On the Brink: Random Thoughts from Radiology
“For always in love there is an immense and impossible decision to make, and there can be no real rest until it is made. It is like the pilot being faced with the decision to try to make a dead-stick landing of a jumbo jet in a cornfield. Love cannot circle around forever; it demands resoluteness, wholehearted commitment. Never satisfied with just a little bit of a person’s heart, love wants the whole thing, and is forever pushing toward the brink.” Mike Mason, The Mystery of Marriage
A recent series of medical tests plants me inside a radiology office. “Revealing my inner self, I think idly, twirling on a stool in the darkened room. Not much different than showering — or blogging really. Silly thinking and spinning does little to alleviate my anxiety.
She finally returns: the technician-who-talks-too -much. Please nice lady…I know I must look tense, but you won’t make it better by chatting – I just want to get out of here!
Away she blows: the weather, the insurance, the front office, what’s for lunch, we are so behind today and sorry for the wait and would you please take off your wedding ring?
Un-huh. Un-huh. Wait – WHAT?
Your wedding ring. Take it off. We’re going to x-ray your hands.
Luckily, my fingers are not swollen just now – the way they have been – and it slips right off. I put it in my purse. I love that ring. It’s my fifth I think. I lost the first one after only a year. Insurance replaced it – but the imposter disappeared a few years after that. I went around with a bare finger for a long time until my Honey went out on a limb and a credit card for an entirely new model, but that one also vamoosed sometime later. It gets a little fuzzy at that point – there was another version somewhere in there – but I do remember the one before this one. The shiny band had shrunk in London (cheese and cream) and was riding in my handbag until the next visit to a jewelers. Bad idea. The bloke who stole my worthless purse probably never knew he threw a diamond ring in the trash. I balled so hard, I broke blood vessels.
Months later (and 34 years since we met), I spied my future (and final) wedding ring near a Munich ‘launderette’. Riveted, I could tell — even through the smudged window of a pawn shop — that it was exactly right for my unusually small finger: size 4. And the design thrilled me — everything about it was perfect, especially the price… even so, it was probably the most expensive souvenir we bought in Europe and will always be my most treasured one.
I stare at my left hand, which has been positioned on the glass plate, ready for zapping by the x-ray machine. The knuckles are red and swollen; blue veins pop out between age spots; and my thumb will not extend – only the beginning of deformities I might acquire. Just looking at it makes me cry and I hope the technician doesn’t notice. What will happen to me? What will happen to us? Will Dale still love me when I’m old and crippled?
Okay! comes the voice from the booth. Right, please.
This one feels and looks just as bad, all splayed out. The machine hums and clicks and round two is over. I realize the talkie-technician never did see my tears, or pretended not to. Relief. How would I have explained that my heart hurts more than my hands?
Please wait in this chair until the doctor okays the pictures.
I sit with my hands in my lap. Tucking thumbs inside balled up palms helps. If Dale were here, he would hold me. The memory of the night before, when the warmth of his large left hand made my small right one feel so much better, gives me a surge of pleasure.
Fumbling painfully with the clasp of my purse and the zipper pocket inside, I blindly sort pennies from paperclips. Wincing with every pinch, I finally draw out the band and put it back on my ring finger, swearing never to take it for granted, never to take it off. No matter what happens, no matter how my thumbs may twist or throb, swell or knob, ‘les misérables’…this ring, and the priceless man who gave it to me, will not disappear and cannot be replaced.
The technician comes back. You can go, she says.
I hobble on creaky feet out the door and to the car. Waiting for a green light, I realize my ring can spin at the base of my finger. Ahhh. Still no swelling. Can’t wait to tell Dale.
Who knew the day would turn out romantic?
Hint of Romance
The trick to moving toward the brink is to hold on tight — to each other.