Monday, November 08, 2004

Another Day, Another Backless Gown

As I lay on the table, a pillow wedged beneath my shoulders, the technician squirted warm gel across my neck. I felt it trickle down the side of my face and neck, mixing, sticking to my still wet hair. With my head snapped back as it was, eyes wide, I thought of other places. I remembered standing on a New York street corner, looking through a card table of used books and yellowed newspapers. There I bought a battered, orange hardcover called "The History of Orgies." I bought it for the inscriptions. On the first page there was a hand-written dedication, dated 1963. It wished the receiver luck on an upcoming production of "Yoo Who Yar Har." On the opposite page, a different someone had meticulously copied the same paragraph -- their handwriting, their words exactly, and set the date twenty years later. But why? For good measure I copied the paragraph a third time and wrote in the new date. My handwriting did look a little like the others. Maybe it was fate.

As the ultrasound progressed, the technician pressed the wand into various chunks of flesh, pausing and hovering and smoothing out the wrinkles in firm, tight circles. And then my perspective shifted, dangerously. The side wall became the ceiling, and the ceiling the side wall. From a higher vantage point than possible, I looked down on the technician. I couldn't focus. I thought, I must be drunk somehow. But even when I'm drunk I've got more control than this. Am I out of body? Acidic bile rushed topside, defying gravity and good sense, and I made the technician stop, sit back. I clamped my hands over my eyes and waited for the spinning to stop.

He said, "It's just because you got your head snapped back. Good thing you're not a pilot. Pilots have to deal with this sort of thing all the time."

For the remainder of the procedure I clamped my eyes tight. I did not risk the spinning room. And maybe, just maybe, I fantasized about stabbing the technician through the chest with his ultrasound wand.

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