The Proof in Her Gut

Stethoscope
Photo by Hush Naidoo Jade Photography on Unsplash

The woman was fifty-one years old when she swallowed a pen. She told her husband and her doctor, at the time, but they did not believe.

She thought she saw a spot on her tonsils. She wanted a better look, she told them, so she used a plastic, felt-tip pen to hold down her tongue. Somehow she lost her balance, and the pen slipped right down her throat.

Twenty-five years later, the surgeon who finally retrieved the pen from her stomach reported that she had “a blameless medical history, other than well-controlled depression.”

He wrote “hello” with the pen, to prove it still worked, despite stewing in stomach acid for a quarter of a century. Someone took a picture that was posted and reposted around the internet. “Isn’t it amazing!” many people exclaimed.

Yes, I thought, isn’t it amazing that when this seventy-six-year-old woman awoke from anesthesia, she did not scream, “I told you so!”

When it happened, her doctor took an x-ray but did not see what she insisted was there. I imagine the look of concern he exchanged with her husband. I imagine the woman stoic and dignified, raised to be agreeable, to put aside her anger. As if she did not know exactly what slipped inside her own body. As if she did not know what stayed.

I think about that first night back home, after the doctor’s x-ray failed to support her claims. I imagine the woman sleepless beside her husband, the pen and her anger settled deep in her belly. She knew he considered her a liar, delusional, or, at best, confused. It had to be one of these.

How many more nights were there, for them? Did they divorce years ago, or are they married still, apparently happy, and it’s only when you look deep into her old-woman eyes that you see the shadow of deferred rage?

For twenty-five years she was not believed about her own body, her own experience. As if she did not carry the proof in her gut.

Isn’t it amazing that she did not write “Fuck you!” with that pen, once the surgeon had his fun?

Maybe, over those twenty-five years, the woman came to doubt her own story. It did sound preposterous. It was only when the pen was found and photographed that she remembered: She had always known the truth. She should have trusted herself. Isn’t it amazing that she was gracious, or so I imagine?

I wonder if they sent her home with that felt-tip pen. What story might she write with it? Or was it written already, inside her?

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