We Will Never Know What’s Inside Our Bodies
I feel like my body is an inside joke and I’m on the outside
Well, shit. You are marooned on the Earth’s crust. A beating heart, which, if you’ve never seen one, actually looks like a fat bloody catfish throwing itself on top of a fishing vessel. Gracelessly exerting itself, dying.
The only things holding you together are some bones you will probably never see/touch/know. Your brain is a solid-state drive. One that you will probably never see either.
I used to go to this guy called the iPhone doctor. I made appointments online. He was quiet. I’d pay $85 for him to replace a liquid-crystal display. I’d drop off a cracked crystal and he would hand me a black rectangle an hour later. I’d put it in my left pocket and feel it on my upper thigh. It was creamy, like an ice cube filled with milk. It was a good feeling.
Once, I stayed to watch him unscrew the metal band on my iPhone and pop off the back. I didn’t expect there to be green parts inside. Or empty space. I was expecting water, I think. Or something. Maybe milk. A pool of milk, incubating the iPhone’s calm little soul.
Instead, there were minerals — zinc, tin, aluminum — extracted from mines in Congo and arranged in tiny geometric shapes. And seams where you could fit a fingernail or the edge of an index card. And dust. A white cylinder of dust living between a lithium-ion battery and a SIM tray.
The iPhone doctor blew on the pile of metal, and two tiny pubes sailed out onto the Formica countertop, resting next to a small screwdriver.
We will never really know what’s inside.
I had surgery recently, on a part of my intestine. Someone cut into my abdomen four times — little cuts, like the ones you make on a microwaveable dinner before you cook it — and removed a piece of pink tubing behind my abs. Afterward, he sewed the slits, to keep everything a secret.
I woke up and wanted to see everything, wanted to rip myself open to see exactly what I was and what I was not; what was inside and what wasn’t. This surgeon knows me better — in some very important ways — than I’ll ever know myself. It’s hard. I feel like my body is an inside joke and I’m on the outside.
We have pieces that were ugly when we were born and will keep getting uglier. Pieces that were beautiful when we were born that we will never see — the lattice of blood on the back of your hand or the bottom of your foot. Parts that, if someone were to unscrew us and pop off our backs, we wouldn’t claim. We wouldn’t recognize them. And they’re not just inside us but they actually keep us alive. The little green and black and bright yellow bits, churning and sloshing and flopping to keep us here, awake, sliding our fingers across liquid crystal displays.
Have you ever even thought about what your brain looks like? Not on a screen in black and white or red/green pixels. I mean what your brain looks like right now, filled with blood and floating — like it always is — right behind your eyes. Fucking crazy.
They tell us we can never really know ourselves — our souls, our hidden thoughts, our dreams — but, more immediately, we will literally never see/touch/really know what’s behind our own skin. Behind our own eyes or inside our hands as we type. All our nooks/crannies/colors. And maybe those two types of ignorance are connected, somehow. Probably. Who knows.
Dear God: if you ever want to, you can open me up. I’m fine with it. I want to see. You can unscrew me and pop off my back, and blow on me so the lint comes off. Lay me all out on the Formica table. Answer a phone call while you do it, and just let me lie there as you do small talk. Then take out each piece, one by one, take a picture of it, or record a video, and send me everything in a .zip file. Then put them all back a little bit cleaner.