Sunday, December 21, 2008

Masquerade



When did this all go wrong? The thin waxy paper crackles underneath my rear end, as I shift my weight from one ass cheek to the other. My toes dangle off the end of the table and kick around like they used to when I was a restless little kid. Occasionally, they bump the no-skid tread on the foot stool below creating loud bangs – the volume of which seems extraordinarily amplified by the off-white tile floor and the general hollowness of this place.

I glance up from my book towards the sink across from me, catching a twisted reflection of my face on the stainless steel canisters atop the counter. I wonder if I really do look that terrible. I quickly shift my gaze to the remaining accoutrements on the countertop. There are oddly shaped scissors surrounded by rolls of different makes of white tape. There are red, white and blue packaged gauze pads and giant-sized Q-Tips for who knows what. I wonder how long those items have been there.

I try to refocus my attention to my book. I'm on page 107 in a book I started this morning. I am not one of those super speed readers. Normally, it will take me three, maybe four sittings to reach this point, and yet, here I am. The base of my neck aches from slouching over for so long, therefore I return to examining the examining room.

There are a few failed touches of comfort that they have attempted in the design of this room and no successful ones, unless you're a connoisseur of mid-80s airport hotel lobby design. The "art" on the wall opposite the window is uniformly faded from year upon year of staring down soullessly at their daily visitors. Muted mauve mountain silhouettes traverse from one frame to the next, to the next, on a beige sky forming a trilogy of stylized prints possibly stolen from a low-end furniture store display 25 years ago. They are all framed in with fingerprinted and scratched plexi-glass and a plastic approximation of brass around their edges. The middle frame is coming apart at a corner, and crooked in relation to the others in the series, possibly revealing an angry customer of yore.

Disturbed by this idea of decoration, I slide off the giant strip of cheap, industrial, one-ply, non-sheeted toilet paper protecting the cold vinyl of the examination table (classily clad in mountain matching mauve) from my germs. I limp over to the window, because my legs and feet are numb from sitting far too long. The afternoon sun illuminates the parking lot below like the overhead light of a kitchen. The shadows it creates are tiny and situated almost directly underneath the handful of cars scattered randomly around the immense blacktop parking lot. Within the tight shade of the building I'm standing in, is a row of the semi-trucks holding portable MRI machines, a booming business! I have never figured out how to find this parking lot behind the building. It sure would make life easier if I could park back there, as opposed to circling endlessly through the oblong PATIENT Parkade out front, hoping for the fat-chance of some reverse lights to flash on, like I did this morning. Not that I should ever be concerned about running late. I think I saw my doctor heading out to lunch when they brought me back to this little room that has become my new home.

The best result I can hope for in this scenario is to have one of my doc's flunkies to charge in within moments and take a full 15 seconds to tell me that there are no changes according to the scans, but that I should do it all over again in six months HAVE A NICE DAY.

Can't wait.

Where did I go wrong? How did I end up entangled in this medical web? Why do I feel sick? I felt fine when I arrived this morning, despite the despicable morning traffic. During all of these hours of waiting in different waiting rooms; of enduring three botched attempts at starting an IV in my right arm; of having my bruised veins pumped full of some radioactive elixir that leaves a terrible taste in my mouth and nausea in my gut; of being shoved in a tube that makes jackhammer noises for an hour; I have emerged needing medical attention. Yet, here I sit, alone in a small room that smells of pine sol and recycled air. In a room that wavers uncomfortably between too cold and too warm. Good thing I'm at a doctor's office in a hospital.
Maybe they forgot that they put me in here. Maybe I should dial 9-1-1, or make a break for it.

Unfortunately, this place has become like home to me. It has become a huge part of my social life – like a second family. Most of the women I meet are here. I try and charm the nurses who butcher my arms with needles. I survive on pills, blood tests, scans, and more pills. Why would I want to run from this?

