This is being(-in) a horizonless world.

For a half-hour, my left hand becomes the hand that commands the heavens. Close it, fiercely, against my thigh and my whole body is distilled to this one point, a fist bristling with energy, five invisible skins thick, resonating with the air. Open it, and forces flow in all directions, the visible skin of my left ring finger visibly roiling under the pressure of sudden, unasked-for godhood.

This is a singular intensity that disrupts the boredom of consistent pain, which is not really that expected because I am always expecting something worse, or better. This is better. This is a mending. Where FMS ruptures the connection between body and world, I am suddenly reinserted into the flow of experience via extended embodiment, at one with this behemoth cylinder before I even make contact. The world unfolds between us, refocusing the articulation of self and world, reminding me, I am attached and belonging even in worlds of encounters that can’t sort me out and wish me gone. My fascia, that bag of intelligent connective tissue, imprinted with my traumas, patterned by my habits, must suddenly attend differently, becoming more in relation to the otherness it’s discovering in itself.

When the technician asks me to put my hand in the machine before we begin, like a test of safety and/or resolve, I can see the metal edge bubbling up, flesh displacing, then folded back down as the circle turns, a grinding inside, felt at the fingertip and along the radial nerve of the arm. It feels like resistance, being a brown female body, sans signifiers of subversiveness (jewelry, visible tattoos or scars), but standing here with my hand past the lip of the MRI while its magnetic pulses gnash away, knowing the technician is watching for signs of pain, for any reason to say I can’t undergo this procedure.

I’m great, I say. I’m resilient in the knowledge I look like shit. I look like I need this, bad.

On my back in the machine, I keep my hand as low as possible, on my pelvis or thigh as he instructs. It’s less strong this way. I wave my finger at all and a streak of lightning follows, into my arm, outside of my visible skin. There’s no shielding in an MRI procedure, like there is in a CT scan. Nothing stands between me and a 200-3000 mT field. I am a conduit even as the machine is rendering me. I am a tentacle arm snaking out and around the machine, merging with air. I am body met with air, horizon line erased.

Where does the body end and the world begin? What is body if not permeable world, permeated by the world around it? When the magnet in my finger is visible, flipping and spinning and straining against the thin layer of its container, I am supercharged with energies that originate outside. It’s a reminder, of how fragile the boundaries are, of how the body is joined by only the most tenuous of alliances and we are steeped in the fear that any outside intrusion will kick everything out of orbit.

I’m kicking, against vision, enclosure, the linguistic body dissected in descriptors of weapons or of wounds: burning, stabbing, aching, shooting. This is an intensity that isn’t pain. This is the tungsten flash when a bulb dies, prolonged. This is the turning of a rusty cog that refuses rejection by the biopolitical machine, saying, I am not your normal, I am not contained or safe, I am not disposable. One way or another, you will look at me, limited by your methods of technical rendering, while I lie fertile with lines of flight every time I open my hand.

The question you should be asking is not, Does it hurt? but Does it know? The body is thinking in its edges all the time, sensitive to the world as the world is sensitive to it, waiting for our brains and guts to realize the real seat of intelligence is periphery.

(Stewart, 2007; Dumit, 2004, 2015; Foucault, 1975, 1976; Malabou, 2012; Scarry, 1985; Dolphin-Krute, 2015; Merleau-Ponty, 1945; Bullington, 2009; Bowker & Star, 1999; Siebers, 2004; Massumi, 2002)

 

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