Kacper Niburski is a medical student in the Class of 2021 at McGill University. He is also the CMAJ student humanities blog editor. Follow his writing instagram: @_kenkan.
The following was written because of this floating into my inbox like ash.
You asked me what objects looked like breasts. It was morning and the sun was yawning and you said you needed to write a thing for a thing. What thing, I asked? For a class, you told me. I flopped pancakes onto your plate, watched them deflate like a frown. Your pajamas were hanging loose, threads licked skin. Hair was a brown bush for birds or fingers. Eyes tired, hungry. Coffee beans were roasting. Burning.
I don’t mean to bring up ancient history that is often forgotten in untranslatable motions of everyday, the haze and hum of riding the subway, the musical shuffling of people who smell, some good, some bad, some like you. It’s just that I’m here where I was when I was once with you in my kitchen. There’s coffee to keep me awake, though I don’t plan on drinking it. There are pancakes being made by my twin, though I won’t eat them. And there’s an email fishing around in my inbox with the work of your words abstracted, away, not found in the shadow of here where we talked over the piece, the yellow wave of a sickly winter, and the snow that came and buried.
There is no snow now. The sun has hid. And though I told you I penned my last letter a long time ago, I’m stuck needing to write a thing for a thing, for I am in the same medical class as you when you were you.
I’m sorry for the poetic posturing, the intentional obscurity, and invoking you after us. I’m sorry for being sorry. But what comes to mind first are your breasts, soft snow-cones with sprinkles, bending spoons straight again, their fullness, their hold, their breath with yours, a bit slower, a lag, an in between. Next comes my own, the push-pushing of their bareness like an astronomer in space reaching for a celestial body. Then the winter with its gifts and the spring with its sleepy rise and the summer that came and burned like those coffee beans. Then comes gap between you and I, the distance between then and then, and the current prompt about graphic medicine in family practice where I remember when you introduced me to Cancer Vixen, my response that it was sketchy, you laughing, and me wanting to show you something truly graphic by trying to draw you, those breasts, that breath.
I do not know where that image went or where you did in it but I know now what I didn’t then: there is only ever an ending. The line stops. The comic closes. And there’s some message or something to get afterwards.
I’ve spent some time trying to figure out that something. Each day, I feel close. I go to sleep and it’s there, right there, if only I wake up and write it down. I imagine it’ll be long but I have time – a night’s worth – and I can have morning too, a beautiful, generous morning I’m sure, where I’ll see all I composed against the night, find it in perfect black, a testament to the world giving back to the world, and nothing more will need to be written ever. But I wake up in a room without windows and my breath stinks and I’ve forgotten what I wasn’t supposed to forget.
I’m told you’re finishing medical school now just as I am starting, so you won’t have much time for reading. But I hope you can find such a concluding message, whatever it is, in these paragraphs. Write about it. Draw a comic. Compose the poem that was always found in your skin, your body.
If you can’t, apologies. Things go wrong. The coffee here has burned and the pancakes are soggy discs weeping syrup. I am not hungry, though I am pretty tired. I could sleep for a few days or years.