Day 1: We drive in silence to the place where they will aim radiation at the place where my ovaries used to be. The incision has healed but I feel concave. I don’t know how to mold myself to this loss. We hold hands. I look out the window at the leafless trees.
Day 6: The drive is becoming a habit. We talk about the roof, which has developed a leak. We talk about the neighbors, who may or may not be splitting up. We talk about the cat, who we haven’t seen for days. We hold hands. Some of the trees have that red, fuzzy look they get right before the leaves pop out.
Day 14: The drive is becoming a burden—45 minutes each way for a 2-minute treatment where I lay under the machine like a sacrifice. I have nightmares about the machine. I have nightmares about something growing inside me. I have nightmares. We talk more about the neighbors, bless them and their craziness, they save us from a silent ride. We don’t hold hands. The trees are green now, except for the one right next to the road, the one that was probably struck by lightning. It has a gaping hollow so big I could hide myself inside. It must be dead, I think. What could survive that injury?
Day 21: We argue on the way to the place. He wants to make plans for summer, maybe near the ocean, he says, but laying half-dressed under the sun reminds me of the machine. I crave shade and soft clothing. The hollowed-out tree is still naked. He doesn’t speak at all on the ride back, until he does. That tree is a hazard, he says. It’s dead. They should chop it down.
Day 25: I drive myself to the place; he says it’s too much for him. Squinting at the wounded tree, I see a red haze around the tips of the branches. On the way back I pull over and walk up to her, because I know the tree is a her, and rub my hands over her bark and look inside where she is empty. I climb in. The great bulk of her drowns out the noise of the traffic. There is a slow breathing, but is it her or me? Maybe it’s both of us. I stay a long time, nestled inside her, until I finally climb out of the blasted place and drive home.
Beth Moulton earned an MFA in Creative Writing from Rosemont College, in Rosemont, PA, where she was fiction editor for the Rathalla Review. Her work has appeared in Affinity CoLab, The Drabble, Milk Candy Review, and other journals. She lives near Valley Forge, PA with her cats, Lucy and Ethel.