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They are moles, technically, but when I look in the mirror what I see are eyes, evil, myopic eyes staring back at me from the middle of a sea of innocent, milky flesh. It’s better to do away with them now, in the present, before anything was too serious; as soon as you were not young anymore that is how everything got.

I sit there in the row of aluminum chairs feeling my bowels clench, looking around at everything as if for the first time. My mother is reading a National Geographic magazine across from me; she seems miles away and I often wonder if she is. I peer at the posters on the wall: an advanced plastic surgery advertisement for a dermatology center. “YOU are our priority,” it reads in graphic text, flanked by square profiles of young women and men with heart-shaped smiles, neat coiffures, blue eyes. At first I think it says “YOU are ordinary.”

A modern mosaic of malignant melanoma is tacked on the opposite side of the corridor, like the nine-by-nine silkscreens Warhol used to do of Marilyn Monroe’s face. The images inside of each square are like blobs of protoplasm, formless as clouds; some reddish-brown, bruise-like, others so dark they reflect greenish light. Charts of other nebulous-looking black circles, like Roman Tesseras, line the wall. Worn out and green, like rusted copper, a faint design surfaces in the center of each, possibly a flower, or a face. I think of those papers we sometimes pass around at school, “Stare at this picture of Jesus for thirty seconds, then close your eyes,” someone will say.  “But it’s just an optical illusion,” I reply, disappointed in my friends, who haven’t figured out that after you look at anything long enough, you start to see things that are not there. 

There are other children sitting in the waiting room but they are much smaller than I am, still pulling at their mother’s jackets, chewing on their own hands, walking around on new legs, crying when they can’t have their way. I can’t remember ever being that small, that distressing. Still, at twelve, I’m not as tall as I thought I would be. I remember when twelve year olds were like giants. 


Someone calls my name and it is not my mother but still I look at her first. She nods her head at me, puts down the National Geographic, gets up and walks in the direction of the voice. I follow her obediently, as if attached by a leash. A little girl runs up behind me; a woman catches her by the wrist, draws her back.

“No Maddy, that isn’t you, that’s another Madeline, that’s a big Madeline.”

The little girl looks up at me from the half-nelson of her mother’s arms. Her eyes are wide and blue, glistening with the varnish of the unseen. I smile at her; dribble eases down her lip and slides onto the front of her shirt. 

I am big Madeline. All the things I see are small.

[Forever after at]


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