Battery by Amanda Marbais

You refuse to go to your doctor for months. You and your partner treat this like most projects, with enthusiasm that can only be dampened by people in authority. Because it’s about the body, you embrace disassociation – treating your guts like a meteor suspended in the rafters of your garage. You speak respectfully, but you hate it. You wait for people to leave, lock your doors, climb the rafters, straddle it, lick it, measure it, sniff it. Get a sense before anyone else can.

You know. You just know you will get annoyed with those who try to relate and those who assume you’re seconds from flying apart. You spend a lot of time on the Internet, more than is healthy, but then realize that part seems normal. The Internet becomes a limb.


Initially, you enjoy the hospital phlebotomist’s crooning, which distracts as he siphons a quart of blood. He’s butchering a ‘70s ballad from a band like Boston, Foreigner, Styx, maybe Air Supply. He’s forcing your name, and it’s a guttural name. It’s Germanic. Yes. Your name. His mouth seems very wet. You touch his arm when you can no longer bare it. He switches to Veronica, which is not your name. There’s a relief it’s no longer about you. When you bob your head, he mirrors it, not allowing you that moment.


Every hospital object is shaped like a Popsicle. They shouldn’t leave you and your partner alone, because you both have a dark sense of humor. It has bonded you. In minutes, you each take turns pretending the exam light is a microphone, a strap-on, an air guitar. Large rolling devices have graphics of human torsos and a sick face surrounded by stink lines. Your cheeks are hot from laughing, but you feel sad. Everything seems like a psychological experiment. Cords are hooked into plates, are soldered to coils, are screwed into pegboards, are wound around lights, are gathered in zip ties, are plugged into nothing. People’s narratives reveal holes. Doctors use gravitas, yet say “if only I had a crystal ball” and you realize science isn’t a panacea, and it’s like the moment you decided maybe God wasn’t real.


When they finally light your lungs, your liver, your spleen, your uterus, your vas deferens, it’s like strobing a party, a snapshot of private dance moves. Your lungs are sized differently. One advances, one retreats, in butterfly kicks. Your tubes split, one points to the ceiling, the other to the floor, like disco. You think of the grade school health chart, a body turned away to cough, split open and pink, everything displayed in place. No mystery. But, you feel certain if they cut you, it would resemble the deer in hunting class, a mess of bubbling guts, that made you turn away and cry, while the rest of your class watched and everyone in your high school, even the parents, said you were sensitive. And, you are, sensitive.


Sometimes you want to run off so no one will bother you. You lay in the bathtub and take joy in scoffing at science, you know, with a large S. You used to love science, because it felt safe, unable to be swayed. Maybe you and your body have made a pact to defy everything that can be measured and quantified, and maybe that’s okay, because it’s something you did together. You hate that you love your body so much. Then, you let your submerged self rise, your fat like tiny islands, and for once you forget about it though it’s in front of you. Being alone is a release. Part of its sweetness is the knowledge that soon enough you’ll need another person.

Amanda Marbais’ fiction has appeared or is forthcoming in a variety of publications including Hobart, Joyland, The Collagist, Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet, and McSweeney’s Internet Tendency. She lives in Chicago, where she is the Managing Editor of Requited Journal.

Flash fiction from Portland Review‘s Spring 2016 issue.