Ultrasound | Sarah Maxwell

“Now, it might be a little strange because we’ll be able to hear your blood pumping through your arteries.”

The ultrasound already seems much more interesting than the blood test and EKG I’ve had in the last week or so, all because of a little fainting spell in the shower, my boyfriend’s shower to be exact. The details, even the ones I haven’t shared with my mother, are still swimming excitedly through my head: the spools of suds dripping from my shampooed head, the fading bathroom light, the dizziness as I leaned against Jesse, who dropped me because he thought I was joking. And for the three or so seconds of unconsciousness, there was a bus station—one of those little boxes riders wait inside of along busy city streets. I knew that the bus had a route and that it would eventually stop where I was standing, and so I waited for its flat face and headlights.

“Hey,” I said, when I woke up, suddenly aware of a dull pain in my tailbone and the large distance between me and Jesse, Jesse and the showerhead, me and the showerhead. “I think I fainted.”

“I think you did too. Are you okay?”

“I dreamed about a bus.”

“Well, I’m glad you didn’t get on it.”

“You fainted?” the ultrasound technician asks. “Well that’s scary. I’d want to get that checked out too.”

“I’m not too worried about it,” I tell her, swinging my legs up onto the leathery table. “I think it just might be one of those things.”

“Just one of those…” She trails off as she settles at her computer.

The gel is hot when it first touches my neck, but it cools quickly as she moves the sensor over my skin. I am waiting patiently to hear my pumping blood, and for a long time I wonder if maybe she was mistaken. I certainly can’t hear anything. I can’t even see anything because my head is turned to the left and the screen is off to my right.

Suddenly I hear a long squeaking—like the sound of a shopping cart with loose wheels. I resist the urge to ask her, “Is that it? Is that my blood?” After a few seconds the noise stops, and I rationally realize it was just some nurse’s cart with loose wheels outside the room.

Then I really do hear it: my blood forcing its way through valves and small places. It sounds just like a cheetah over the ultrasound computer, yowling repeatedly at me and the technician. High-pitched and catlike, my blood screams each time my heart beats. She moves the sensor, and the cheetah is plunged into deep water, cry muffled beneath the surface. It resurfaces, breathes, and yowls again as it runs through my body.

When the technician begins the left side of my throat, I can see my insides on the screen:a grayscale landscape, the surface of the moon, moving in waves. Long black tunnels stretch to the edge of the screen, and round craters collapse in on themselves and expand again. My throat erupts like a volcano, spurting slivers and columns of red over the computer screen. Little blue lakes appear and disappear around the red. If I swallow, a mass of color hurries down the screen away from the once again screaming cheetah. The redness pulses with the cat cries, and just when I’m really starting to relax, my technician slides back her chair. While I wipe off my neck, she tells me to wait a few minutes.

And then I swear I hear a friend in the room next to me. A familiar voice, one that laughs easily—but it can’t be. I know that voice belongs to a body across the world, in Germany. A voice that barely speaks English anymore.

But, perhaps if I have wild animals guarding the waves of veins and arteries along the moonlike terrain of my throat, then this door could be the entrance to another hospital in Berlin. I must have gotten on the bus in my subconscious—I must be sitting at the station waiting for it to take me home.

Sarah Hulyk Maxwell battles cockroaches and hopes for cool weather in the deep south. Primarily a poet, Sarah is pursuing an MFA at Louisiana State University, and new poems of hers are forthcoming in The Smoking Poet and BlueStem Magazine. Additional nonfiction pieces by Sarah can be found at connotationpress.com: an online artifact and Muse & Stone.


Nonfiction for the restless soul. Published online quarterly.

One comment

  1. Zach

    Now you’ve got me pondering my animal spirit… I think I would be a grapefruit. Make sure you find out where the bus might be going next time.

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