My Niece Asks Me

Have you been to the dentist? I don’t want to go to the dentist. They say I have to go to the dentist. They say they’ll take my wisdom teeth out. Does it hurt?

Have you had a pap test? I don’t want to have a pap test. They say I have to have a pap test. Does it hurt?

Have you been on medication? They’re giving me so much medication. I can’t see, I can’t walk. They’ll lock the door if I don’t take it. The police will take me to the hospital if I leave. What would you do?

I spend weeks pondering harboring a fugitive until I say, honey, it all hurts. But I lie. I said it, but not to her. And I left out the honey.

My niece accused me of having a perverted cat that wanted to see her naked. Other people would mock that. My niece thought the cat was a boy until after she died.

The cat, I mean. The cat died. My niece is still alive—sort of.

Poet friends would love the idea of a psychiatric fugitive. I want for them to see the fishtank, and that you can’t write when you can’t breathe.

I don’t ask if it hurts to visit.

My niece asks me what I write about. Random stuff, I say. She asks which outfit looks best by sending pictures. I say they both look good, but my phone’s stuck on greyscale.

My niece asks what comes after the edge of the map. I tell her it goes around to the other side.

That’s stupid, she says. Kind of, I reply.

My niece asks me to send her writing. I don’t send her this. If this were a medical exam, I would come out sick as a perverted dog.

The tests are rigged. My niece never asks me about that.

Jill M. Talbot’s writing has appeared in Geist, Rattle, subTerrain, PRISM, The Stinging Fly, and others. Jill won the PRISM Grouse Grind Lit Prize. She was shortlisted for the Matrix Lit POP Award and the Malahat Far Horizons Award. Jill lives in Vancouver, BC.