We wake up early, you and I, and go to the hospital. Anxious, empty stomachs.
In the waiting room, we are the only ones. There is a television in the corner, volume low, and Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood is on. Changed into his sweater, Mr. Rogers shows us how a trumpet is made, takes us inside a manufacturing plant, bending the brass, fitting finger pads; then an employee dressed in a V-neck velour shirt gives a quick performance at Mr. Rogers’s request before packing the finished trumpet up and shipping it off. We are lulled for a time. And then your name is called. We pretend our stomachs do not drop.
We are kind to the attendant.
You change into a blue hospital gown and are asked to leave your watch, your wallet, your ring, anything metal in the provided locker. We enter the MRI bay. I sit in a chair at a far wall and watch. You are told to lie on the flat, slim bed that slides in and out of the open mouth like a tongue. The technician tells you to hold still because moving will make the images unusable.
You are calm being fed into the massive machine, calm as it clicks and grunts around your head at abrasive, industrial volume. Sitting across the room from you and the chugging, whirling magnets, I will myself to think good thoughts.
(Update: as of 2017, the full essay is no longer available on the TMR website – my apologies. I’ll post a PDF soon.)