What Lies Beneath


In every photo there are 2 stories: What is seen and unseen.

We see her hunched frame, a body defeated by the resented burden of chronic pain. We see an image of her angry red thigh on the laptop in the corner, screaming to be acknowledged, validated, interpreted, as the His and Her Powerpoint presentation flashes to its predetermined technological beat.

You cannot see the hours she spent selecting 36 photos from 2 years of images, or that her husband harnessed his photographic talents to create it.

We see signs that she is still her. Her Danish-esque clogs, the floral and funky-bohemian thrift store top on the chair beside her, removed in the desperate hope that a different set of eyes will spot a new clue upon her skin, something, anything to crack wide this medical mystery.

You cannot feel her heart pound to a pandemonious*tm beat. You cannot see her steadfast man on alert, armed and empowered by his iPhone, Coke Zero and unwavering love to add / amend / better articulate any time she might falter in the repetitive descriptions of her pain. When she forgets, he remembers.

They are a team.

You do not see the 20, 30, then 40 dermatologists arriving just outside the door. Grand Rounds. You cannot hear the anticipatory chatter as the swell of physicians grows. You do not see them come into the room 2-by-2, sometimes 8, sometimes 1, to stop and stare and question and muse, then leave. And you do not see their eyes, by turns inquisitive, piteous, blank.

You do not hear when she asks him, “God, what is this LIKE?" And that he responds with a wry smile, “Like a screen test. You’re auditioning for your health.”

Yes, yes. That’s it. He gets it.

They are a team.

You cannot see the post-poking and prodding medical presentation that will go into the wee hours of the night. You cannot read the several-page summary that each Derm receives: Glomerulonephritis at age 13, 2 time-kidney transplant patient, chronic migraines, in recovery from drug and alcohol addiction, and Perivascular Dermatitis manifesting as chronic skin pain. We cannot feel it, but 40 big brains will burn through this material and maybe, maybe shine the light of new perspective her way.

You cannot see, that although she has lived in these cubicles for 34 years, it never surprises her how much she wants to leave.

Or can you?

You see the migraine building behind her eyes, but you do not see her source of her strength, the Protection and Care that has kept her sober through years of pain.

You know he snapped the shot, but you do not see that they will leave together. They will kiss, hold hands, grab some sushi. Then together, they will wait.

He may not be in the picture, but the full story is clear.

They are a team.

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Your writing is so so good! Don’t give up! Someone will figure it out. — Linda MacDonald Armstrong
Crying. All blessings and good things wished for this team. — Astrid Van Wieren
Your words never fall to move me and create a full picture. You so eloquently put into words what I witness so frequently in my job. Know that you inspire, that you are loved and supported! — Diane Gillespie
I can’t feel your pain or your love, but your descriptive prose definitely brings me closer. — Steven Montag
Aaah. That is sweet and sad and wonderful and heartbreaking. — Carolyn Soper