See a doctor if your cough persists for more than seven days. Tell him you wake up three, four times a night coughing, though you’re not sure if it’s your cough or the urge to pee that awakens you. Joke about childbirth and urinary stress incontinence. Chuckle with him as he exudes benevolent reverence for all the mothers out there pissing themselves, pelvic floors like sodden cardboard, barely able to hold their vaginas inside them. Smile when he smiles like he knows how it feels to be destroyed from within by someone who said he wanted to have kids with you, when what he really wanted was to replicate himself, and you were a means to that end—your end was the means. But don’t share this joke with the doctor—it’ll make him uncomfortable. Also, don’t tell him you’ve been sleeping in a damp basement for six months, which you knew would trigger your asthma, but once you left the marital bed you couldn’t return, blocked by the invisible electrified fence of your own hatred. The most the doctor can offer you is a prescription for an inhaler, with a condescendingly kind reminder of the importance of taking your medicine preventatively, not just when your bronchioles betray you. What would he know about betrayal? Above all, don’t bother asking him if there’s an expectorant strong enough to eject a man-sized obstruction from your chest. You already have that: Rage. What you lack is the courage to atomize it.
Francesca Leader is a self-taught writer and artist originally from Western Montana. Her writing has appeared or is forthcoming in Wigleaf, Fictive Dream, Barren, CutBank, the Leon Literary Review, JMWW, Apex Magazine, the Mom Egg Review, Roi Fainéant, the Harpy Hybrid Review, and elsewhere. Her story “Now You See Him” (J Journal, ‘22) has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize.