She asks if it’s raining outside while she takes my blood pressure. I ask if I should take my shoes off before I stand on the scales. Sharp scratch, she says before she slides in the needle. Four vials of blood, all with sticky labels. I take the foil plate into the cubicle, slip on the purple latex gloves. My name is printed on the side of the plastic tube. The body makes the slow transition to data.

On a scale of 1 to 10, how painful are your joints? I try to measure my pain. She presses on my knee and I gurgle, spit out my tongue. My body is unmarked, conceals the grinding of bones. No sign of swelling here, she says. Writes it down. Ghost-bodied, I float somewhere on an interface, alongside the sick. Sleeping whales suspended in the blue. We sing the numbers of our suffering.

  • by Jane Hartshorn