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Fried Chicken, Breast Awareness

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A gray road meets a gray sky. The convergence of slate and gloom on the horizon is blocked by the cars in front of me. I hadn’t checked the weather forcast earlier but I’ve grown to expect afternoon showers, as have all of us other transplants to Gainesville, Florida. The languid humid days are often punctuated by rapid, fifteen minute downpours, as if the sky has tried to hold back the droplets until it no longer can, and then expends everything at once in an exhaustive and cathartic deluge. It appears that the sky hasn’t reached its breaking point yet today though. That makes one of us.

My stomach lurches with the emptiness and nausea that accompanies a night of overdrinking. Hence this trip to the KFC drive through for my go-to hangover food: fried chicken. It’s only 3 miles to the nearest KFC but I’m already losing my patience. Between the red lights, nonsensical mid Saturday traffic, and my desparate cravings, it seems like this quick run is taking forever.

An older woman shuffles across 13th Street, as I sit at yet another light. She’s clutching a tattered beige shawl smeared with black and blue paint around her shoulders with one hand and pushing a shopping cart of obscured possessions with the other. She’s wearing one of those rainbow propeller hats on her head. The little plastic blades spin in the breeze.

I finally pull into the plaza that holds my glorious fried chicken. Expansive bulbous menus stand well above the height of my car, inundating me with a selection of fatty foods. Bold red font making bold promises “good eats for cheap!” But I already know what I want. I scroll down my window in time to hear a chipper voice come through the intercom.

“Hi, welcome to KFC! What can I get for you today?”

“Hi, can I have the 10 piece bucket please?”

“Sure, would you like a drink or sides with that?”

“Just a Powerade.”

“Okay, that will be $11.49. Your food will be ready at the window.”

I’m inching forward again but it doesn’t matter because I can already smell the fried chicken that will settle my stomach. At the window, a lean young man with dusty brown hair and high cheek bones greets me with a too-wide smile. He’s dressed in a red polo with a black collar, the KFC logo embroidered on the right side of his chest. I hand him my credit card and he hands me my food, an exchange accompanied by the automated pleasantries.

“Would you like to donate a dollar to our breast cancer awareness month initiative?” he asks as he slides my credit card into the portable card reader in his hand.

“Not today, unfortunately,” I say. Another automatic reply.

“Sure, that’s okay. It’s important for all women to get preventative care so that breast cancer can be caught early on. If you know how to perform a mammary gland check on yourself, you should do so regularly.”

I almost can’t believe I take him seriously but his innocent high school voice draws me back to when my gynecologist showed me how to feel the sides of my breasts for irregularities. Probe the flesh with your fingers, feel for lumps. I’ve never felt lumps before so I’m not sure I will know what they feel like. I turn back to the dusty haired boy and thank him.

“No problem. Have a great day! And don’t forget to touch them!” he chirps brightly as he nods toward my chest.

I drive away with my bucket of breasts and thighs.