Tuesday, January 31, 2017
The Time Machine
When bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki they stopped a war and killed over 200,000 civilians, leaving behind a decimated landscape, with fallout still observed generations later. This could also be representative of trauma and survival.
After I ignited my first round of healing by a shout out in Lake Superior, I invested eight years in various forms of therapy, both the oddball (shamans and pixie dust) and the conventional (talk therapy). At that point, I determined me and my bank account were done healing. I’d come to the point of “good enough”. Yet astutely, I had already learned to flinch when I make declarative statements, as they tended to have an ugly boomerang effect. And this was the case with my “done” comment, coming in the form of an MRI tube that obliterated my illusorily healed surface.
A doctor, concerned that my recent headaches, seeing multi-hued lightning bolts, and high blood pressure, are symptoms of a stroke, sends me in for a scan to gain more information. At a 6 AM appointment, I close my eyes sleepily as a young female technician slides me into the machine. Her last words before leaving the room are that she’ll be able to hear me from an overhead microphone once she reaches the command booth. In my hand rests a squeeze-for-help mechanism if I were to need to contact her. I’m not overly concerned about the twenty-minute test, figuring that with my eyes closed I’d pretend I’m meditating, bashing the illusion when my snores are picked up on the sound feed.
Imagining myself seated on an empty beach, I take a long relaxed breath and release it, the expelled air bouncing off the nearby tube wall back into my face. Panic prods a burr in my psyche into alertness. Ancient shrieks of terror vibrate through my eardrums, faces bob behind my eyelids, and suddenly I cannot breathe.
Repeatedly pressing S.O.S brings no response from the technician. I chant a stream of words to calm my surprising hysteria. Oh no. It’s okay. Just think of the beach. Breathe. I can do this. Where is that tech? Oh God, I’m gonna die. My body pulsates as I resist the urge to open my eyes. Don’t open them. Don’t scream. Don’t move. Don’t, don’t, don’t!
My brain is exploding, stroke concerns now seemingly true. Straps encasing my skull make it impossible to shimmy out. Warm, moist, cloying breath surrounds me, and suddenly, terrifyingly, I’m completely encased in a wool blanket, with the fibers scratching relentlessly. Smoke Man has returned and won’t let me go.
The MRI tube is a time machine, sending me back to that house. It is the 1960s on a charming cul-de-sac in a sunny beach community, the Gidget horror story that was my childhood.