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Kristen Arnett KRISTEN ARNETT is a fiction and essay writer who has held fellowships at Tin House, Kenyon Review, and Lambda Literary Foundation. She was awarded Ninth Letter's 2015 Literary Award in Fiction and was runner-up for the 2016 Robert Watson Literary Prize at The Greensboro Review. Her work has either appeared or is upcoming at North American Review, The Normal School, The Greensboro Review, OSU's The Journal, Catapult, Portland Review, Ninth Letter, Grist Journal, Tin House Flash Fridays/The Guardian, Salon, The Rumpus, and elsewhere. Her debut story collection, Felt in the Jaw, will be published by Split Lip Press in 2017. You can find her on twitter here: @Kristen_Arnett

Recent Work By Kristen Arnett

Dis/comfort

By Kristen Arnett

Essay

 

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I don’t know what’s inside me, but I’ve got ideas. Discomfort is not a word I’d thought to associate with the egg-sized lump in my guts, but after the lump arrived, it made me uncomfortable to understand I knew so little about my own body. My body, I thought, was a private place. The lump arrived without my knowledge or consent. I had no control over it.

 

***

 

MRI machines create a non-rhythmic thumping, a kind of kunk-a-chunk-chunk-kunk-kunk-ing that never settles right in your brain. I’ve got on headphones that a hundred other people have worn. The oversized pleather cups dig into the soft space behind my ears. It’s clear in the unkemptness of the technician, a man well into his fifties who wears a white lab coat covered in dark stains, that these headphones haven’t ever been cleaned. His coat is the kind I might wear, if I were a tech. This is how I know the headphones still hold the residue of everyone who came before me—I’d have never cleaned them.

Before he slid the headphones over my ears, right before he tangled his hands in my hair and accidentally pulled some out, straight from the root, the technician asks, “What kind of music do you like?” He holds my thigh in his ungloved hand, cupping the soft place near my ass, positioning my knees over a cushion other people have already put their legs over. He maneuvers me into the tube. My elbow bangs against the narrow rim. Staring up at the plastic overhead just three inches from my face, I try to regulate my wild heartbeat. I fail. A navy line runs down the tube’s center, a positioning indicator improperly aligned with the middle of my body.

He’s going to tell me when to breathe.

He’s going to tell me when to hold that breath.

He’s going to tell me when to finally let go.