The radiology technician who ran my MRI has an 11-year-old daughter. Naturally, when she found out I wrote for a magazine called “Girls’ Life,” she peppered me with questions. For every “What do you write about?” that escaped her lips, I asked what she was injecting into my IV and when I’d be getting the contrast solution. After we weighed the merits of American Girl and Seventeen, I inquired about the thumping noises in the next room.
It was somewhere between stuffing my belongings into a plastic bag and being wrapped in white cotton blankets that I decided the tech’s daughter was my new favorite person. “She thinks the world is all unicorns and rainbows,” the mom said. “When I told her it’s not, she said, ‘Well, it should be.’”
Yes, it should be. But I had to agree with her mom—it’s not, and today, mine comprised contrast barium fluid and magnetic resonance imaging.
I think unicorns and rainbows end with The Talk, if you’re lucky. That’s when childhood ends and adolescence begins. The way I figure it, The Talk is right about when you realize the hair on your legs is something to be gotten rid of. It’s when you worry about wearing white, especially if you think that twinge in your tummy might just be the sign of your very first period. It’s when you figure out where babies come from, and, more curiously, wonder why on earth anyone wants anything up there in the first place, whether it’s a tampon or a boy’s mysterious pants-covered parts.
The radiology tech had The Talk with her daughter a few days ago. “Are we gonna talk about this all day?” her daughter moaned—I imagined her burying her face in her hands and wrinkling her nose in ultimate distaste. We laughed, the tech and I, but as I lay in the thumping eternity of the MRI machine, I pondered if perhaps the newly minted adolescent was right. The Talk, after all, is an all-day fret fest that restarts at 6:45 and doesn’t have a care for weekends or sleepovers or summer breaks. It’s a psychosomatic combination of Groundhog Day, Freaky Friday and Are you there God? It’s Me, Margaret, humming along at a feverish pace until the blaring honk of your alarm jolts you back to reality.
Inhale, a disembodied voice directed.
My fingers grasped the scratchy cotton unconsciously. I felt the yellow foam ear plugs, the weight on my back, the surge of the platform as it slid deeper inside the machine. Unicorns and rainbows, I repeated to myself. Unicorns and rainbows.
Hold your breath.