"Hope I never see this place again.
Hope I never need this place again.
The world goes 'round me every day,
As I sit and waste away.
Hope I never see this place again."

- Dina D'Alessandro, 2005

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Jinx Removing




A chilling breeze from the open window made him shiver. He was sitting on the loveseat squinting at the white sky intensifying outside. The window had been left open overnight, clearing the atmosphere of the heat and intensity from the previous night. He scratched at his head and rubbed the creases on his reddened right cheek, while snapping his arm trying to loosen his stiff shoulder. He glanced about the room, grimacing from the heavy must of the stale cigarette smoke rotting amongst the countless beer cans and bottles stacked and strewn about the room. He had no clue what time it was, but the low rumble of the distant freeways helped him decide that it was quite early. The sound was peaceful like the ocean. He had woken because of an intense need to piss, but it was the sour taste in his mouth that kept him up. His teeth felt soft.

He stared at the crooked frame dangling on the wall by the front door. A piece of glass pointing up from the bottom side of the frame like a shark tooth was the only thing holding the photograph inside. They were his friends. She was smiling as she wrapped her arms around his shoulders from behind, posing so that their faces were side by side. When he snapped this picture of them in this forced pose months earlier he had predetermined its title as "Wallet Sample."

He stood up and stretched his arms outwards and arched his back up through his shoulders as if trying to break free from his own skin. After realizing that this wouldn't happen, he grabbed the damp crumpled towel sitting on the counter next to the kitchen sink and kneeled down to soak up the beer puddle sitting next to an overturned bottle. The fresh liquid diffused the red stain already set in the towel. He smeared the remaining wet spot around and picked up the bottle with the towel and carefully placed it into the sink, trying not to make any noise. He didn't want to wake up his friend.

Standing in the room, unsure about his next move, he was driven by the urge to sneak out the door and get home. He looked down at the box knife sitting on the floor amongst the remainder of glass from the picture frame hanging above. He decided that it was not a good time to leave. All he could hope for was an improvement. He had never wished for success as much as he did for his efforts just a few hours earlier. Restless and needing a distraction from his recent memories, he retrieved a lighter lying beneath the coffee table and ignited the brand new Lucky 13 candle on top of the table. Maybe the candle would burn her stench from the apartment. He returned to the loveseat, sat down and rubbed his head, wondering what he could have done to prevent this and wondering what he would have to do next.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

accident prone



sitting in the waiting room again. it's busy today. i am the youngest one here by at least 3 decades. today is to be my 75th abdominal CT scan. i am reading "Golf: for Women" while i drink down some tasty white barium, which has the consistency of paint. the magazine is telling me what women don't like about men on the golf course. riveting.

an old woman a few chairs down from me is telling her husband, who just arrived to the waiting room after parking the car, that "they" will make her drink the drink and how the test will take at least 2 hours and how she hasn't eaten since 7 and all of the other ways she will be mistreated. as she lists these things off, a technician calls her name and helps her off to whatever scan she is scheduled for. turns out she'll only be there for a few minutes. i toss the magazine onto the table and take a sip of Gesso and stare my hollow stare across the room.

i bring my knees up toward my chest and hold them there by grabbing them with my hands. it feels good to stretch. my knees feel hollow. i imagine sticking my fingers through the skin and crumbling my kneecaps to a fine chalky dust. i begin to visualize tearing my legs apart as if they are made of sheet rock.

hearing my name shoots me out of my thoughts. the tech is there to lead me back to the scan. she tells me all about it, though i've been through it so many times with her over the past 4 years. she keeps using my brother's name instead of mine. our medical records are most likely mixed up. maybe now i have children. maybe now he is fat. who knows?

after dressing into the gown (open rear), i think about how i should grab a few of these, so i can just show up for the scans every time ready to go. do away with the hassle of changing clothes each time. i start to think about the entire ordeal. why do i put up with the hassle? why am i here? what if they find more bad news? i wonder if they can see my soul with that machine - see that it's no longer there.