I don’t curse. Probably because of all the hours I spent as a kid in the back of my mother’s car, stuck in traffic on the Long Island Expressway, with my mother ranting at the wheel. There were f—ing idiots driving alongside us, damn a–holes in front of us, and stinkin’ s—heads in the front. The swearing fascinated me. I couldn’t master her competence or style. So I never tried.
This past week, on the day of my colonoscopy, my friend drove me to and from the hospital and stayed for the brief review after the procedure.
“Do you remember what the doctor said?” she asked the next day when the whole event was a vague memory. I couldn’t even remember what the doctor looked like. “He couldn’t finish the last part of the procedure because you were in pain and were cursing,” she said.
“Me? I don’t curse,” I told her.
“You were cursing. Yes you were,” she insisted.
I was crushed. How rude, I thought. How crude. This couldn’t be true. The worst four-letter words I ever dared to use were “darn” and an occasional “what-the hell?” I got queasy just typing those. The self-image I’d always nursed of a bland, demure, tight-lipped girl-woman was suddenly gone. My self-identity was a fraud. Here I was trying to recover from the loss of my daughter and I somehow had lost myself.
Who am I? Whose words did I use, I wonder? My son’s? I’d heard a sorry earful the time he broke his leg in high school and the doctor set the bone without using anesthesia. Or did I use the long forgotten language of my mother stuck in traffic on the LIE?
Flummoxed, I then had to wonder: what else did I not know about myself?
“Right after the procedure you wanted me to take your photograph,” my friend said. I winced at the photos of me sitting up, wrapped in the hospital gown and blankets, silly and shameless.
No. I definitely don’t know her.