In my kitchen I am cutting up a chicken.
I left it too late. The chicken is still frozen. Not entirely frozen. I can still cut it. It’s just frozen enough that the cold seeps into my hands, into my joints. Just frozen enough that the chicken has its revenge.
In my imagination, I am considering pain.
Pain experiments are funny. They don’t use real pain, you know. Not real-real pain. To discover what hurts, and what doesn’t, no one cuts you apart like a chicken. To discover what hurts, they pretend some pain at you.
You may be a man. You may be a woman. You may not be a chicken. But you might be afraid. They will be scientists, and they will pretend some pain at you. This will have nothing to do with any pain you might already have, but they like you to be healthy.
The chicken is hard to cut. It is slippery. I am using a knife, but my hands are going numb. I am thinking of changing to scissors.
One of the pretend pains they use is ice water. One of the pretend pains scientists like is to put your hands in ice water, and have you tell them your pain. Put your hands in, they say sometimes. Take them out when you cannot stand it anymore.
I do switch to scissors. The big parts are done, but this chicken is large. It will take a lot of little chops with the scissors to hack out small enough cubes. It will be a clumsy chicken dinner. I waited too long, to take it out. I do that sometimes.
The thing about pain is it’s everywhere. Men have it. Women have it. White people and brown people have pain. Scientists know about this. They have put us all into ice water. They have said, take your hands out, when it is too much.
The thing about frozen chicken is there’s no mess. You really can’t see anything of where you’ve been with a frozen chicken. Maybe a little smear on the cutting board. Maybe not. None of the long horrible trail of blood. None of the horrible tearing sounds of meat separating from bone. Only the sterile sawing of knives gone very quickly dull. Only the hacking of the scissors.
The scientists have found things, in that ice-water pretend pain. Women, they find, hurt less quickly than men. They take their hands away less quickly. People of any color hurt the same. All of this they have found from what people say, what people say for themselves with their hands in the ice water.
My wrists ache. I keep cutting the chicken. I think a little bit of hot water, of getting warm. I think mostly of dinner. It will be a good dinner, even clumsy looking, and I have a lot to do, a lot to catch up.
The thing about pain is, it’s different away from the scientists. When you go to the doctor, it is different. You cannot say, I am one who has trouble with the ice water. I am one who hurts more quickly. You cannot say, I am one who hurts less. You cannot say, look, here is my ice water proof, the proof of my hands, here is my science. When you go to the doctor, the categories shuffle.
The chicken will be done soon. I could stop a moment, I could get gloves, but there is the pile of vegetables. Scissors are slow. I do not stop. You’ve done this, haven’t you? Cut up a frozen chicken? Started late, caught up? Used the wrong thing when the right thing became too dull?
The doctors are a different kind of scientist. Maybe the doctors are not scientists at all. The doctors find that men feel more pain than women. The doctors find that white feels more pain than brown. The doctors find in their own imaginations, where they are maybe somewhere else, cutting up chickens, that some people are to be believed, and some are not. There is proof of this. I would read it to you, but I am cutting up a chicken.
So the brown people go home and their pain is not helped. The women go home and their pain is not helped. Maybe we were all too busy to report it. Maybe we did not have the right tools. Maybe we said scissors, when we should have said knives. Sometimes we die of that. The men go home and their pain is treated. Sometimes it is far too treated. Sometimes they die of this.
My hands are numb and tingling all at once, tingling going straight up my arms. I think of how nice and large this chicken is. Three dinners, easily. Four. The bones will make stock. I hack away with the scissors. I must sharpen the knives.