My husband has been bugging me for months to go see this traveling exhibit of skinless bodies plasticized and propped up for the general public’s viewing pleasure. The whole idea is intriguing, yes, but also slightly morbid. I sought alternatives, even bought seasons tickets to the Alliance Theater, but when pressed, I arranged for us and another couple to go see BODIES and then enjoy dinner at Veni Vidi Vici, because nothing says YUM like a veal meatball dripping in marinara after an hour of corpses.
The couple in question is one of my husband’s Jewish work partners and his second wife, a fact she never lets him forget. They are fun, intelligent and older than us, unlike most of our friends, who are still juggling toddlers and will never truly understand The Seventies or acid.
As soon as we greet each other in the lobby, the woman turns to me and says, “This is the one thing I didn’t want to do.” I remind her that I had asked ahead of time and she had said that they were up for anything. She giggles nervously, then tells me that all of her brothers and sisters are doctors and when they tell her about their cases, she gets nauseated. Uh oh.
The Civic Center employee who looks like a retiree who took the job just to have something to do, welcomes us to the BODIES expedition.. I wonder if she’s going to give us a tour in an SUV. She tells us there are no bathrooms and the tour is an hour and a half long. I suddenly have to pee. I think I have an anxious bladder, or an inability to tell the future, as in will I have to pee in an hour, oh mighty Ouiji? I got the same feeling that I get when they close the haunted house door behind me and say, “There is no emergency exit. No way out. Enjoy your visit.” Then they shut off all the lights and cackle. That really happened once, in Pennsylvania on Halloween at the Bloody Mary house with The Drunken Girl.
The first few rooms we take slow, listening to the audio tour so we don’t have to get too close to the bodies or the other people. The plasticized, or plasmercized, whatever they call it– corpses smell like cheap rubber toys from Taiwan. I pretend to listen to the audio tour on my big black phone thing, but am really eavesdropping on the other visitors. There are doctors who look like this is the first time they’ve ever seen the inside of a human body- which worries me- and medical students, on whom you can almost see the lightbulb hovering overhead. Little kids look bored except when they see the shriveled penis and testicles on the guy doing the jump shot, then they laugh and point and run away. Two hippie looking broads almost knock over one specimen when they lean in real close to point out the junction of some weird muscle/tendon/ligament to another. My husband finds it necessary to point out all his injuries on each body. “See, that’s the bone I broke in my foot. That’s the part of my spine that hurts. That’s where my hip does that weird thing.”
I left him in the third room and barreled ahead. One room was all funky black lights and barium injected spaghetti and thread looking stuff that I know is not inside me. If it is, I sure hope it’s not all blue and red like this. Though that would make medicine easier to teach. “Connect the red wire to the blue, now cut the yellow and remove the purple appendix. Very good.” I
I found out that there is something in my body called a jejeunum, which sounds an awful lot like a board game with dice and letter tiles and glass monkeys, where when you win you have to shout, “Jejeunum!”
The room with the sick lungs and cancerous organs had a donation box for smokers to give up their cigarettes. If more people could see what they are doing to their insides, no one would ever smoke or drink. My husband dragged me back to this room to show me that he thought his father’s insides must have looked like this for year and years, that his cancer had not been as sudden as we were led to believe. I made a bet that the cigarettes are pilfered from the acrylic box every night by the retiree ushers or the janitors.
I liked learning that the male brain weighs 2 pounds, the female brain 2.5 pounds, enjoyed seeing the tiniest bones in the ear, but giggled the most in the male and female room when I heard the little voice on my audio tour tell me that semen is fructose based, and imagined a little sperm-egg vaginal battle when hearing of the acid- alkaline environmental issue. “More alkaline, this chick’s been eating tomatoes!”I was most awed by the fetuses in the jars, kind of like the jars at the carnival freak show, but much much more serious and certainly far from the Midway. The length of intestines, the time involed in digestion and the evil looking terratoma creeped me out the worst, so that by the time we left I wasn’t sure I ever wanted to eat or breathe again, for fear I’d do one of the two wrong and end up plasticized and skinned for some sick fuck’s viewing pleasure.
A few stiff drinks solve my dilemma. Add a bottle of Super Tuscan and a Barolo, some lively conversation and I am killing my cells softly, to the point that when the bill comes and the waiter screws up our payments, we walk thinking we are 150 bucks in the black… until he follows us out the door and calls the boys back in.
The second wife and I skulk around outside looking for all the world as innocent and drunk as we were. She puts her arm around me and says, “Sometimes you bite the bear and sometimes he bites you.”
And sometimes you die and someone dips your corpse in polymer and crates you all over the world so people can point at your shriveled dead penis, your obese ass, or your perky dead tits and learn a little bit more about what makes them tick.