ECG

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ECG

The day is only halfway done, and
The man is hungry and tired and worried.
It took two hours to drive through the snow to get to work today
The beltway – a junkyard littered with cars and ablaze with screaming sirens.
He moves the wand against the child’s skin, trying to capture her heartbeat on the screen.
In this dark, windowless room, there’s no telling if it’s still snowing out there.
God, he thinks, it’s going to take forever to get back home tonight
To an empty apartment that’s too cold and
Yesterday’s congealed takeout, and

Halfway through this appointment,
The little girl is thirsty and tired and bored
The man squeezes warm gel onto her chest and tells her
She might feel some pressure, and then utters not a single word more.
Staring at the screen, he glides and presses the wand around the electrodes on her skin.
The black and white images look like dancing ghosts, she thinks
Then wonders what she’ll order at the café downstairs
Where her mother has promised to buy her a drink
Before the next appointment.

In a few hours they can head back home
For now – the room is dark and quiet, but for the tapping of keys
The man freezes images of a beating heart that exists somehow on the screen
And also inside this child with solemn eyes and black curls falling on her perfect cheek
The mother gazes back and forth from the flickering ghosts on the screen to the child before her
The veil has been torn and just for a moment she peers into the Holy of Holies
And is witness to the sacred mystery that animates each blink, each breath
She should have fallen on her knees in wonder, she thinks to herself
All through the night, on the long journey home.

I spent the first two days of this week taking my daughter from one medical appointment to another for her routine biannual checkups. (She is absolutely fine)! I’ve always been amazed by equipment such as x-rays and ultrasounds that can reveal hidden mysteries inside the human body. My daughter had an ECG for the first time, and it struck me as miraculous to be able to see inside of her beating heart. It seemed absurd that something so ineffably wondrous could be happening in a banal hospital room, and that this miracle could be translated into a series of measurable sine waves.

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