Thursday, March 22, 2007

The Inner Man

I've had my picture taken for any number of reasons, sentimental, bureaucratic, crime-related, and medical.

Probably my worst experience being photographed came in October of 03. The photographer had taken some care to see that I was comfortable, but in such cases, comfort is a relative term.

Oh, oh, the photographer said. There's no mistaking this.

The this had the shape, color, and texture of a carnation, a flower that used to be one of my favorites.

Seeing it on the screen was a first for me, a kind of revelation mixed with a stunning awareness. I was looking directly at a malignant growth on my bladder.

So okay, now you know what kind of camera it was and the anatomy of how it was able to photograph my bladder (which, by the way, reminded me of a Portugese Man of War, a variety of jellyfish with stinging tentacles that often invaded the beaches of the Miami Beach of my boyhood.

Today, it was another type of camera, sighting its way through a different orfice. Today, the doctor made no cautionary groans and the worst news he had for me was that I shouldn't expect to drive for a few hours until the mild sedative I'd been given wore off. Lookin' good, the doctor said. And while I'd been able to watch the greater part of his search, I came away with no significant images against which to measure the state of my lower GI tract. The best I could do was relate one quick shot to a plate of seashell pasta dressed with a clam sauce. But while I was there, I did marvel at the occasional network of blood vessels. See you in ten years, the photographer said.

I'm batting five hundred with photos of the inner man.

As a matter of caution, I now see the man who took the first picture and said oh, oh every six months. He is by all accounts a pleasant, gracious man who now has seen visions of my insides I shall never see. I see him outside the office as well, about twice a month, which is not surprising since we both habituate the Peets' coffee shop on upper State Street in Santa Barbara. I have also formed a warm acquaintanceship with the oncologist I was referred to. He took no pictures, but he knows something about me that no picture can show. I said no to chemotherapy, and no, it was not because of the vanity of being fearful of losing my hair. I'm already light in that area. It was no to the thought of curing an illness by having my autoimmune system trampled, a reminder of the mantra from Viet Nam, We had to destroy the village in order to save it.

Today, my Inner Man is doing fine, thank you. I have the pictures to prove it.

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