Feb 4, 2016

Breathe in. Hold your breath. ... Relax.

You have tiny veins, she tells me.

I am strapped down and tucked in, ears plugged and panic bulb in hand.

The machine buzzes and clicks, whirs and beeps, chugs and rat-a-tat-tats, and I wonder if all this noise is entirely necessary or if it is maybe just there for ambience, as my hydrogen protons align and radio frequencies pulse and magnets cycle on and off.

Breathe in, says a robotic female voice. Hold your breath. ... Relax.

Breathe in. Hold your breath. ... Relax.

Someone has taped pictures to the roof of the machine, to distract us from all that noise, to keep our brains occupied, to keep us from panicking. The one directly above me is labeled "Junk drawer 2": needles and pins and paper clips, a couple of dice, the filament of a lightbulb, tiny locks, a plastic spoon, pennies and buttons and keys, elastic bands, a pair of scissors, a single jack, a piece of track from an electric train set, a tiny skeleton in black.

Breathe in. Hold your breath. ... Relax.

My eye is drawn to that last. Who has a tiny black skeleton in their junk drawer? How much death have these magnets seen? How much malignancy? How many growths and nodules and cysts?

The picture farther down, the one I can't really see without tilting my head, which I am not supposed to do, is labeled "Monsters Inc. 2." Someone has drawn a collage of creepy purple monsters to vaguely resemble Disney Pixar creatures.

Breathe in. Hold your breath. ... Relax.

I find monsters an odd choice; they are hardly comforting. Someone's black humour? The same someone who inserted a tiny skeleton into the junk drawer?

Okay, I'm going to put the dye in now, he says, injecting something into the needle in my arm.

Will it make me feel like I'm peeing my pants? I ask. The CT dye a couple of weeks ago made me feel like I was peeing my pants.

Different dye, he tells me. You won't feel like you're peeing your pants. How do you feel?

I'm fine.

Good. If you were going to have a reaction, you'd have had it by now.

And back in I go.

Something by Richard Scarry would be better, I think, as the machine begins its noises anew.

Breathe in. Hold your breath. ... Relax.

We could spend our time in this chamber finding Goldbug. Or possibly Waldo. Even Waldo would be better than skeletons and monsters.

I breathe in, I hold my breath, I relax. Strangely, I find myself dozing off.

Eventually the whirring and clacking stop and a muffled voice above me tells me we're all done here. She takes the needle out of my arm and he unstraps me from the table. I remove the earplugs.

We'll have the results in about a week, she says. I want to ask them what they see, but I know I'll have to wait.

Breathe in. Hold my breath. ...  

Fire it up, boys!

Fire it up, boys! Make it steam and sizzle and spit. Stoke that flame, watch her blister and burn, choke and cough, turn to ashes and spill out of your fist like so many wasted nights and worthless pennies, only to be reborn and fly away somewhere out of reach.