Of Uncomfortable Chairs

Today’s post is slightly different than usual.

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MRI Scanner

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You’re sitting. Your body is forming a temporary indent on the square of foam attached to the hard wooden chair. As you look around you think, I’m too young to be here. Your face is now free of blemishes. Your bust is no longer like a child’s, it hangs and moves as you walk and dance, held firmly in place by lacy fabrics and under-wire. You own business skirts and wear heels to work. You trust a middle-aged woman with a dragon on her arm and a rhinestone above her lip, like Marylin Monroe’s mole, to tame your mess of thick dark hair. You are old enough to vote, join the army, and get a cocktail with your friends, but you’re too young to rent a car. I’m too young to be here.

You try to avoid eye contact with the old man across from you. He’s shriveled and hunched over, his skin hangs off his cheeks in waves pressed down by a tube that crosses his face and reaches into his nose allowing breath into his weak lungs. His wife sits beside him; the beauty of her youth still resonating and sparkling in her hazel eyes. She is holding a green tank in her left hand as she kept his hand in her right. With them you sit alone, not talking, in the white room decorated with odd wooden carvings of indistinguishable figures and paintings of flowers. The eerie silence allows for the echo of the clickty clack of hidden keyboards behind a wall that reached your belly button when you checked in. Only five minutes ago? The patter of the buttons fills your ears as you try to focus elsewhere. You text your friends, but no one answers. You would listen to you iPod, but you forgot your headphones. So you grab a dated copy of People magazine and sit in the uncomfortable chair reading about celebrities who wore the same gold dress, are going to rehab, get their own dry cleaning, and drink Coca-Cola. Supposedly that makes them like you. Because they eat fast food. Because they go to the beach in their perfect bodies whipped into shape via the power of fitness trainers. Because their flaws are zoomed in on, called fat because they are now a size six. Accused of aging poorly even though they are beautiful. Your eyes glaze over the hundreds of gorgeous young faces. Until you hear your name.

As you stand up you feel the wrinkled couple’s eyes follow you. The receptionist who called you was a woman wearing a suit that sat squarely on her shoulders, if she had a womanly frame it was hidden behind various shades of pink and polyester. Her skin was tight with Botox and her hair appeared to be lightened by chemically induced tiger-like streaks of blonde. She asks for your date of birth, where you work, and to see your insurance card. Then a nurse dressed in blue comes to have you follow her. She looks about your age. Color filled her cheeks and her dark brown eyes communicated a level of empathy not given by the receptionist. The nurse cheerily asks you how your day is going. You say it’s fine as you think what a stupid question. She leads you through big red double doors. Hands you baby blue one size fits all pants and a nightshirt and leads you into a changing room composed of curtains. Your slender body could barely fit comfortably in the stall; you wonder what they do for fat individuals who can’t squeeze into the tiny spaces. You struggle to tie the shirt around neck without choking yourself. Fumbling with the string behind your back until eventually its comfortable – enough. The nurse instructs you to place your belongings in a cubbyhole, locks the door, and gives you a key to hold on to.

Once more you’re being led towards red doors. These doors led to more white, more aged people dressed in outfits like your own. You follow quietly as you are led further and further down the hall. A man, probably in his early thirties, comes out and shakes your hand. He was dressed in light blue scrubs, his body towers over you, thin and gangly. He reminds you of a lamp-post. He smiles and asks you how your day is going, you say fine as you think it’s terrible. He opens a door that led into a big room filled with medical instruments, some you have never seen. The walls are gray instead of white and the air is cold, very cold. There is a big glass window where a fourth wall should be. Through it you see a computer and numerous screens. In the center of the room is a big white tube that is shiny and narrow.

It is almost time. The reason why you came here is finally happening. You wonder why you’re not more panicked.  Shouldn’t you be afraid, or at least concerned with what the results of this day could mean? Tomorrow you could be told that you may not live as long you hoped, perhaps you do fit in with the aged sick people around you, at least in terms of life span. Or maybe the suspicions of the doctor were wrong. You had to think the last thought. For the sake of sanity, you had to think everything was going to be okay. The man in blue is just double checking that everything is okay.

