The girl, the raven and the scalpel: a true story

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It was just after lunch and I was trading personal horror stories with the new girl. Turns out she had been unemployed longer than me. Not only that, she had been serially unemployed — the last time for over two years. She was slim to skinny and Pacific Northwest pale.

She, too had skin cancer. But hers was worse than mine, she tells me, and without a second thought, she stretches her faded purple cotton blouse down far enough to expose a thick pink scar. It runs jagged across her chalky flesh from shoulder to bony shoulder. “You win,” I tell her, hiding my shock while others in the office try not to notice us.

It was like the surgeon’s signature and it took me back to a time months earlier when I sat beneath the scalpel.

I was lucky enough to have a Beverly Hills plastic surgeon using skills on me that he normally reserved to “rebloom” moneyed, fading trophy wives. He wasn’t making me look younger, though. Rather, he was trying to help me get older by slicing into my scalp and scooping cancerous flesh from my skull.

As I watched the shadows of afternoon lengthen across the room’s sterile white walls, the surgeon deftly sewed me back together. I sensed he was bored. What was monumental to me was just another day for him. He was probably thinking about his upcoming vacation or what he was going to have for dinner.

I could feel, and somehow hear, the surgical thread pass through my scalp and then tighten to close the gaping red hole. As he sewed, I looked out the window to find a raven looking back at me from a tree. The bird of death, I thought, witnessing me cheat fate. We stared at each other for a moment, and then, as if acknowledging my win with a slight nod, it flew off.       

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