I cried at the dermatologist’s today. It wasn’t anything serious– two moles removed, no biggie. But I’ve never had moles removed. I’ve been to a dermatologist twice (?) in my life, each time poked and prodded for a second before being pronounced clean and sent on my way. Today I was poked and prodded, but then told, “I really don’t like that one. Or that one. I want it gone.” And then HE was gone.
I didn’t even know him! This man in the preppy plaid shirt and ironic J.Crew tie who kept me waiting, perched atop his old examination table huddled in my crispy robe, said barely ten words to me before making two marks on my flesh with his blue ball-point pen and instructing the nurse to prep my moles for biopsy. I was left standing naked in the middle of the room, clutching my crumpled gown as he went on to another patient and the nurse turned her back to me and started setting out bottles and vials, swabs and band-aids.
“Wait. What exactly is this? How does it work?”
She very kindly but very quickly explained that he was going to razor off my two moles and that there would be a scar and I would need to keep a band-aid on it for two weeks and then always—ALWAYS—apply sunscreen because it’ll get really dark and noticeable so apply sunscreen especially since it’s summer and you seem like you naturally already have a good amount of pigment in your skin…
I was scared. But I nodded my head.
She turned her back again and I started thinking about my moles. One was new… A recent addition in the last few years, appearing in a fairly prominent position on a very prominent part of my upper body… If you know what I mean.
The other has been with me since birth. On the inside of my right arm—the smooth and tender part—a pencil eraser-sized birthmark of irregular size and shape. It’s always been this way. When I was in high school working at Starbucks, customers would occasionally try to helpfully point out that I had splashed mocha on my arm. I remember looking back at baby pictures of me as a fuzz-headed, Michelin-armed baby in a soft pink t-shirt and pudgy diaper butt crawling around the living room floor, and spotting a tiny chocolate-colored mark inside my upper right (Michelin) arm.
I laid down and the nurse had me lift my arm and place it above my head, slowly injecting local anesthetic. And I thought more about my moles.
As for the first… I sort of liked it there. Perfectly placed, almost as though an 18th century beauty queen positioned it on my bosom herself. Would there be a scar? A reminder of this lunch break front and center every time I wear anything but a crew neck? Would my décolletage be forever marred by this man in Hamptons chinos and a buzz cut?
As for the other… All I could think of was that happy baby in her soft pink t-shirt, laughing and playing with toys on the hardwood floor of her parents’ San Francisco home. I heard my mother’s soft voice narrating the home video my dad was recording with a borrowed video camera, and his rumbling chuckle as I dove into a drawer of his cassette tapes. This mark, this melted chocolate chip on the inside of my arm that has been there for as long as I can remember, was about to be lanced off by a man who had probably already forgotten my name.
I started to cry. Slow, hot tears puddled on my cheek and ran into the brittle paper beneath my head. I felt like I was losing that baby with her fuzzy blonde head and rose-lipped grin. Everything sweet and dear and true—from when life was that way, from before Momma left and everything broke—was going to be gone. Suddenly and inexplicably I wanted to talk to my grandma. I should say that I love my grandma very much, but we are not particularly close—so this impulse was even more unusual than the fact that I was lying on a table in a dermatologist’s office on Wall Street mourning a mole. I wanted her to tell me it was going to be ok, that she’s had lots of moles removed in her lifetime and it’s just part of growing up. The skin will be okay, and it’s very important to be healthy, she’d say.
The warm tears continued to run.
He came back in and I turned my head away. I felt a slight pressure on my arm, and another on my chest, and within a minute I was bandaged and sitting up. They said things about coming back in two weeks and that it was probably fine but just a precaution… I clutched my robe and they left. Pulling my dress over my head I went to the window and began to fasten the front as hot tears blurred my vision, dripping heavily onto the floor. I couldn’t see anything so I had to stop, dress undone, crying silently against the window overlooking the bustling street.
It was gone. My reminder was gone. My souvenir from when life was good and normal and sweet. It was gone. And all I had in its place was a cheap band-aid laid across my soft bicep.
I left and walked back to the office, tired and numb. I kept to myself for the rest of the day, working quietly, occasionally chatting aimlessly with coworkers, seeing their eyes flicker down to the garish, “nude”-colored bandage on my chest.
I wanted it back. I wanted them both back. But now they’re gone and I’m googling “scar prevention” and “mole removal scar healing” and reading Bio-Oil reviews. The one on my chest will get the most care, tenderly trying to make it invisible. But as for the scar on my arm… I might just leave it. I think I’d miss having something there too much.
It was just a mole, but it was also a reminder. And I want it back.
I want my mole back.