Looking at my reflection, I'm nervous about what she will say. Will she cry like she did the first I did this very thing when I was twelve? Will she tell me that I'm being reckless and looking for attention? Will her hands tremble when she reaches out to touch the skin that my razor slid across? Will she ask, "What the hell were you thinking, Edward?"
Or will she understand why I did it?
Of course, this time is substantially different than the last. Last time, I really was looking for attention. I had a terrible need to be different, to show that I can alter my appearance so drastically and yet still be the same person, regardless.
That was eleven years ago. I'm twenty-three now, and my reasons are arguably altogether different. I have nothing to prove. I've given up trying to prove myself to others years ago. I have my fiance, Jasper who loves me more than he loves himself, and a new family that supports and accepts me, where the majority of my biological family failed so wretchedly to do so.
And I still have her.
My mother. My beautiful, charismatic, fiercely loving mother. She nursed me as a baby, held me when I cried, praised me when I accomplished something. She did what all good mothers do. I love her for it.
Naturally, I also love her infinitely more for how she went above and beyond what all good mothers did. She thought nothing of climbing in bed with me at the age of thirteen when I woke up screaming in the middle of the night, dreaming of a stranger who forced himself on me when my parents left me alone to go Christmas shopping. She argued with my father every night when he told her she was just coddling me and making things worse; keeping me from growing up, and becoming a man. She sheltered me for years from the abuse she withstood at the hands of my father, the man who claimed to love us, the same man who's funeral we did not attend when he passed away, suddenly a few short years down the road. While I lied on a bed in the Emergency Room, recovering from a kidney stone, she held my hand and called the medical staff out, telling them, "That young man out in the waiting room is going to marry my boy, and it's fucking ridiculous that you won't let him back here!"
So, naturally, getting the call from my mother, after a doctor's visit she never made me aware of, telling me, "Baby, we need to talk,", was the last thing I wanted.
Stage 2B breast cancer.
Her prognosis is very good, 95 percent if treatment is sought immediately, which is already under way. Her recommendation for treatment are 2-3 rounds of chemo to shrink the tumor, followed by a lumpectomy and a bout of radiation therapy to kill off any lingering cancer cells.
My fiance was with me during our discussion, and I feared that I broke his hand while I struggled not to cry, not to lash out and rage at the vicious injustice that she was having to endure. I struggled not to get down on my knees and beg to anyone who would listen, to let me go through it instead of her. While it may seem strange that I didn't want to show my emotion, to cry for her, I only kept it in because she was so ridiculously optimistic. Who was I to shit all over that? Optimism, belief that the treatment will do its job, is believed to be just as potent as the medicine itself.
I didn't show my cards until Jasper and I got home that night. I screamed, I sobbed, I cursed, I threw things. And Jasper did it with me. Naturally, he doesn't have the same connection with my mother that I have, but while he sympathized with my mother, he empathized with me. He hurt because I hurt. My torment was his torment. My love was his love.
When we made love that night, it hurt. He was rough with me, and I with him; grabbing, pinning, biting, pushing towards the brink of delirium, finally collapsing in a tangle of limbs bruised, bitten, and scratched, clinging to each other for love and sanity. Before sleep took me, I confessed to him what I would most likely end up doing; not because I wanted to rebel, like most people would think, but rather, as a way to relive the pain. Mine as well as my mothers. He told me that such a thing was rash, and I shouldn't do it, but he would still love me if I did.
I came home from my mother's thirty minutes ago. She just finished round two of her chemo treatments and if her follow up mammogram looks like the doctors think it will, she will have the surgery to remove the tumor. Her stomach has been upset, but she hasn't had a problem with vomiting, but for the first time since she broke the news of her cancer, there was finally a chink in her armor.
She held that chink in her hand, in the form of a clump of hair that came off the back of her head. Just a few days after her first round, she noticed more and more strands of hair in her brush after using it. Today and entire chunk came out, leaving a bald spot about the size of a golf ball near the top of her skull. Trying to be optimistic, I suggested that it could easily be covered by pulling her long hair into a ponytail, but she shook her head and the tears began to fall.
She cried for the effect the medicine had on her body. She cried harder for the guilt she felt for being vain. I climbed in bed with her and held her, letting her weep.
The pain I feel for her, for I know regardless of what she tells me, that she fears for her life, is so strong and deep, that I wanted to claw my skin off to let it escape. Instead, I used my straight razor. Its blade is now gleaming after I cleaned it, and as I stand in front of the mirror, I turn it this way and that, letting the bathroom light reflect of its surface.
I jump, dropping the blade, letting it clatter in the sink when I hear the front door shut and Jasper announce that he's home from work.
He told me that he would still love me if I did this, but I'm now terrified that he may now feel different when he sees what I've done.
"I'm in the bathroom!" I call out, listening to him drop his keys on the table by the door, whistling some random tune through his teeth.
I look at his reflection in the mirror as he draws to a sudden stop in the doorway.
"Oh my God, Edward. What did you do?" he whispers.
"Isn't it obvious?" I say as I fall apart.
Crossing over to me, he carefully steps around the mess I made on the bathroom floor. While I had carefully cleaned the razor blade, I haven't yet cleaned up the evidence of my actions that surrounds my feet.
He wraps his arms around me, holding me tight as he presses his lips to my neck and tells me he loves me. Pulling back, he kisses me forehead and tells me he's sorry.
"I know you said you would, but I honestly didn't think you would do it. This is a bit of a shock, baby."
I grip his shirt in my hands and breathe a sigh of relief that he's not mad.
"Shit, Jasper, I thought you would hate me."
"I could never hate you, darlin'. Don't ever think that. Did it help? Do you feel better?"
Pulling away to look in the mirror again, I tell him, "Actually, I do feel a bit better. Mama's probably gonna shit a brick, though."
Chuckling, he says, "I doubt it. I'm sure she'll appreciate the gesture."
And with that, he tips my head forward and kisses the bare skin of my skull. "But your hair, Edward. Your beautiful hair," he murmurs.
"It'll grow back, babe. I'll let it grow back just as soon as hers starts to," I promise.
He nods against me, lips still pressed against my bald head.
We hold each other for several long minutes before he finally pulls away to look at the two of us in the mirror. Using both of his hands, he smooths the thick waves of his hair away from his face, turning his head from side to side. With a determined look in his eye, he says, "Okay."
"Okay, what?" I ask.
"My turn. Do me."