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Mum and I are sitting side by side in the doctor’s waiting room. I reach over for her medical file and leaf through the papers to pass the time. The black, shiny printouts of her MRI scans stand out from the bureaucratic white. I’ve never actually seen them.

The milky cross-sections of her upper-body look like cells under a microscope and her spine is the nucleus. I try to find her tumour, but I can’t decipher much at all. Then I see her jaw. I see the teeth in her head. The fatty masses of her breasts. I put the scans away and close the file. I don’t like seeing my mother’s smile as a shock of skeleton beneath her face.

I turn to look at her beside me. I imagine the molars, canines, and incisors sitting there in her jaw. I look away. I know my mother, but I don’t know her body at all. I don’t know her organs or her blood. I know her face, but not her skeleton. And it’s been there the whole time.

My mother is a someone. She’s a presence, a personality. Sometimes an idea. But today I find she is also just a body, and bodies fail us.

Self-portrait, 28th November 2018, France


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