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  • "How long were you together?" asks the doctor, pressing a stethoscope against my back.

    "Two and three-quarter years," I say.

    "And how long is it since you split up?" he asks.

    "Two and three-quarter months," I say.

    Everybody always asks the same two questions, and I wonder if there's some kind of mathematical equation that I'm unaware of going on here.

    I'm at the hospital, making sure this pain I have in my chest isn't pneumonia.

    "No, it's not pneumonia," says the doctor.

    I wonder if maybe, just maybe, it could be my heart?

    "There's nothing wrong with your heart," he says, putting the stethoscope away. "But I'd like to do a chest X-Ray. There may have been some damage to your ego."

    My ego? My ego is in my chest? I never knew that! I never knew my ego was in my chest.

    "No," says the doctor. "Not many people do."

    * * *

    Later, as I wait for the results, I notice a framed photograph on his desk: two small children running along a beach, a dog, and a pretty woman in a dress. It's perfect. I wonder if maybe he cut it out of a catalog one afternoon.

    "Like I thought," he says, striding back into the room. "Bruising all down one side."

    I've never seen an ego before. It's like a jelly-fish up there on the light box, caught mid-squirm in my upper ribcage. I can see a face in it, if I squint. My ego looks like Jack Nicholson, I think.

    "Is it a particularly big ego?" I ask, wide-eyed.

    He shrugs. "It's a little on the large side."

    "And the bruising?" I whisper, almost afraid to ask. "How much longer is this terrible bruising going to last?"

    "It's been two and three-quarter months now," he says, leaning in to tell me exactly what I want to hear. "This will all be over by midnight tonight. A simple mathematical equation: a month for every year."
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