"If you get uncomfortable just squeeze this." The gal in the MRI lab handed me some black bulb thing that looked like it belonged on the front of my granddaughter's Schwinn.
I grabbed for it like it was the last black bulb thing on earth. My grasp on the life-saving device didn't last long. The lab gal made me put my hands down beside me, and the black bulb thing drifted around somewhere on the silver table beside my head. I felt around for it frantically, but I couldn't locate it.
Since I knew that bringing my hands up to locate the bulb was out of the question, I decided that my best course of action was to not give the black bulb any more importance than it was due. "It's a precaution. No one ever actually squeezes it," I thought, trying to reassure myself.
As usual, the voices in my head all came out to play.
Un-reasonable said, "If it is only a precaution, why offer it in the first place?"
Quiet little reassurance put in his two cents. "They offer it because they know you are going to run out of oxygen in that little tiny space."
Doom and gloom said, "I wonder how many people have actually died in this silver MRI tube?"
The riot inciter came up with a new angle. "Twenty minutes is a long time not to be able to breathe."
I could feel cold sweat rolling down my back.
The lab gal put a pair of heavy earphones on me.
"Don't worry. We have music. Rap? Country? Heavy Metal? Gospel? Hip Hop?"
"Seventies rock, please." I thought maybe that was a mistake since I couldn't dance, but at least I knew all the words to that era. I might as well go out singing, instead of just humming along.
The table started to slide into the silver MRI machine.
The last thing I saw was the lab gal standing over me with a white washcloth. "This will make everything so much more comfortable for you," she said as she covered up my view and took away my last chance to fill my lungs with air for the next 20 minutes, by laying the white washcloth across my eyes. I think she was tired of looking at the terror in them.
I could still hear the rat-a-tat-a-tat-a-tat over the Eagles but in the interest of being a co-operative patient, I didn't complain or try to find the black bulb thing.
The lab gal said this would only take 20 minutes. I decided to work out in my head how many songs I could hear before the MRI tube was finished with me. OK, the average song lasts three minutes. I divided that by the 20 minutes but it came out uneven so I lost interest.
The clanging was getting worse. I concentrated on the white washcloth. It was hanging over my eyes and my nose and tickling my top lip.
A voice came to me inside the MRI tube. At first I thought it was God but It sounded like the lab gal. "Are you all right, dear? We only have seven more minutes left." She didn't wait for me to tell her that I was pretty sure that I had run out of oxygen and I couldn't find the black bulb thing and my nose itched.
She said what she wanted to say and flipped off the switch.
I was all alone.
I closed my eyes under the white washcloth and listened to Lynard Skynard sing Free Bird.
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