Amanda Guinzburg
Human Parts
Published in
16 min readNov 22, 2017


How to Leave Your Body

Photos courtesy of Amanda Guinzburg

And her face brightened up at the thought that she was now the right size for going through the little door into that lovely garden. First, however, she waited for a few minutes to see if she was going to shrink any further: she felt a little nervous about this; ‘for it might end, you know,’ said Alice to herself, ‘in my going out altogether, like a candle. I wonder what I should be like then?’ And she tried to fancy what the flame of a candle is like after the candle is blown out, for she could not remember ever having seen such a thing.

— Lewis Carroll, Alice In Wonderland.

It’s 2005.

They lose your results and then find them. When the black film is finally pulled from its manilla envelope and pushed against the light screen on the wall you can see it. A rogue fleck of white where all else is shadow. The whiteness is a disc, flushed out of proper alignment with your spine, digging straight into the sciatic nerve, which extends all the way down your leg. Severely herniated. This explains the numbness and tingling, the wrapping burn of muscle pain. You are diagnosed. You are identified.

“What you have causes the worst kind of back pain. It’s amazing you’re even up and around,” a pallid and exhausted-looking young doctor says as you fight your own anatomy to sit up under the low hum of yellow fluorescents.

“I mean I have back problems,he says.But not like this.”

He points back to the shadowy screen.

You feel satisfied, even a little bit impressed with yourself. Everyone can see it now. Your pain is BAD.

To make sure, you get a second opinion and are told the same thing. Yes, it’s clear, right there on the film. Your situation is very bad.

They found it. And now, a few weeks before the surgery, you are given a prescription for Percocet. A fat orange bottle of 60 chalky round pills. Five milligrams each. One to be taken every four to six hours as needed.

You feel an intense, pervasive itchiness at first. You claw at your own skin to relieve it. Soon, though. The pain. The pain you’ve been…