By Melanie Monceros
25 years before
I have been medically monitored since conception; the internal ivory of my skeleton inscribed with legacies of
I arrived under
22 years before
(3 ¾ years-old)
My first introduction to illness came early and the memories are sparse, faint, and corrupted by almost three decades of familial storytelling. Shortly after I was out of the woods of my early-years epidemics, my mother would become lost in a barbed thicket of her own. I don’t know now what it is like to grow up with a mom, but at that age, she was the heat from the sun in the day and the moon lighting up my dreams at night.
The thing about toddlers is that they can be pretty adaptable to changes they can understand. And they can understand a lot if given the chance.
So, when my mother stopped being able to lift me up, I found my own ways into her arms.
When she transitioned into a wheelchair, I learned to relish the joy rides my dad would take us on along the path behind our house. Curled against my mother’s body, I was mesmerized by the spinning wheels and her spilling laughter that fell gently on my tiny shoulders like warm spring rain.
When she stopped coming home, the hospital became a field trip where I got to see my favourite person on the other end.
When she never came home; and all around, the heads attached to the legs towering over me began weeping; and when their tears dried up and took my mother’s name with them – I learned to do the same and let the words ‘mom’ ‘mama’ ‘mommy’ evaporate from my vocabulary.
12 years before (13 years-old)
I had my first ultrasound when I was 13 years-old. It was to investigate the acute back pain I had been struggling with for a while. By that
Like the other tests, the ultrasound revealed very little in the way of an answer. I remember waiting, and waiting, and waiting for the results. Pestering my father to see if the doctor’s office had called him at work. By then, my mother had been long dead, but I was secretly processing the new knowledge that what killed her could be hereditary. As I would come to learn, the doctor does not call with the results unless something turns up that warrants their concern and effort. So when I was finally told there was nothing there except a benign cyst and prescribed extra strength Tylenol for the pain, I accepted the explanation and learned to stop talking about it.
4 years before (21 years-old)
Prior to the operation, the surgeon showed me two different sketches of my face in profile. He said I could pick “which face I wanted to wake up with” and I pointed to the one most similar to the one going under the knife.
I awoke to the members of my small family
As I healed and reintegrated into my life I was hit with the startling reality that I was no longer recognizable as myself. The shape of my face was so changed that people I knew well, had worked or gone to school with, did a double take when they saw me if I was able to get their attention in the first place. A funny thing happens when the reflection
The most common refrain from my granny and aunties during my life to that point was how much I looked like my mother. At 15 or 16, when I first cut my hair down to the micro-fro resembling a style my mom had worn, my elder aunt Hazel swore she saw my mom walk into the room before realizing it was me.
1 year before (24 years-old)
Before The Pain
There was cycling across the city in all temperatures and conditions.
There was walking through London’s cobbled and uneven streets.
There were 8-hour hikes through Cretan caves.
There was acrobatic, adventurous, wild-abandoned fucking.
Before The Pain
There were travel plans.
Thumbtacks on wall maps
and Circus dreams.
There has never been
‘before the pain’.
There was before admitting it.
There was before allowing it.
There was before recognizing it.
There was before feeling it.
There was before feeling anything.
There was before being anything.
But even then there was
melannie monoceros is a poet and artist exploring polysensory production through text/ile and performance. They live and work on the traditional land of the Haudenosaunee, Petun, Anishinabe, Mississaugas of New Credit, and Huron Wendat peoples commonly known as Toronto, ON. They have read and performed at the Mayworks Festival Toronto, ON (2015) and at Buddies in Bad Times Theatre Toronto, ON (2016). monoceros was honored with the Sharon Wolfe Artist in Residence (2014) and was a
VONA fellow (2014). They have since been awarded grants from the Canada, Ontario, and Toronto Arts Councils in 2016. melannie has presented at York University for the Working toward Disability Justice Symposium and the National Arts Centre for The Summit on Deaf and Disability Arts. They have been a guest lecturer at Concordia University, Ontario College of Art and Design, and Ryerson University. melannie’s writing has appeared in Make/Shift magazine and When Language Runs Dry. Their first solo exhibition, Point of Origin received critical acclaim at the Tangled Art Gallery, Toronto, ON in 2016. Currently melannie is working on a series titled “a n c e s t o r a d i o”