I went into hospital today for a CT Scan.
A CT Scan is the one where you’re slid backwards like a car mechanic until you head rests inside a giant freestanding doughnut. The doughnut is made from the exact same shiny white plastic they use for stormtrooper helmets on the Death Star.
Even though I knew the procedure was simply a bit of follow-up to the minor operation I had on my nose recently, CT scanners are used so often on TV as visual shorthand for “scary cancer-related medical procedure”, I don’t mind admitting that the machine made me feel a little nervous.
As I lay on the flatbed (it’s a scanner remember), wondering what would happen next and whether it was possible for something to go wrong and for me to emerge from the machine with a head like a baked potato, the technician came in.
“Hello,” I said.
“Hi,” he said.
He looked more like an IT support guy than any kind of medical professional. He wasn’t wearing scrubs like everyone else I’d seen around the department but a red tee-shirt and baggy bluejeans. He was young and stubbly and had that eternally dreamy look that you get on people like Edward Snowden.
A total stoner.
“What can I expect?” I asked by way of confessing to nervousness, “Any flashing lights or sounds?”
“Nope!” he said cheerfully, “You’ll see absolutely nothing!”
“Nah, you’ll be completely blind.”
“Because I’m going to give you this blindfold to wear.”
I got the impression that the blindfold was a kind of pacifier given to people they suspect of being nervous nellies who might panic in mid-scan and fuck everything up. People like me.
He put the blindfold over my eyes. It was just a thin piece of gauzy cloth, about the size of a bookmark, and almost entirely see-through. It was the worst blindfold I’d ever seen. I thought about the other people it had comforted though, people with cancer, and how they were braver than me. Definitely a pacifier.
“It takes about two minutes,” he said.
Two minutes my foot. He was placating me again. I’d be dunked in and out of the machine in about twenty seconds.
“It’s terribly painful,” he said.
“Just kidding,” he said.
“Fuck you very much,” I didn’t say.
He left the room (I could still see through the blindfold) and looked at me through the window of the control booth.
“Okay, the machine is going to start now,” he said through a wall-mounted radio, “You don’t have to do anything. Just stay very very still. Or you’ll be immediately killed.”
“Har-Har,” I said, but I’m not sure he could hear me through the glass.
As the conveyor belt thing maneuvered me into the giant free-standing doughnut I closed my eyes just in case I really was supposed not to see anything, and decided to scare myself by pretending I was Walter White in for a scan.
This is something I do a lot of. Whenever I’m waiting on a subway platform and I hear the train approaching, I think to myself You’re definitely on the platform and not on the tracks, right?
I don’t know why I do this.
It scared me too much, so I changed my fantasy. I now decided I was having my head dunked into the Guardian of Forever and that, if I were lucky, I might get a look up Joan Collins’ skirt.
I don’t know why I did that either.
“Okay, that’s it,” said the technician’s voice on the radio. “Come on out.”
I was surprised to find I was no longer in the doughnut, that I’d been maneuvered out of it again.
I stood and walked out of the room. It felt rude to just leave without saying goodbye face to face. After all, this guy had seen inside my skull. So I went into the technician’s booth.
On his computer screen was a high-resolution image of a cross-section of the top of my head. I was slightly irritated by how huge my nose looked from that angle. A real Concord.
If anything, I’d expected a kind of grey and general image like when people photocopy their arse at the office Christmas party or what I assume the airport security people see when they’re operating the nudielator.
“Hey look,” I said to the technician, “That’s my brain.”
And it was. I’d never seen my brain before.
My brain. My home. Was this how my grandparents felt when they looked down at their house in that helicopter ride on their fiftieth wedding anniversary?
My brain. The source of my ideas and hopes and fetishes and phobias. My whole universe.
“I know, right?” said the technician, “and it’s so small.”