license to squish

Yes, it’s that time again.  I suppose I should relish it in some way.  I mean, after all, when this procedure is no longer needed — it’s likely  you’re either dead or missing something, or past the point when machines or humans are interested in your squishy parts.  

Excerpt from real life March 9, 2007…Staring down at Britney Spears and her shaven head, I concentrate on channeling a state of otherness.  My v-neck sweater and the James Perse t-shirt I wore under it lay in a heap on the floor of locker #2, carefully concealing my bra from any would-be snoop.  I’m about to be woman-handled.

“I’m ready for you now.” 


Setting the magazine down, I get up and follow the navy shape named Carole down the hall, clutching the opening of my stiff pink gown as I walk through a door into an official-looking room.  My attention goes directly to a certificate framed and hung on the wall.  Is this her diploma? 


Does she actually have a license to squish?


“Set your purse right there.  Yes, on that chair.


“Now step up to the machine and take your right arm out of the sleeve.”


Complying, I look down at a series of codes on blocks not unlike scrabble pieces, now moving as the glass stage shifts into its first position.


“My hands are cold today – nothing I can do about that,” I hear Carole announce as the woman-handling commences.  Oh, this is a squeamish task, I think. 


Otherness, not me, lifts onto her tip toes as the first ridge of her ribs is jammed underneath the stage while her right breast is manipulated into the first of three obscene poses on top of the glass.  Not me winces, trying to relax her right shoulder as the top layer of this torture device is set in motion and Carole is making sure every square inch of breast is compressed and captured from this grotesque angle.  Not me thinks this pinches harder than one would imagine it could without causing irreparable harm.


Where am I?  My head spins.  The only thing that could be worse than what I feel right now is to look down and actually see with my own eyes what is being done to me.  I can’t believe what a wimp I am.  Could faint, really, I mean it for f—’s sake.  Is this my body revolting from this act?  Or is it the handful of gummy bears I shoved in my mouth before leaving the office?


Five more shots to go.  OMG. Concentrate.


“What were you planning to do after this?,” Carole asks.


“Oh, I’ll go home and work from there,” I reply.


“What kind of work does a person do that they can work from home,” she asks. (You talking to me?)


“Oh, marketing stuff, checking email, writing a few things.”


“Don’t breathe.”  Pause, clicks, microwave sounds and feelings in my chest.  “Step back now…”


Take 2, take 3 … time for the left sleeve to come off, take 4, 5 and 6.


Rejoin Britney’s bald head in the lobby and wait to hear:  “OK, you’re good to go now!” 


Did I even tell her “thank you?”  I can’t recall.


Retrieving the upper half of my clothing from #2, I slip into the changing room eyeing the can of deodorant on the bench.  As I toss the pink jacket in the discard bin and reach for the deodorant, I hear “Hi, I’m Carole…take everything off from the waist up…” 


And I thought I was special.

Author: Julie Ann Stevens

My art flows from the patterns & paths of my lived experience which ⏤ like yours ⏤ are at once deeply personal and entirely universal.

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