Self-Portrait of a Body Experiencing Illness

Not my legs. Not my rubber duckie. (Photo credit:

I am in the bath when I notice the bubbles. They settle on the sharp ridges of my pelvis, sharper still after all of those days without food. They circle my bellybutton and slip across the smooth, pale slope of my belly. When I shift, they scatter and burst. You’d think they’d make a sound, all of those bubbles breaking at once. But theirs is a silent destruction.

Early this morning, I woke up to a familiar tightness stretching from hip to hip. I stumbled, eyes closed, the five-step path to my bathroom. There, the tightness stretched into pain.

I leaned my head against the cool glass of the window and listened for the birds and the screech of the distant train. That is how I calm myself on mornings like this. I think of all of the things beyond that little room with big blue tiles and a broken fan. All of the things beyond me.

In the bath, my body is not the body of this morning. It is soft where it was hard, still where it was wild. I marvel at it. At its terrible and wonderful capacity for change.

The bubbles gather around my untamed body. They’re cautious, like birds skirting around my feet at a park bench, testing for movement. Slowly, they settle. The only motion comes from the steady thrum of my heart, the soft pull and release of my breath.


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