The man tells you to lie down on the tongue of the tube. The width of which was barely wider than your body.  The surface was hard and covered with a white cloth. He places headphones on your head that aren’t playing music and begins to place a white cage, similar to a football helmet, in front your face locking your vision forward, eliminating the option of looking from side to side. A stress ball attached to a thin wire is placed in your right hand with the instruction of squeezing it should you need him to stop. Suddenly soft rock is playing against your ears as the tongue is slowly pulled into the tube.

Slight paranoia fills your chest as you are engulfed into the tight white space. Through the headphones the man talks to you. He tells to lie completely still and relax, that this will take about twenty or so minutes. Then music is back; some guy bitching about his cheating girlfriend. Outside the headphones it sounds like an animal has declared war on a garbage disposal. Loud cranking noises, reee reee reee, thud thud, high pitched eeeeeekks, and a low boom boom boom take turns trying to overpower the music. Now a woman is singing words you can hardly understand under the loud machinery that you can’t escape. You breathe, trying to focus on the music. But the machinery was getting louder, all that could be heard was the groan and processing of the medical instrument that you were now a part of. Suddenly it is silent. You relish in the moment, thinking it is over; soon you’ll be put back into the world. Away from white tubes, blue scrubs, and red doors.

Then thud, thud, eeeeeekk, boom, reee, reee, and now a machine gun appear to be trying to attack through the shield of white. The background music is interrupted by the man’s voice asking if you’re doing okay. You say yes wondering where a microphone is that allows him to hear you. He informs you that there’s about ten or so more minutes to go. The faint music is back. As you lie still all you want in life is to move your body. Normally you fidget through the day, tapping your toes, running your hands through your hair, cracking your back. Movement. You miss movement. Lying still might as well be torture. You remember watching your mother punish your little brother, not through spanking or grounding, but through holding his arms still pressed against his tiny body. When you were a teenager you thought that was silliest punishment ever. He was never held for more than a minute. You haven’t been naughty. But you are being punished for a hell of a lot longer. You can feel you limbs cry out and ache with the desire to move even if only a flinch. Just the ability to know that they can wiggle, that the tube hasn’t taken away the ability to use muscles. To dance, to walk, to fidget. You cave, letting your big toe bend. Your anxiety lessens for a moment, and you once again force your muscles to remain still as a dead body.

Finally the tongue begins to move away from the tube. The man comes and takes off the white wires. You sit up and hand him the stress ball swinging your legs over the edge of the tongue, cracking your toes against the hard floor, stretching your muscles, reaching your arms out as far as they could as you turn your body in various contortions. It’s over. You’re led back to your cubbyhole. Back to the curtains. Back through red doors.

The wrinkled couple no longer waiting in the room of uncomfortable chairs.

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Of Writer’s Hesitation

Typewriter

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I want to write. I long to sit at my 1940’s desk with a quill in my hand and compose beautiful words. Sadly, I’m not writing. I haven’t written a complete story since I graduated a couple of months ago. It’s not that I don’t have ideas fluttering around my head, it’s just that I’m not writing. It’s a shame – I’m a pretty good storyteller.

So why am I not writing?

I can’t say that it’s because of writers block, as I already confessed to having ideas. It’s not that I don’t have enough time, I work a crappy part-time job and get maybe 20 hours a week – I have more than enough time.

When I picture myself writing everything is very romanticized. Sitting at my desk for hours every morning with a cup of coffee steaming beside me. But whenever I am about to start writing that’s when I freeze up.

I think that part of me is afraid of the process. Delving deeper into my subconscious may reveal things about myself that I’m not willing to confront or perhaps don’t want shared with the world. I’ve always said that fiction tells readers more about the author than non-fiction. Non-fiction is easy, it’s a glimpse into the author’s life, and they get to control how everyone is portrayed and what you witness. Fiction is the subconscious, what they are really thinking, and how they process the world around them – their soul masked by layers of characters and scenery.

