Her skin is the color of milk-tea but Anusha wears it like an embarrassing birthmark that covers her entire body. She walks slightly hunched, her shoulders rounded and, these days, often with her arms crossed against her chest, as if she’s bracing against a cold, north wind. It started when Anusha had a drainage tube attached to her chest wall and the slightest movement made her wince. Or maybe it started earlier, when under anesthesia she folded her arms across her breasts—or so she imagines—a way of saying, “don’t cut me.” Or earlier still. When she left Kurunegala as a little girl and never learned how to love American winters. She never stopped feeling cold.
She often worried that, at any moment, the prosthesis might slip out of the pocket in her bra and land at her feet like a defrosted chicken breast. But today she has to worry about something else more important, her monthly checkup.
She looks at the clock on her microwave: 8:07. She has time before her 11:00 appointment. No need to rush. She notices more light coming through the kitchen window now that they’ve chopped the tops off the jacaranda trees. It’s criminal what they do here: water, fertilize, chop, hack. A farmer in Sri Lanka would be in heaven if he had this soil, this fertilizer, this water, this sun.
Chelika Yapa received her MFA in Creative Writing from Boston University, where she was awarded a Robert Pinsky Global Fellowship. Her personal essays have appeared in Glamour, Mamm, and Now. “Follow-Up” is her first published fiction, drawn from the experience of having been diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of twenty-two. She is grateful to her writing instructor, Lou Mathews, for his friendship and support.