I don’t usually schedule appointments that early, but this one was for a follow-up mammogram. The annual x-ray I’d had a week before was “inconclusive,” so my doctor sent in an order for a more thorough procedure.
I dressed in the dark and drove to the breast cancer center. I wasn’t nervous—I’ve written novels about breast cancer patients, so I knew what to expect—but I couldn’t help realizing that I might soon discover that I had breast cancer. Two of my maternal aunts have had it, so the gene undoubtedly runs in our family . . .
After checking in and being fitted with the requisite wrist ID band, I went to the waiting area. The place was busy despite the early hour, and as I looked around I realized that every woman—and the two men—in that place had stories of their own. I overheard one patient remark that she was coming in for a re-check: if her x-ray proved clear today, she’d be officially cancer-free. I found myself hoping—praying—that she’d have the result she wanted.
The woman across from me wore elastic supports on both knees. She sat quietly, her shoulders down, her hair gleaming in the overhead light. Her haircut was cute, short, and swung easily around her cheeks. But she wasn’t smiling. What had brought her to this place, and what procedure was she facing? These aren’t the sort of questions you ask a stranger in a medical office, but I wanted to do something for her. After all, we were both tagged and waiting in the same place, facing the same fears . . .
A technician came out and called a name, and the woman struggled to stand up. As she passed in front of me, I lifted my gaze and caught her eye: “You have the cutest haircut.”
Her fingers rose to touch the hair at the nape of her neck. “You think so? I cut it myself.”
I gave her a smile of undisguised admiration. “You do a great job. It really is adorable.”
She smiled back, and was still smiling when she followed the technician through a pair of double doors.
I smiled, too.
Angela Hunt is happy to report that she is as fit as a fiddle . . . and that life is more interesting when you pay attention to Passing Strangers.
P.S. why the puppy picture? Why not?