop down my purse, but I do have an old library book, purchased this morning for half off when I was looking for smaller clothes for Sis. So I remove the dirty library dust jacket, take it apart, and use the liner paper to write down my thoughts. The bees and butterflies are here with me, and one hummer with a shimmering red-orange head is enjoying the red sage plant called Hot Lips.
The new dog is whining at the front door just fifteen feet away. She knows I am back.
I will go inside now, glad it was just a cyst, glad that I’m okay for another year. Sometimes an acoustic white ceiling is all I need to meditate, if that, in fact, is what I was doing.
Whatever it was, It got me through my exam.