Pharyngula

I’m beautiful—on the inside

i-ccbc028bf567ec6e49f3b515a2c4c149-old_pharyngula.gif

I’m not a particularly attractive person. I’m your typical middle-aged schlub, someone you wouldn’t look at twice on the street. But I have a secret: there’s a part of me that is spectacularly beautiful, and every once in a while I get to take it out and admire it.

Tonight, while I was preparing dinner, I slipped and gouged out a small chunk of my thumb with a knife—it stung for a moment, but it was nothing serious, just large enough and deep enough to bleed copiously. It was gorgeous. It welled in cycles with my pulse, and it was like I was dripping rubies. Brilliant, scarlet rubies polished smooth that would splash and sparkle when they hit the countertop. I love the color. Fresh blood has that brilliant slick red hue to it you just don’t see anywhere else. I watched the pretty fountain for a while, and then I washed it and bound it up; the bandage slowly got more and more vivid. That’s the real me, this colorful, jewel-like thing imbedded in a clumsy, unattractive package.

I know it sounds morbid, but really, I’m harmless. I used to do animal surgeries, and blood would be all over the place, and in those circumstances all I wanted to do was stop it, quickly. And I don’t enjoy seeing other people’s blood at all. In those rare cases where my kids injured themselves and bled heavily, I’ve even felt faint. And no, I never want to injure myself intentionally—I don’t enjoy pain, for one thing—but I can observe myself fairly dispassionately.

I once had a particularly serendipitous opportunity way back when I was a grad student. I had tossed a few dissecting tools in my backpack after a day in the lab, and a scalpel punched through the fabric and just the razor sharp tip was poking out (stupid and sloppy, I know, I’m much more careful now). When I put the pack on, my hand brushed against it. Perfectly, delicately, the tip sliced open the skin of the back of my hand, a razor kiss going precisely deep enough to cut all the way through the dermis. I scarcely felt it. I looked at my hand to see the skin cleanly parted for several inches, and almost no blood at all; I could spread the wound open and look right inside, to see smooth pale pink muscle and paler connective tissue, all bunching and sliding as I moved my thumb. There was a lovely person under there! I put my hand under a dissecting scope and admired the elegant machinery for several minutes before common sense interfered, and I carefully washed it up and taped it all together. It healed very cleanly, and now I have this hair-thin, tiny scar on the back of my hand as a memento.

I’ve never been tempted by the piercing and tattooing and scarification fads, but man, if there were a way to install translucent windows in flesh, I’d consider it…until my wife reached over and thwacked me in the head, that is.

I guess this is a confession: I’m dreadfully vain. Not the kind who looks deeply into mirrors (mirrors make me vaguely uncomfortable, actually, and I avoid them), but the kind who is still convinced that he possesses a stunningly spectacular self, a virtual Adonis hidden away only a few millimeters from where anyone would be able to see it. I have this job where I have to perform in front of audiences fairly regularly—teaching is show business, you know—and one of my little confidence-building rituals before I have to go out on stage is to take a moment and visualize myself: firm tubes of smoothly streaming, rich red blood; cartilages like oiled pearl; a liver with the sheen of polished mahogany; intestines coiled and rippling; plump and furrowed brain carefully swaddled in delicate arachnoid and tough dura. That’s me. And damn, but I’m splendid, and I can strut out there and do my job.

Comments

  1. #1 XX
    April 2, 2008

    I already knew that from your writing. Now if I could just figure out how to be that way myself.

  2. #2 Bruce
    July 7, 2008

    But how many here are both male and geeky enough to have checked out their own sperm under a microscope? They really do swim, in a random sort of way. Its kind of awe-inspiring to see your own.

  3. #3 BeccaTheCyborg
    August 18, 2008

    This is still the most sensual piece of writing I’ve read in ages. I bookmarked it ages ago, and just decided to re-read. I recently spent a stay in the hospital, and got to watch all the imaging and tests I had, and found it fascinating and flattering, and thought of this essay while I was watching my heart via ultrasound.

    Thank you for the stunning writing.

  4. #4 Pteryxx
    November 9, 2008

    I just came across this post. For those who enjoyed it, I also recommend this stunning essay on Surgeonsblog, on the beauty of surgery:

    http://surgeonsblog.blogspot.com/2006/10/taking-trust.html

    He’s got several other sensual essays there.

  5. #5 fATTY MC FATTERSON
    December 21, 2008

    I FUCKING HATE YOU!!!
    I AM LOOKING FOR A GOD DAMN SONG AND I FIND YOUR GAY LITTLE
    MEXICAN EMO SONG INSTEAD I HOPE YOU BURN IN HELL!!
    LOVE YA
    BYE!!!!!

The site is currently under maintenance and will be back shortly. New comments have been disabled during this time, please check back soon.