Anna Will Be Orpheus

When I was ten, I choked on a peach pit. It slipped into my windpipe and settled in my left lung. None of the doctors could tell why I didn’t breathe right. None of them believed me when I said the peach tree was growing.

“Plants need soil, sweetie,” the pediatrician told me.

No they don’t, I thought. When I was ten, I believed that every time you swallowed water wrong it went into your lungs and stayed there. I thought the lungs were a little like the womb, slowly filling up with liquid. The perfect place for something to grow.

It’s okay that they didn’t believe me. People still don’t believe me. But when I was ten and I told the doctors a peach tree was growing in my left lung, I was wrong. A peach tree wasn’t growing in my lung. I had felt the moment the pit cracked, had felt something splash into the pool of water at the bottom of my breath. I felt the soft brush of something on my alveoli. Sometimes a sharp pinch, I thought it leaves, spreading branches.

I thought it was a tree until I was twenty and the creature that hatched from the peach pit clawed its way out of the womb of my lung. It didn’t show up on the MRI, whatever it was. But the big hole in my lung did. The woman who did the stitching said she had never seen a tear like that before. I liked her. She told me after the surgery that, in the throes of the anesthetic, I had told her faerie stories. We went out for lunch a couple of times. The creature that hatched from the peach pit sat on my solar plexus and snapped at my heart through my ribcage.

It gave up on that eventually and decided the meat of my leg was more interesting. It gnawed through the ball at the crown of my right femur and made a nest there. I carved my cane myself. The top of it I made look like the creature’s head, or how I imagined its head looked. Eyes like a cat, face like a bird. Sharp spines. The palm of my hand smothered that face, day after day. It couldn’t know I had done this, but each time its careless claws sliced through a ligament or tendon it felt like retribution.

When I was thirty it was big enough to dismantle my ribs. It dove past the heart and burrowed into my long-abused left lung. I swallowed water until I felt like I was drowning. It scrabbled at the sides of my ribs, tried to find purchase on my bronchioles. It drowned. I laughed, and red water came bubbling out of my mouth. I laughed as I spit up its body, as I hunched over the slop sink letting my lung drain all the way dry.