artwork for Lish Troha's short story

Lish Troha

I elected for the procedure against the wishes of my family. Meditate, they said. Change your diet. Try some medication if it comes to that.

But they didn’t know it the way I did. It showed me the apocalypse daily. It told me I’d murdered and maimed and that I would keep doing those things. It told me I was death, and then it laughed at my fear. Worst of all, it was getting bigger.

At the front desk I signed a bunch of waivers. No going back, they all said. The staff shook their heads. One nurse whispered something to another while making eye contact with me. She stepped closer and said, You won’t remember a thing.

They strapped me to cold steel and put a mask over my face. A calm-voiced lady pumped something into my nose that made me feel dizzy. Shortly thereafter, I was unable to move. The surgeon made an incision down my middle and already I regretted what I’d done. The operation has to be done without anesthetic. Otherwise, it’s too inactive to find.

It took them a lot of tugging to get my abdominals spread. I would have been retching if it weren’t for the paralysis. Please, I said, stop. The surgeon brought up his teal gloves. I said Please again, but he didn’t even lower his eyes to mine.

He changed his gloves and dove his hands back into me. Each time I felt him grab hold of something, he shook his head and pushed further. The whole thing was clumsy, like the way jamming a metal rod into someone’s thigh is called liposuction. And I kept wanting to apologize to it. In case the operation didn’t work, I’d have to answer for this later.

Finally, the surgeon found a solid lump and nodded to his staff. As he began to wrestle with it, I thought he was mistaken. Surely he’d grabbed hold of my heart instead. You’re going to kill me, I whined. The surgeon’s mask obscured his smile, but I could still see it.

Two nurses had to help him yank it out. One on each side pushed down my shoulders as he pulled. A swarm of neon speckles came into vision.

Then I saw it. Underneath a layer of calcified blood, there was a rather small and trembling thing. It took its final breath under the fluorescent lights, and I immediately wanted it back.

Lish Troha’s Comments

When my pain was at an all-time high, it sometimes felt like a malicious organism in my stomach. Life has gotten better, but I think that feeling is still understandable; like everything would be OK if we could neatly excise those parts of us we’re not proud of. Of course, long-standing shame demands more than to be removed. It demands to be listened to, understood, and loved. That’s why I wanted it back.

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FRiGG: A Magazine of Fiction and Poetry | Issue 48 | The Shame Issue | Spring/Summer 2016