In the changing room I strip & slip into a hospital gown & scratchy blue shorts. Some clothes contain metal fibers, the sign says. These can heat up during an MRI & burn your skin. The lab tech, Cody, plunges a needle in my arm & clamps down tight. Had to squeeze it off quick, quite a water hose you’ve got there! The noise in the chamber is gonna be loud, he warns, but he’ll pipe in some music. What would I like to hear? I say jazz singers from the Fifties, Ella Fitzgerald, Louis Armstrong, Sarah Vaughan. He says I got you.

he’s got the whole world
in his hands oh don’t let me
embarrass myself

I’m lying on a slab inside what looks like a high-tech coffin. Cody secures my head in some kind of vise—Gotta be very still—and lowers a hockey-mask thingy like Hannibal Lecter’s an inch from my face. The coffin sucks me in headfirst & the racket starts, clanking, banging, hammering, loud enough to give me an instant migraine. They’re looking for a tumor on my auditory nerve that could be causing my hearing loss & if I’m not stone deaf now, I will be when this is over. In the background, though, Sarah’s crooning Gershwin: Looking everywhere, haven’t found him yet / he’s the big affair I cannot forget / only man I ever think of with regret…

there are several men
I think of with regret all
I have is regret

This damn vise is crushing my skull like a rotten pumpkin. If there’s a tumor it’s probably benign, probably won’t kill me, but this noise might. Clanking, banging, hammering—I wish I were deaf right now—& just then Ella & Louis dance in, having loads of fun. Potato! Potahto! Tomato! Tomahto! Let’s call the whole thing off! Cody comes & pulls me out, shoots me full of dye through my IV, then pushes me back in for another five minutes. Then dead silence—am I deaf already? Then I hear myself asking him about the dye. It’s for contrast, to see if you have any abnormalities. 

A tomato on
white bread plenty of mayo
yes that’s the ticket