She begins:

How have your spirits been?

Tell me your name. Where we are right now. The day of the week.

Have you noticed any smells that others around you cannot sense?

Such as the smell of charred toast—

or honeysuckle?

Do you feel this?


She touches across my face.

How’s your vision?

Last night, when headlights fanned across your bedroom floor, did you feel clean? Or did the light catch in your curtains and remind you of being watched? Everything the light touches proof that the window is all that keeps you from the outside.

Can you hear this?


The sound is alive and mechanical and whirls like a machine.


Smile, like you’re trying to convince someone of something.

As though you’re trying to produce in me a change– the starting edge of which I won’t notice until I leave this exam room, gone home for the day, and let my car idle in the driveway

a minute too long.

When you slice your finger with a knife,

the blood rarely appears as quickly as you’d expect.

Puff your cheeks, now–


her hands against my face as though to test the strength of an inflated balloon.


Very good.



She pulls out a pen light.

Follow this light with your eyes.


She spells out H E R E T I C with her pen.


My eyes roll around in my head.



put out your hands as if to see if it’s raining. Like you’re the first person at the picnic to feel a drop.

Close your eyes.

Think about the grandfather you never knew. He was a preacher and a liar. Your father sang you to sleep with The Bankrobber by The Clash so you would know what he couldn’t tell you.

Very good.


Liz Irvin

Liz Irvin is a writer and second-year medical student at the University of Massachusetts Chan Medical School. She holds a B.A. in Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies from Barnard College at Columbia University. Her essay “Seasick: Lessons in Human Anatomy from Hyman Bloom’s The Hull (1952)” appeared in Hektoen International. She lives in Worcester, Massachusetts.

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