Essay · Writing

Implanted Identity (part 3)

Click here to start at the beginning of the essay.

In high school I hang out with a rough crowd. They accept me and I love them for it. They don’t hide their angst and identity insecurities; they express them in poetry and pregnancy.

Instead of pressuring me to use drugs and alcohol, they refuse to pass me a joint, hand me a beer, or let me take speed. In some ways I’m happy for permission to pass on these things.

In other ways, I am annoyed.

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I need my pacemaker changed just after I turn 18. They will remove the one placed in my abdomen when I was 10, and replace it with one in my chest.

Just another scar to add to the 12 I already have.

“You’re not going to be a model, are you?” sneers a doctor when I ask about the additional scar.

On the way into surgery, I flirt with the sexy anesthesiologist. But the drugs have already kicked in and I fail to make a positive lasting impression.

I recover in the pediatric department. The nurses love me; I’m their only patient who can carry on a conversation. But I’m bored. I hold my breath to see how long it takes the monitors to beep. The nurses unsuccessfully hide their amusement when they scold me.

I want to see Dr. Little. The nurses pass on the message with the caveat that he doesn’t usually visit patients. The next afternoon he comes in and sits in the visitor’s chair.

“I want to thank you for saving my life when I was a baby. I was too young to realize the importance of what you did the last time I was here,” [when I said I hated you because I didn’t understand].

“Oh, well…” he stumbles over his words, it was nothing on the tip of his tongue.

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Eight years later, I go under the knife again. My boyfriend drives me to the hospital as I live halfway across the country from my parents. Floating in a light haze of relaxation, I hear the doctor say the pacemaker dropped. They create my 14th scar to retrieve it.

My father asks: “Why did your pacemaker drop? Is it because you went skydiving?” Now retired and laid back, he has a ponytail, pierced ear, and John Lennon style glasses… but in his mind I am still his baby girl.

An adult woman of 26 years, I laugh at him.

I get married, graduate from college, and have a child. When I’m 32 years old, I need another pacemaker change. I’m perplexed because it’s four years earlier than my other ones.

Sitting in the padded chair with nodes stuck to my chest and legs, I talk with the pacemaker techs. “I had a pretty intense labor and delivery. Did that drain the battery?” They laugh at me kindly, as I laughed at my father six years earlier.

I am wheeled into the OR for surgery and the next thing I remember is being wheeled out. I prefer being unconscious during surgery

When I come home from the hospital, my 4-year-old son asks, “Mommy, why are you talking funny?” Lightheaded from the Demerol, I pass out on the bed. It is dusk when I wake up.

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