Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Nuclear Medicine

The elevator doors close unsteadily. Cables squeal and grind with effort. The yellow rectangular light panels buzz feebly overhead. The inhabitants of the elevator glance at each other out of the corners of their eyes. One is male, the other female. The male is lean with sunken eyes and bony cheekbones. He wears slacks of brown polyester held up with a belt under which a black and blue checkered shirt is tucked and buttoned up to the collar. The woman is short but ample and wears her hair closely shorn. She wears slacks and sandals with a white tunic blouse. They stand silently with a healthy distance between them. The carpet underfoot is stained and torn. The woman tries not to let the tips of her toes come off the edge of her sandals lest they come into contact with its contaminated fibers.
The doors shudder open into the gray mustiness of what used to be a bomb shelter. All surfaces are concrete. Doors are the exception. They are dull metal.
There are flickering florescent tubes leading the way from where they are bolted high above, and yellow arrows painted on the concrete point the way from below. The corridor twists and turns. There are no people, just doors marked RADIATION. DO NOT ENTER. With small nervous movements and wide eyes the two individuals shuffle along following the yellow arrows.
A cubicle with a yellow light shining out through the panes of glass houses a solitary human being. He is a fat young man seated behind a desk, his nightly snack of Snickers Bars and two cans of Coke Classic stacked beside his appointment book. He’s a little sweaty, but manages a smile. ..
He directs the woman to continue alone, further down the gray hall with the yellow arrows. There, a tall man in a white coat and blue paper shoe covers awaits and ushers the woman into a very large room with a large white torpedo in the middle. There is nothing else in the room. Absolutely nothing. The tiles on the floor have been buffed until they are almost invisible.
The man is very businesslike as he hands the woman a flimsy cotton hospital gown that opens down the back. She undresses awkwardly. With her back to him, trying not to allow her clothes to fall to the floor she simultaneously attempts to cover herself with the disposable garment. It is creased so that she is swathed in white paper squares. Tersely the man instructs her to put earplugs in as well. A narrow bed slides out of the mouth of the torpedo like a curved tongue. Nothing supports it. It doesn’t appear very sturdy. It’s plastic. The woman crawls onto it but is forced to lie down with her arms over her head. The tunnel is too narrow to let them dangle naturally alongside her torso. The man in the white coat warns his patient to keep her eyes closed and places a heavy, weighted belt over her abdomen. A smaller version is placed over her knees. A still smaller version is placed over her ankles.
She is unable to move. Or see. Or hear.

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