I’m flat on my back when he takes out the gel. A gob falls on the floor.
This won’t hurt, he says. Fisting my hands, I stare at the wall, the basin, a neatly framed poster of a cat. Then his hand grazes my breast.
“Don’t be nervous,” he says. “I’ve done this many times before.”
My pulse starts, stops, gallops. Then I remember to take some deep breaths. I try to think of good times, times to savor, times to tuck into my pocket on a rainy day. An unexpected vase of flowers. Earrings for my birthday. A weekend at the spa. But then that final message punctures my thoughts. It’s over, read the words. Don’t keep asking why.
The room is small and getting smaller. Each sound is amplified.”We’re almost finished,” he says. Then he turns me on my side.
If only there were a pill, a transfusion, a magical procedure to mend hearts and heal pain!
One last click on the computer and he’s through. “You did great,” he says. A drawer opens and closes. A light in the ceiling blinks on and blinks off. He’s hovering now, leaning in his crisp white coat, brushing his sleeve against my neck. Then he unpeels the stickers from my chest and gently disconnects the wires. The screen is blank, the machine quiet. All at once I’m uncoupled, as untethered as an astronaut floating into space.
“The test looks fine. Your valves are clear, and the blood flow is normal.”
But something feels broken just the same.
Marlene Olin’s short stories and essays have been published in journals such as the Massachusetts Review, Catapult, PANK, Narrative Northeast and the Baltimore Review. She is the recipient of both the 2015 Rick Demarinis Fiction Award and the 2018 So to Speak Fiction Prize. Her work has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize, Best of the Net, Best Small Fictions, and for inclusion in Best American Short Stories.