Transcardial Perfusion

Contributor
Graduate Division

I wonder where you were

While you sat watching your hands work away at their terrible task

While you sat, a passive observer

To the things your world required.

 

It wasn’t easy to get here

You remember the interview

You wanted a career in Chemistry, and this was Neuroscience

“I don’t know if this is the right fit” he had told you

But you convinced him otherwise.

And you were so proud.

 

But then the thing started

And you were doing what you had not known you would have to do

And these rats became a thing more real to you

Than you had ever imagined they could be.

 

Someone who had been there a while took you

She guided you into the surgical room and

told you she was going to show you a procedure.

You would have to follow along and learn

And repeat.

 

You didn’t know what she had in mind

No one had prepared you

As she took her tools and laid them on the table

The table that had holes in it to drain the blood.

 

Then she took a rat

And she put it in a box, full of anesthesia

Sweet and vaguely fruity

 

The thing must have known something was wrong

Judging by the way it struggled to escape

Slower and slower and slower

And slower

Until it wasn’t moving at all.

 

Now it could begin

As she pulled the thing out and laid it flat

A cone now provided anesthetic through its nose

As its soft white fur slowly rose and fell

in chemical slumber

 

“Now watch” she said

As she butchered the thing from neck to navel

Cracking heavily through the ribs as she went,

sending blood pouring out of a heaving chest

that convulsed mechanically

and in vain

 

That was the moment you realized

it wasn’t going to make it.

 

Her hands worked deftly

Demonstrating an expertise you would soon share

As she put a needle in the heart

And loosed a stream of ice-cold water to drain out all the blood

While the bright red eyes lost their color.

 

Then picking up the limp, wet thing in her hands

She removed the head

And cracked through the skull

to pull out the brain, small and pale and yellow.

 

She tossed aside the rest, and

Gloves bloody put the next, tense rat

in the box

“Now you try” she said

And that was only the beginning.

 

Your hands didn’t shake anymore

It had been years

Now you sat watching them as they carried it out

That thing which you had lost the strength to do yourself.

 

You thought about the ones there in the room with you

Twenty today, more tomorrow

Their entry in the Encyclopedia of Life would read as follows:

Born, Pain, Die.

And you raged against the author of that senselessness

The one who you were taught had set all things in motion

And who had said that it was good.

 

You stewed and turned in your rebellion

As if your fury could wash the blood from your hands.

 

It wasn’t fair because it wasn’t wrong

Because it was right to seek the cures here

In something just close enough to yourself to be meaningful

And just different enough to be alright.

Terrible and Justified and Terrible and Justified and Terrible.

 

Your noble cause was treating Alzheimer’s Disease.

You were seeking to evict the demon that crept into men’s minds

Carving out drooling husks

As it stole all their memories.

“It’s okay,” you thought to yourself,

“They can have some of mine.”

 

But you didn’t want to forget, did you

Because at the center of what was happening here was something

Deeply dark and deeply true.

Because if somebody had to do it

Maybe it was better that it hurt them so much

That it cut them so deeply.

 

At least then, when it was all over

you could point to those scars

And convince yourself that it was okay

Because you didn’t make it out whole, either.

 

The anesthesia was safe, mostly

“Careful” he had told you when you started

The one you had convinced to let you do the things you hated

“This stuff won’t hurt you, but it could make you sterile

if you end up inhaling too much.”

He had said it while laughing.

 

No, you couldn’t forget

But it was so much for you to bear,

So much that each time you slipped the cone onto the nose

Of that softly sleeping thing in front of you

You left a little gap.

 

And as that sweet, fruity smell drifted up to your nose

It made you feel a little lighter,

didn’t it?

It made it hurt a little less

Until you didn’t feel anything at all.

 

Then preparing yourself

Each time

You looked at the rat

And thought down to it

The same thing you thought to yourself

“Breathe deep, friend,

It will all be over soon.”

 

And you watched yourself

from some unknown distance

As you did those terrible things.

You were somewhere else.

 

I wonder where you were.

 

I wonder if you’re ever coming back.