still life | scene, somewhere

she closed her eyes, exhaled, and tried to recreate the day in her mind.

putting her rings in a pouch for safe keeping, removing her glasses, handing both to the brusquely good-humored attendant. lying down on the gurney, flat; sliding slowly into the tubelike machine that came within three inches of her face.

hold still, the attendant called.

she held still, through thirty interminable minutes of horse gallops, drilling and tom-tom noise. somewhere between beginning and end her mind drifted away to the dreamland of waking, and only her eyes stiffly staring straight up showed she was not asleep. the gurney slid out again; the attendant shot her veins full of dye. it slid back into place.

hold still, now, came the reminder.

she needed none. more drilling, galloping, drumming. they said the machine could magnetize any metal in the room.

later, she crawled from her wheeled bed onto the table, not needing help or support slings.

lie back, someone said. face after vague face murmured words of introduction she promptly forgot.

hold still. a long, thin needle shot into her leg, and feeling ceased. a male voice cheerfully narrated the goings-on, should she care to know what was happening.

we want to keep you awake to monitor your responses, he said. you’ll want to hold still.

then came the pressure, and the grinding, and psychological discomfort to compensate for lack of the physical. they had, for all she could tell, plugged a joystick into her body. she felt it shift gears as they guided a camera through her heart.

this picture could make you dizzy, the voice said. hold extra still this time. hold your breath. don’t blink.

warmth spread up her neck and face, bringing with it a wave of vertigo. she fought to maintain control. she would not flinch. she would not blink. she would not breathe, not when her lungs were burning.

when they finally removed the control stick, she remained frozen as they plugged the exit wound. she lay helpless as they rolled and shifted her onto a body board and slid her back onto the bed.

i have pairs of shoes older than you, her driver said as he navigated the halls. don’t move your leg for two hours. then they’ll see how you’re reacting.

but this time, she knew, the day would not end in going home like it had before.

they would develop the pictures, study them, plot their course of action. she didn’t know what would happen next, but imagined solemn faces, a racing heart. hold still, someone surely would say. then absence of all thought.

they would crowd around that stilled body, she pictured, delicately slicing, snipping, cauterizing, then stapling skin folds back in place after five hours. how would waking find her?

still alive.

still herself?

but today was not the day to worry.

she stood up, shaking off the temptation toward morbidity, and stared out the window at the city of early morning. here, she reasoned, there was always still life to be lived. and living was the business at hand.