by Heather McClelland
The film is heavy. While moved into a neat stack, it sounds like sheet metal. Before they were moved to computer files, all MRI images appeared on large sheets of film that doctors forced into slots to hang in front of a bright white light. It is a swift, impatient gesture.
The doctor explains this landscape of dark and white pools using words that turn in on themselves. What he points to I cannot see. Let’s try it this way, then, he says.
No. Let’s try it this way.
The eyes appear as empty sockets. Optic nerves extend like tributaries from these two bright lakes. The mass network of the brain, a dark shine of a brown so dark it is almost black. An image of nothing, it seems. At first.
Peel back the layers of film and the lesions appear. They are T2 shine-through. T2 star. Decayed lesions, no longer active, but bright. Scars. Stars.
This one page, however, clearly shows the optic nerve with its new bright light, its myelin sheath gone. Light pours in unfiltered. The pupil receiving no information to constrict, lets it all into the depths of the brain. The iris, its dark browns laced with moss green, streams of yellow, stands by. A beautiful distraction, foliage at the entrance to a dark cave, the dark cave blown out the other side. No one can see this. I would never know you had a problem, is often said.
While one pupil stays open; the other adjusts.
I begin to understand that I cannot see red, but blue holds. I keep this to myself, that blue is the last to disappear. Blue holds while I walk away. And where I find you, your hands rise and fall. You sit and you talk, and with one eye I see you in all of your colors, the iridescent red sliding through your dark hair, the bright orange of your scarf, the mole-scape of your arms. You vibrate with color. With the other eye, I see a spectre dancing, I see the places you shine while the blue of the sky contains you, and the blue of your eyes lets me in.
Blue is a prognosis, a guess, a place to dive into. I do not tell the doctor this.
Heather McClelland is writing a novel set in the Driftless Area of Wisconsin, a poetry collection, and explorations of disability in creative writing (content and structure). Her work appears in Willow Review and is forthcoming in Prime Number Magazine (awarded runner-up 2021 Award for Poetry). She teaches writing at College of Lake County, IL, and serves on the board of the Stories Matter Foundation.