Musine Kokalari and the Albanian Silence
When we were students at Vincent’s, the tutor never touched feet, her oval red nails checked the yellow request form, then dropped it back in the polished wooden box. A present for someone else and feet were good practice for students anyway. Positioning not difficult – just place the steel plate under the naked feet, centre the cross in the rectangle of ticking light. Only we didn’t like touching feet either – we never knew when opening laces and buckles and zips would release a bomb stink, or some bad surprise like the workman from Ballinamona who only washed the affected foot: God, are ye going to do the both of them? sitting embarrassed with a black foot and a white foot on the cassette. Even the clean ones left moist anxious prints on the metal. Patients were just as relieved as radiographers – down in the underground hum of the Mater Casualty, in the blood-soaked alcoholic shrieking average one hundred patients for one person to X-ray in one night – when feet were X-rayed through socks and desert boots. What are these? the radiologist might point to the metal eyeholes of a boot projected across the phalanges or metatarsals or the shadow of a rubber sole on a film on the following morning, knowing already he was too late the yawning 24-hour radiographer responsible was dreaming at home, the limping patient long gone down Eccles Street or the North Circular Road.