insides out

This video originated as part of a multimedia performance for aether inK’s Exhibit D: curiosity |as| art at Gallery 1412.

A fiction piece that also came out of this project was published by ink&coda in Issue 3.1. (no longer in print)


She thought about her insides spilling out. Mostly while sitting in a chair, at a conference for example. Her insides outside, in her lap. Glazed with mucous. What would those around her say? Excuse me miss, but your gall bladder is showing. Your breastbone is open. You have a bit of lung on your shirt.

She’d been thinking about that surgeon game with the tweezers and the buzzer, only she’d gotten it confused with Don’t Wake Daddy and thought the patient sat up on the table when the buzzer went off. But by the time she sorted out the difference between the two games, she’d already imagined sitting up with her guts spread across her knees. What colors would they be? How would they smell?

She wanted to know her insides. She wanted to feel the lining of her rib cage. She wanted to squeeze her lungs. She wanted to rest her palm against her heart. She wanted to play with her intestines. Would they be warm and slippery? Would they feel familiar? She kept a large fish in a tank and stroked it’s sides, slime and shifting flesh under her fingertip and thought, maybe this is what my stomach lining feels like, slick, smooth and powerful. She stroked raw chicken liver before cooking it, imagining that it was her own liver. She pressed raw steak to her lips. She googled ‘images of surgery’. She watched videos of autopsies. She ordered home dissection kits so she could feel the sponginess of a lung, the stringiness of a tendon.

She’d grown to know her outsides very well. With fingers, with fingernails, with toes, with palms, with brushes, with ink, with powder, with full length mirrors, with hand mirrors, with zippers, with pins, with dresses, with pants, with low necklines, with turtlenecks, with her own eyes, with others’ eyes, with razor blades, with cigarette tips, with rope, with camera lenses. She enjoyed peeling skin after a sunburn.

She liked words that reminded her of her insides: mucous, viscous, phlegm, sticky, gelatinous, goop, mucoid, membrane, slippery, wet, slimy, limpid, moist. She liked when food was very cold or very hot or not well enough chewed and she could feel it move through her body.

She read all of the entries on wikipedia about organs and innards and vivisection. She memorized the bones in her hands and the veins on her legs. She could recite layers of her body in order, imagined them cut open and spread out: epidermis, dermis, hypodermis, superficial fascia, deep fascia, visceral fascia, submucosa, epimysium, perimysium, endomysium, paratenon, epitenon, endotenon, cortical bone, cancellous bone, bone marrow.

Her pillow talk was peculiar.
A What are you thinking? whispered in her ear while she lay listening to heartbeats led to: Would my heart feel like a bird in my hands? Or would it be more like a metronome? How long would it stay warm outside of my chest? How far could I lift it away from my ribs before tearing the ventricles.

They told her that she was sick, she was gross, disturbing, unnatural, weird, a fucking cannibal or something, god, she sounded like a serial killer, she should be a surgeon, no—a mortician, that she needed help, that she had issues, that no, seriously, that isn’t normal.

She invented reasons to visit the ER with symptoms of increasing severity until they gave her MRIs, X-rays, ultrasounds. When she was referred to a psychiatrist she stopped going to the ER and purchased a home ultrasound machine. She was disappointed with the quality. She considered getting pregnant to feel a live thing inside of her, but she thought she would be envious of a baby, knowing it had seen the lining of her uterus.

She read about transparent skin. She read about dermatillomania. She read about organ donations. She read about prolapses. She read about gastroschisis. She read about exomphalos. She read about body integrity identity disorder. She wondered what it would take to convince a doctor to put in a viewing panel for her stomach. Could she get one for her heart? Her lungs? Transparent films of synthetic skin over her muscles.

When her appendix was removed she asked to be sedated but awake. The doctors said no. She asked for her appendix in a jar. The doctors said no. She looked into organ harvesting. She considered finding an unscrupulous surgeon who would harvest her kidney and sell it back to her. She calculated the price she was willing to spend. She made charts of the organs she didn’t need, of how many and in what configurations she could keep them in jars in her bedroom and still hold down a full time job.

At a dinner party, people joked about what way they would choose to die. She said vivisection, that she wanted the last thing she saw to be her muscles sliced away, her organs quivering, pins marking her veins, that she wanted the last thing she heard to be a professorial voice saying “and here we have the right ventricle…”

Nobody at the dinner party wanted to talk to her after that. She imagined herself translucent. She swallowed large ice cubes from her drink, feeling them stick in her throat, catch in her esophagus. She recited selections from dissection manuals under her breath: If the cadaver is skinned properly, the dermis is separated from the hypodermis exposing superficial veins…you will observe small portions of each body tract based on the areas that have been opened on the available cadavers. Each mucous membrane will show evidence of either increased surface area, particle mobility or both. Observe the exposed portions of the digestive tract, respiratory tract, urinary tract and reproductive tract…Observe the fascial planes between muscles. Describe the attachment of tendons. Follow the path of several nerves. What type of tissue allows for this strength?

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