This Is a WomanGretchen Clark
This is a woman who thinks a suburban spell has come over her.
This is a woman who, as a child, was frightened by the movies The Planet of the Apes and The Stepford Wives.
This is a woman who is on the treadmill five times a week wearing running shorts and a t-shirt, hair a sweaty mess, with her iPod on too loud, pumping out a playlist something like this: "Timebomb," "Paralyzer," "Save Me," "Where is my Mind?," We’re Going Down," "Rebellion," "No More Words," "Blue Sky," "Anything, Anything."
This is a woman who doesn’t remember hearing her father say I love you until she was twenty-nine.
This is a woman who used to go out for what she called “cigs & drinks nights” with her three closest girlfriends. It was a short walk from one of the girl’s tiny-but-hip San Francisco apartment to the bar around the corner. The bar where drinks are the size of punch bowls decorated with paper umbrellas and pineapples and cherries. Drinks in electric alcoholic colors like turquoise, lime, safety cone and lightening bolt.
This is a woman who would sometimes smoke an entire pack of Camels during one of these outings. To feel wired. Jittery. Her heart a wild bird, flapping hard to get out. Her heart a motorboat racing inside the blue ocean of her blood.
This is a woman who is still close in heart, but not miles, to these three girlfriends, now scattered like marbles across the U.S. There is now no bar around the corner to collect them in. Cardigan sweaters, businesslike hair styles, organic produce, a Ph.D. program, responsibility, a master’s thesis, wedding rings, a terminally ill parent, small children, fertility treatments and big mortgages—all these things have rooted, contained and caged them.
This is a woman who hasn’t felt truly unabashedly honest-to-god black garter belt red-satin sexy since she became a mother.
This is a woman who remembers the prizes: the beaded coin purse, the candy necklace, the plastic ring, the pencil topper that was shaped like a cluster of grapes and smelled purple. She was sent to a speech therapist twice a week in the fourth grade. Was given dittos of poems to memorize and recite to the lady sitting across from her in the small room with the row of windows all around. She didn’t go for very long. The lady heard nothing wrong in her speech. This girl just didn’t like to open her mouth.
This is a woman who remembers old ladies at church patting her head, saying “such a quiet good girl.”
This is a woman who believes Anne Sexton was telling the truth.
This is a woman who, three years ago, leaned into the mirror, tilted her head back to put mascara on her lashes, saw a lump, size of an almond, sticking out from the left side of her throat, felt it, finished applying her make-up, and didn’t mention it for two months.
This is a woman who, one New Year’s Eve visited a psychic who immediately sensed lots of fear in her.
This is a woman that was raised on homemade fudge, PBS and worry.
This is a woman who had an enlarging left thyroid mass. Fine needle aspiration showed atypical epithelial component. A hemithyroidectomy followed by possible total thyroidectomy in the case of cancer was recommended. The risks of injection, inferior scarring, hypoparathyroidism, recurrent laryngeal nerve injury were discussed with her in detail. She understood the risks and wished to proceed.
This is a woman who researches everything. She looks up the percentage risk rate of damage to the vocal cords for this type of surgery. Three percent does not seem low enough to her.
This is a woman who, as a child, refused to recite her ABC’s for her older sister. Red record button pushed down. Sister making all the noise, imitating Grover, singing “Row Row Row Your Boat” into the speaker. “Say something,” you can hear the sister say on the decades old recording. The little girl whispers back “I don’t want to talk.” Click. Tape ends.
This is a woman who doesn’t sleep. She stays up at night looking at thyroid cancer websites and sending emails to her friend, Jill. She writes “make it go away.” She erases it. She wishes it was that easy. That fast.
This is a woman who is obsessive about her body. She is afraid she will get fat after this is all over. This would be worse than death to her.
This is a woman who married a man who says I love you to her almost every day.
This is a woman who puts mascara and lipstick on the day of her surgery even though the hospital’s direction sheet explicitly says no make-up.
This is a woman who is so nervous everyone can see it and feel it. She hates this, hates that the fear is leaking out, glowing in her eyes, dripping in her palms. The anesthesiologist, a small blonde with funky glasses, asks her if she’d like something to help her relax. The small blonde doctor pushes something opaque and white into her IV. She feels something altogether foreign to her—calm.
This is a woman who thought she could control one thing in life.
This is a woman who wants to believe the words a priest once said to Anne Sexton: “God is in your typewriter.”
This is a woman who doesn’t tell those three girlfriends what’s been going on all summer until after the surgery, after she is home, after her skin starts to sew a thin red seam.
This is a woman who thinks back. All those sore throats she had as a kid. Her tonsils always swollen, red, infected. Their removal at age nine. The cool strawberry ice cream bandage. It wasn’t the end but the first warning.
This is a woman who encounters a theory on an alternative medicine website about “biography becoming biology.” About the physical dysfunctions that fail when one does not surrender personal will to divine will. Thyroid problems. The list of ailments ends with thyroid problems.
This is a woman who had a picture of her aura taken years ago. The spiritual colors—blue, indigo and violet—are no where to be found.
This is a woman who is driven to search for the answers. Blue. It always seems to be colored blue, a pale sky hue, on a chakra chart, the throat chakra. She reads this from her Astrological Bible: Failure to achieve full experience of the self at this stage can result in heart attacks in men and blocked throat chakra in women, who feel they are unheard and cannot speak.
This is a woman whose childhood nightmares involved talking apes and robotic women.
This is a woman that closes her eyes and sees the words—love stop yes no now wait pain more dream—stuck, those little dead bodies of sound, rotting in her throat.
This is a woman who has felt captured by invisible things.
This is a woman who had a scalpel slicing millimeters from her vocal chords.
This is a woman who starts punching out an S.O.S. on her computer keyboard. No matter what she configures with the black alphabet it all says listen:
This is a woman who has something to say.
This Is a Woman
Excerpt from Crocodile: Memoirs
From a Mexican Drug-Running Port
Five Scenes from Six and Renaldo
The Music Inside
The Ear as Rifle
Tania Van Winkle
Arriving in New York for My Grandfather’s Funeral
Notes on Summer
Notes on Continuation
Spanking Without a Cause
You Are Here
Brother and Sister
The Ugly Duckling