So yeah, maybe I’m fearful. And for the first time in my writing career I’m completely on my own, no teacher to hand out assignments, or internship set a deadline. The only thing to motivate my fingers to tap away at the keyboard is me. Me. Me. Me. And I gotta say, I suck at self motivation. Give me a deadline and I’ll get the work done, and damn it the paper will be good. But when left to my own devices I shy away from the real writing and hide in work that is less deep, less personal, and less substantial.

I need to write.

Of Mosquitoes, Spiders, and The Lord’s Bootcamp

When I was a teenager I went to The Lord’s Bootcamp (TLB), twice. Not because I was an awful kid, on the contrary, I was a perfect pastor’s kid. Rather, because I was going on a mission trip and TLB is where they train you. Anyways, what I remember most about TLB is not the sermons, getting closer to God, crying, studying my Bible, or really any of the classes we took (other than puppeteering and an intense sermon about how those who masturbate are going to Hell).

I remember the heat, an intensive humidity that made my clothes cling to my skin the second I stepped off the bus. Being forced to walk in a single file line everywhere we went. Rules forbidding pairing off, whether that being romantic or best friends. And mosquitoes. Holy Hell were there mosquitoes! They were everywhere. At the start of camp it was not uncommon to spray bug spray on yourself practically every hour. By the end of the two weeks the humid air was so thick with the spray that it was no longer necessary to apply more than when waking up in the morning at 5AM.

I got into the habit of checking my tent thoroughly for mosquitoes every night so that my exposed limbs wouldn’t get eaten up over the night. Whoever my tent-mate was at the time and I would slowly move our flashlights over every inch of the fabric walls and kill the unsuspecting blood suckers.

The third day of my second round at TLB we were switching tent-mates and I saw a Florida Tarantula fall into my soon to be abode. Naturally I freaked out, those things are huge! Several inches in size, gray and fuzzy – creepy little dudes. I called for my leader to come get it out of my tent. He reached in, said he got it, and told me, “next time you’re getting it yourself.” I would later learn that he was a pathological liar and a crazy person, but at the moment he was the head leader who was supposedly a man after God’s own heart, like King David, obviously we trusted him.

That night my tent-mate and I were checking for mosquitoes, there weren’t any (which was unheard of) but when my flashlight landed on my pillow there it was. The spider! Sitting right in the middle of where my head was about to go. Panic stuck me, at first I was in shock unable to move. Part of me wanted to run, another wanted to cry, and another wished I was bold enough to kill the freaky guy on the spot. But instead I sat there panting, my tent-mate equally silent beside me.

He began to move. Slowly, so fucking slowly, as if he was a lion on the hunt. I swear he could tell that I was terrified. His moving launched me into reality, I started screaming, crying, pleading for someone to come help me as the fuzzy jackass slowly crawled in my direction – my tent-mate silent on the other side of the tent quietly crying.

Eventually a different male leader came up to the tent, “are you decent?” he asked.

“Huh? There’s a huge spider in here and its crawling towards me.” I responded.

“But are you decent?”

“Yes!”

“Are you sure?”

“Yes, I’m fully clothed.” I was getting frustrated with the man. Who cares, I thought, just come save me from the tarantula.

He unzipped the tent and reached over me with a towel in his hand, grabbed my hairy enemy. Shortly after he came back to inform me that I needed to take care of it myself next time.

After he left I heard a girl crying. Then I heard him comforting her. It was absolute bullshit (though I didn’t swear at the time, I just thought it was unfair) she was upset because she heard that someone had a giant spider in their tent. I was upset because I had said spider in my tent. But I got no sympathy, in fact, I was scolded for not being more brave. Now, I can’t be certain of the particular breed of the tarantula on my pillow, but I do remember what it looked like so here’s a picture. Would you be brave? Especially if you were only seventeen?

Florida Tarantula

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Just looking at this picture makes me uneasy.