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Bodies: The Ultrasound

i’m sorry. i tried to do that without a colon. really i did.

I went into the doctor’s for an ultrasound today, stomach empty and bladder swelling with the last of the four glasses of water I’d been advised to chug an hour before the appointment. I had always thought ultrasound was just for pregnancy, but apparently they’ll do it if you have a pain in your side, too. My two female doctors lent differing hypotheses in kind, concerned tones. Dr. Hussein thought an ovarian cyst. Dr. Hunter wanted the ultrasound technician to pay careful attention to my spleen. I laughed about that last one. Poetic justice. My spleen is considerable.

The technician, who was small and pert and accented, turned off the main lights of the ultrasound room. A light beamed upwards from some unidentifiable source on the floor. It cast shadows of machines on the wall, somehow reminiscent of a movie projection room. Having smeared me with turquoise jelly, the technician turned her attention to the little monitors.

I guess if you’re not pregnant they think you don’t need to see what’s going on, because the monitors were turned away from me. But I wanted to see them. You think of your organs the way they appear on the 3D model in the science classroom– lightweight, room-temperature, unchanging in shape. Hideous colors, real seventies stuff, burgundy and chicken-sh1t green.

Lying there, that conception changed. I was thinking about my bladder, feeling it re-adjust its control as the probe slid around my ventral hemisphere. Why did it matter that my bladder be full? Did it clarify the uterus behind it, like a glass lens? Why would it count if I breathed in? How far did my lungs extend? “Turn to the side please,” the technician said; “your kidneys.” The tickertape of pictures reeled out by my head as she focused on a tender area. I asked what she saw. “No, no problem. I am just looking at your liver.” Squinting at the monitors. I certainly couldn’t feel what she was seeing.

I tend to think of myself as being one piece. If I must be a number, I would like to be an integer. Whole. But I am getting older. I have spent the last few days talking at length with my landlady, a former professor. Our conversations tend towards what is wrong with her, and me, and people we know. This one’s asthma and that one’s agoraphobia. Sciatica, diarrhea, dementia. Someone said to me recently that this is what growing up is about: talking to people about how you are falling apart. On the ultrasound table, I thought I should re-figure myself as a sack of meat and balloons in decay. The role I was born to play.

I looked at the tape of photographs afterwards. Apparently, I am made up of constellations! I couldn’t pick the science room dummy out of the image. It could have been a black and white scan of anything. My liver the security tape of a convenience store, say. My spleen a submarine on the radar.

The receptionist said she would fax the picture-tape to Dr. Hussein. Do doctors have special fax machines for ultrasound tapes? Surely the image quality would decay in transit, scrambling the ones and zeroes of me like cancer. What if the fax machine invented a baby in my uterus? Facsimile Fathers Fetus; Girl Aghast.

* * * *

I noticed a lot of women wearing fur today. They were in the streets midtown talking on cel phones, and in the subway tucking hems under their fat bottoms. Every time I wanted to, but never got up the courage to, say something snide. I workshopped it in my head. “That’s quite a fur coat, where’d you get it?… Uh huh? And have they been reported to the ASPCA yet?”… “You know, you don’t look like the kind of person who would kill and skin sixty living beings simply because you had a social advantage over them. How does a society woman like yourself build up the courage to commit murder?” and when the man in the leather coat next to her speaks up rudely: “And yourself, sir?… Do you mean to tell me you both hired hit men to do your dirty work? How nice to have so much money! Have you considered investing in the banana industry?” and when someone else gives me a rotten look, “You’ll notice I don’t have a stich of dead pelt on MY back–” which would be lucky for today, that I wasn’t wearing my red Mary Janes or carrying the leather backpack from my aunt. And everyone knows I ate all that bacon at Christmas. “A ritual bloodletting,” I think about calling it. “I think next time, I will have to eat your children. It’s only fair.”

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