“Mom, why do you watch this? It’s revolting,” I said, crinkling my nose in disgust. It wasn’t in her nature. She’d never been known for her strong stomach. But when she confided her reason for watching the real-life surgery shows, I was not surprised. “Strength training. Got to be ready to handle anything. If one of my babies gets cut up, I’ll know what to do.”
This was the twisted logic I had come to expect from her. At her core she felt a need to protect us from some vague, unnamed harm that plagued the minds of all the women in my family. Like my Grandmother, who didn’t feel safe until she’d counted all the legs – humans and furniture alike – in a room.
“Mom, if I get cut up, which is wildly unlikely, do me a favor and let the real doctors handle it.”
She laughed but her eyes never moved from the screen. They carefully followed the glint of the surgeon’s blade as it plunged into the patient’s skin, exposing a thin line of blood. With her right hand, she traced the surgeon’s movements as he peeled open the patient’s chest cavity.
In that moment, I felt truly safe.
Alyssa Ross was born in Guntersville, Alabama. After her parents’ divorce, she moved with her mother and sister to the outskirts of DC. She spent a year painting at VCU's art school, but then went on to pursue writing. She now has an MFA from George Mason University and is currently teaching and working on her Ph.D. at Auburn University.