Sunday 27 June 2021

The rosy-faced lovebird smells like bleach and coffee by Eleonora Balsano

 Dr Ramsey comes to see me with one of his pals. They both smell like bleach and coffee.

I know the man in green scrubs and green clogs isn’t his pal. He’s carrying a sponge parrot on his right shoulder and I don’t ask if it’s a rosy-faced lovebird.

When they come in with the toys it’s going to be real bad.


The pediatric surgeon— they both flinch when I use the right word—feels my left leg, squeezes the upper part, near the hip joint, and lightly touches the swollen knee. It’s darker than Mum’s lipstick.


Humans, like trees, sometimes need pruning to grow stronger, the surgeon says.

‘I think you can lose the metaphor, doctor’, I say.

‘Well—We need to remove a bit of your leg, Francis,’ he says. ‘If we don’t, the cancer will spread beyond it and—’

‘Metastasize,’ I say.

We make eye contact and for the first time he sees me.


My mother weeps, my father stares at her. When that isn’t enough, they fight, both desperate to find someone to blame for my poor luck, so that they can stop blaming themselves.


At night I dream of climbing trees, even though I am afraid of heights and bark beetles. I know, bark beetles are rare, but still. They do bite.


When a scan shows a spot on my right lung, Dad gets up from the plastic chair in the hospital’s corridor and says: ‘I promise—I promise that as soon as you’re well we’ll leave.’

‘To go where?’ I ask. My parents never go anywhere, and I doubt Dad could place countries on a globe.

‘Anywhere you wish. Just name it.’

I say Namibia, because of the dunes. I can definitely climb those, even now

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