Literary Yard

Search for meaning

By: CLS Sandoval

The Biopsy 

My husband and my baby were waiting in the waiting room.  I knew it was better that way, but I pretty immediately wanted to hear her gurgles and giggles and for him to hold my hand.  My gynecologist had discovered polyps in my uterus and sent me for a biopsy.  The woman to do the biopsy greeted me and asked me to undress.  I sat on the paper in the flimsy gown and awaited her return.  She had me lie back.  I closed my eyes as she inserted the transducer, which looked like a large dildo for my intrauterine ultrasound, so that she could find the polyps.  “Your cervix is a bit off to the side,” she offered as she angled the transducer from what felt like under one ovary to under the other.  I clinched my teeth and held my breath, but I couldn’t stop it.  As she dug around, pressing inside of me to try to find the polyp she was looking for, my eyes flooded, then overflowed.  The woman with the hellish instrument paused.  “I can stop if you want.”  I begged her to just finish so that she wouldn’t have to do it again.  I thought about my baby.  How much I wanted to get back to her.  To hold her.  How much I would insist on being in the room, holding her hand if she needed a biopsy like this.  Once the polyp was located, the woman held my uterus in place with a tenaculum, which looks like forceps, and sliced a polyp to send to the lab for testing.  She left the room and told me to get dressed.  I let myself sob for a moment, before pulling on my jeans and making my way out to the waiting room to my daughter. 

Taste of Burnt Toast 

The last time I saw my mother, she had made me avocado toast. It was salty. She wanted to know if I liked it. Of course I did. But I didn’t care anything about the toast. It was the first kind moment we had shared in weeks. She was thrilled to see her four month old granddaughter, but I didn’t trust her to hold Ella when uncle Lloyd asked me to stop outside. I held Ella tightly to my chest.  My knees locked as I anticipated what Lloyd might say.  I loved my uncle dearly.  In fact, my mom, nana, great grandmother, and I had spend years trying to make a closer connection and more frequent visits with that side of the family.  We were unsuccessful. 

I started the conversation with my uncle, as if we had already been talking. “I can take the jewel box of her diamond rings, and her credit cards so she doesn’t give them away to the homeless people that she keeps inviting into her house. I can take her credit card so she doesn’t try to pay for 100 Marines to come to our house for Thanksgiving.” My mother had been spending at least $11,000 a week since she has lost her connection to reality. I knew her retirement money only afforded her $8000 a month. I didn’t want her to lose her house. 

“We shouldn’t store up our treasures on earth,“ uncle Lloyd started in.  

Oh, here we go, I thought.  This coming from the man who sold his Lincoln, NE home to his sister and mother just to get them to move from Southern California in time for his family to receive a “calling“ the missionaries in Singapore, then Istanbul, and pay plenty of money to store all of their things in a Lincoln storage unit. 

“But those rings aren’t just worth money! They are her trophies! She worked hard to earn those from Mary Kay. I want to protect them until she gets better.” 

Lloyd never agreed with me. I had to wait until he was in the bathroom later.  Then, I carefully placed my mom’s mirrored jewel box—the one the size of a tissue box with all the little drawers into Ella’s diaper bag.  I made sure that Mom’s credit card and all of her rings were in the box.   

Lloyd hugged me on the way up and said something vaguely supportive like, “Chin up” or something.  He hesitated, hand on my shoulder.  His eyes narrowed.  I was certain he would ask something.  My heart raced and I could feel sweat on the back of my neck.  I forced a slight smile.  “Drive safe,” he muttered as he turned to go back into my mom’s house. 

I stood on the front porch, holding my baby and the diaper bag, which contained my mom’s things and the rest of my salty, avocado toast. 

Toast No More 

The next time I saw my mom was in her therapist’s office. I was familiar with the green velvet chairs and the nondescript white counter. They served as a cold backdrop to a repeated scene that I had forced myself to lose myself in and avoid the twister of emotion just below my larynx.  I had begged the therapist many times to support me in seeking a conservatorship to try to protect my mother from herself. He had refused. He even prescribed her dangerous drugs that did not mix with alcohol when he knew she was drinking a bottle of champagne a night. I waited with my baby in the stroller. She was nearly a year now, and hardly knew her Nana. 

When my mom walked in, she looked much older, but softer and more approachable. Her body had been angular, svelte even.  Now she was closer to the size petite 10 or 12 I remembered before her break with reality.  She was teary-eyed. She hadn’t spent as much time on her hair, she had skipped her eyeliner, and her lipstick was smudged. She erupted it into “I’m so sorry!” embracing me and tears streaming down her face. 

My chill thawed ever so slightly.  I released the tension in my calves and abdomen, allowing myself to take up more space.  I started to notice that the white counter had some dents and dings in the paint.  The green velvet chairs began to welcome us to sit, allowing them to hold us. But I had spent the last six months in therapy, mourning the loss of my mother. My therapist had told me to assume nothing would ever change. I hadn’t been preparing for my mother to do exactly what I had prayed for. I had expected more salty, avocado toast, maybe even a harsh word. But I never expected her to change. 

The Mothers by Käthe Kollwitz 

Crowded ‘round one another, arms embracing each other, they form an impenetrable barrier around the younger generation.  Their image carved from wood, I imagine that inside of that outer rim is a ring of mothers one generation, then one generation younger still.  Like the rings that form in a tree trunk, the center must be the youngest generation; the future mothers.  Lucky for me, I have three rings around me.  Though two of those generations have now past, my mother still forms a barrier around the barrier I provide to my daughter, and now my husband’s mother and grandmother join us. 

Untitled Film Still #58 by Cindy Sherman 

On the darkest day 

Hope remains high up above 

So she tells herself 

Woman Reading by Henri Matisse 

If I read more often and wore clothes that reflected the image I want to project, I would look like Matisse’s woman reading.  Though, I can’t imagine I would let my corner get to be such a mess.  I say that, yet I know I have made comments like that before, which I have not lived up to.  My house is more messy more often than I would like, and when I look down at my belly and thighs, They are wider and softer than I ever imagined I would let them become.  I wonder if this reading woman thinks about her messy corner or the shape of her body.  I hope she is too taken by her book to worry about such things that are not in her control. 


CLS Sandoval, PhD (she/her) is a pushcart nominated writer and communication professor with accolades in film, academia, and creative writing who speaks, signs, acts, publishes, sings, performs, writes, paints, teaches and rarely relaxes.  She’s a flash fiction and poetry editor for Dark Onus Lit.  She’s presented at communication conferences, published 15 academic articles, two academic books, three full-length literary collections, three chapbooks, as well as flash and poetry pieces in literary journals, recently including Opiate MagazineThe Journal of Magical Wonder, and A Moon of One’s Own.  She is raising her daughter and dog with her husband in Alhambra, CA.  

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