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Grey Sparrow Journal

Issue 30, July 31, 2017
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Only a Moment

 

by Erin Christian

 

 

 

A pink balloon floated across a blue sky, just above a large, prickly cactus. The poster said, “It may only be a moment, but the memory lasts forever.” It was the only thing in the room that Elaine could look at as she was asked the necessary questions by the epidemiologist.


“Diabetes? Liver enzymes? Heart trouble? How many partners? Across how many years?


How many forms of control?”


The heat of anxiety and discomfort rose from the pit of her abdomen, flaring across her chest to light up little embers on her neck. She held her breath, nodding or shaking her head as appropriate, whispering when necessary. The epidemiologist then told her to wait for the nurse, that she’d be called to the lab soon, and left her alone in the office.

 

Elaine leaned back in her chair, focused on relaxing her stomach muscles, thought of her mother’s chant of “If onlys.”

 

“It’s my fault you’re here. If only I had known...  If only I hadn’t caused...  If only I hadn’t needed...  If only...” Before leaving for the health department, standing in her mother’s living room, Elaine had withered under the blaze of her mother’s apologies. She’d avoided her mother’s crinkled brown eyes and brushed it all off, “It’s really no big deal. It’s really ok.” Drops of seeming indifference hissing against their shared, scalding fear.