I finally decided to see the doctor today, when my terrible sore throat turned into a fever with body aches and a rattling bronchial cough. Since I didn’t already have an appointment, I was told I could be a walk-in patient but I’d have to wait.
After an hour of waiting in a nearly empty waiting room, I was joined by a teenager who’d been stung by a bee. Her father was an asshole. They took the bee-sting girl and left me to wait, coughing my guts out. I asked why the girl got to be seen before me, and that seemed to elevate the hostility from behind the window.
I lay down across some chairs, and tried to stop coughing. Patients arrived and were led behind the door to see their doctors. They were all fat. The women behind the glass window were fat as well, and spoke in proud pidgin English or whatever it’s called when you’re Latina and refuse to use proper grammar.
A father arrived with four kids under the age of ten. I was entranced by how gently he brushed his son’s hair behind an ear stuffed with cotton. The youngest child walked over to me to look at the fish tank. We talked about the stuff in the tank and she called the sponge a “ponge.” I was brokenhearted when her father took her away to see their doctor.
Three hours passed. I decided that the office women were punishing me for not being fat. I wanted to stick my head through the window and scream, “It’s not my fault I’m not fat.”
Meanwhile, I brought a book with me that I’ve meant to read for years: The Afterlife, by Donald Antrim. It turned out to be a memoir about a crazy mother. The writing is amazing. The kind of writing that hits the exact right spot, like sex. It was so intense that I had to keep putting it down to recover from it.
Finally, I pretended to have to use the restroom, and I went behind the door. I sat on a chair in the hall where no one could ignore me, and coughed dramatically.
A doctor I’ve never met before asked me what the problem was. I told her that one problem was the 3 1/2 hour wait. I confided that it was punitive because the office women hated me. She reacted badly to this so I apologized and told her my symptoms.
She gave me some antibiotics, some cough syrup with codeine, and a ridiculous lecture about my attitude. She told me that there was a time to be stoic and a time to be vulnerable. Except she said “vunerable” without the L. That was the last straw. I felt a visceral* repugnance for this doctor, who then went on to ask “What are you doing for yourself?” I am always disgusted by that question and I don’t like to lower myself to answer it. I told her, Well, I write.
She said, “That doesn’t count. I mean, like music.”
*The word for this week is visceral.