Facts & Arguments is a daily personal piece submitted by readers. Have a story to tell? See our guidelines at tgam.ca/essayguide.
The man was tiny, white and slick like a fake tooth. He stood about an inch high, frozen in mid-stride walking a dog, a greyhound maybe, formed of the same seamless material.
As I bent to examine the scene, I imagined my head appearing like a giant's on the horizon. The man and dog, along with a collection of other colourless pedestrians: a jogger; a businesswoman, a child and its father stood on a strip of spotless boulevard no wider than a length of packing tape.
I found myself captivated with the players in this diorama, though it held little resemblance to the wet and clammy sidewalk just beyond the frosted glass doors, where full-sized people waddled through the heat and noise of the city – a scene to which I would soon return.
The model was part of an exhibit put on by a development company plotting another residential tower to cast shadow over Vancouver's waterfront. It seemed inevitable that the model was more appealing than the reality could ever be. Set on its stage, the pint-size people were blissful, impeccable, faultless as they carelessly lounged in the ice blue of a triangular 10th-floor pool, or looked out over new green space from the elliptical machines of a third-floor gym. On a patio near the 40th floor, a woman sipped a coffee unmoved by swirling winds or spiteful seagulls.
It struck me that each tiny resident was made with just enough form to be recognizable: a familiar symbol, but colourless like a canvas, as though to say "that looks like you there enjoying a stroll under this beautiful building," or "wouldn't your beverage of choice taste better paired with this spectacular view?"
The figures were toy soldiers in a developer's Miniature World; shrunken Alices in a Wonderland ripe with prospective narrative. Their small size was enchanting, inebriating. In a moment, one might picture a future that would seem impossible without their suggestion. I wanted to touch one, perhaps to steal it away in my pocket. I didn't.
Back outside on the damp sidewalk, I looked at my watch and saw I had just enough time to get to my appointment.
In a lab, in a mirrored complex far from water views, I hiked up my T-shirt and unzipped my pants. Under the fluorescent lights, my belly lay naked and pasty like a mushroom yanked from the darkness. It hadn't changed much really, I thought – only a pudgy bit under the bellybutton to hint at the suspected occupant. As far as anyone could tell, I could have spent the week with a couch full of beer to achieve such a form. Who would suspect an aquatic conjuring? I pictured swimming in the cool blue of the model's miniature pool, where it never rains.
The ultrasound technician was practised in the restrained warmth that facilitates efficiency. She bibbed off the area below my underwear band (despite its irrefutable involvement in the situation), and slopped gel on my abdomen in lewd mustard-bottle squirts. My bladder bucked as the ultrasound sensor plowed a snail path across its crown, and I suddenly remembered standing on my parents' waterbed when I was a kid, pulling back the sheets and stomping to watch the bubbles rumble under the rubbery surface.
The monitor was turned away from where I lay, guarding the secret universe under my skin. I studied the technician as she stared into the screen, clicking the mouse like a computer game. She was poker-faced, aloof and all in white like a grim version of the tiny dog-walker.
Perhaps it wasn't a baby after all, but a growing cyst gobbling up my innards, or a creature of a different nature, all tail and tentacles – or, what I most feared, just the beginnings of a person, without the heart to sustain itself.
I stared into the dropped tile ceiling and summoned the view from a 40th-floor patio, softened by the vapours of coffee and the smell off the inlet. I wondered, "Is there something special about seeing a scene produced in miniature that allows for such easy projection?"
When the technician looked at me, her face spread in a smile and she turned the display around. In the grainy blackness was movement: a teeny silvery heart, not frozen in space, but pulsing with persistent conviction. A profile appeared, a nose, a mouth, the space of an eye, the swipe of an arm. It wasn't clear, but it was recognizable, human and familiar though at such a small scale.
There, it was a mass of white, complete and beguiling. But of course it wasn't there – it was closer. Here. Within the walls of my own body, it had materialized in a warm, dark pool.
The technician pushed a key and printed a glossy length of paper. It came out in panels like a comic strip.
"These ones are enlarged, but this one is actual size," she said, tapping on the last frame with an image the size of a thumbprint. I fell quiet as I examined the prospect. So tiny and perfect, an inch of future glowed white on the page.
"You can take that home with you," the technician said.
So I found myself on the sidewalk, grinning, with the images tucked carefully in my pocket as I imagined the view ahead.
Erin Ashenhurst lives in Vancouver.