My head feels like an asshole, but I don’t tell the doctor this. He has a moustache and crew cut, and I don’t want him to think I’m a sissy.
“When was your last checkup?” he says.
I sit down on the table in a rectangular examining room. The table is covered with a white sheet of paper. ”Maybe last year,” I say, the paper crinkling. “It was routine checkup. I wasn’t sick.”
“Can you move your hands?” the doctor says.
“Sure can,” I say. I hold my arms up and wiggle my fingers.
“Here,” he says. “Put this on.” He hands me a papery aqua gown.
I take the gown and unfold it. “What’s this?” I say.
“It’s for patients,” he says. “Put it on.”
“What’s it made of?” I say. “I have a latex allergy.”
“Just put it on,” he snaps like a lieutenant and scribbles something into a yellow folder.
“Sorry,” I say. “I’ve never been a patient before.”
“Everyone is a patient,” he says. “Eventually.”
The doctor sticks the folder in his armpit and leaves the room, closing the door behind him. I wait until I hear the bolt click, and then I take off all my clothes. I fold each garment and stack them neatly on the examining table, and then I slip into the ass-less gown.
I climb onto the table and, as I lay down on the table, there’s a knock on the door. It swings open and a nurse enters in blue scrubs. She is a chunky Hispanic chick, holding an orange folder. She walks to the sink in the corner of the room and washes her hands. I watch the flab around her inverted elbows wriggle as she soaps around her wrists.
“Don’t mind me,” she says. She looks over her shoulder and smiles at me. “I’m only here to take your temperature.” She dries her hands with a paper towel and walks towards the table.
“Are you able to move your mouth?” she says.
“I guess,” I say, and I move my jaw for her.
“Good,” she says. “Now open wide.” When I do, she pulls a tongue depressor from her pocket and sticks it into my mouth.
“They’re talking about you on TV,” she says, peering down my throat.
“About what?” I say, my voice slurring against the grain.
“When did you have your tonsils taken out?” she says, and she removes the piece of wood and drops it in a waste bin beneath the table.
“I don’t know,” I say. “I think I was 13.” I pick a splinter from my tongue with my teeth. “Maybe 14.”
“Are you able to walk?” she says.
“I think so,” I say, and I lean forward off the table and begin standing very slowly.
“That’s good. Come over here,” she says, pointing to a scale beside the sink. “I need to weigh you.”
“I feel pretty thin,” I say, moving towards her. I step onto the platform and relax my body. “I’ve been exercising pretty regularly,” I say. The nurse inches a weight back and forth across scale’s beam. “I learned some healthy tips from Lance Armstrong’s book,” I say. “Did you know his wife was in vitro fertilized?”
The nurse giggles for second. “No, I did not,” she says. She balances the weight, replaces it at the end of the beam, and jots a note in her folder. “You can step off now,” she says, and when I do, I feel my hands start to tremble.
“You’re at very normal weight,” she says.
“Is that a good or bad?” I say. “I mean, thank you.”
“You’re welcome,” she says. ”Have a seat on the table. The police are waiting.”
“What are they waiting for?” I say as I take a seat on the table. I look at the nurse but she doesn’t respond. I scooch my butt against the white paper and sticks to my clammy skin then tears.
The nurse walks out of the room and leaves the door ajar. I can hear the beeps and murmurs of strange machines in the hall. An Indian doctor enters, carrying a green folder.
“Can I put my clothes back on?” I ask.
“In a minute,” the doctor says, closing the door. He reaches into his pocket and produces a ballpoint pen, and then he opens his folder, squints and studies his notes. A long gray stethoscope drapes from his neck, the chest piece burnished against his sternum like a piece of precious stone.
He steps towards me and beams a tiny flashlight into my eyes, blinding me. I blink a few times and the doctor places his both hands around my throat. For ten seconds, he massages my throat glands and I stiffen as if he’s in the process of strangling me.
“Can you take a deep breath?” he asks.
“I can,” I said, filling my lungs.
He plugs the buds of the stethoscope into his head and prods the chest piece against my breastplate.
“I hope everything sounds ordinary,” I say.
“I’ve seen a lot worse,” he says.
“Like what?” I say.
“I once had to saw somebody’s leg off,” he says.
“Who was that?” I say.
“Some rock climber,” he says, unplugging his stethoscope. “I think he was from Germany.”
The doctor steps away from me, and I feel my breath lessen and posture sag. He clicks his ballpoint pen a few times and then doodles something in his folder.
“Sit tight,” he says. “I’ll tell the police you’re ready.”
“How many officers are there?” I say.
“Just one,” he says and he closes his folder and leaves the room.
I hang my feet over the table edge and dangle them to and fro as if I am rocking on a porch-swing. Several minutes pass. An air conditioning vent in the ceiling makes a peculiar sound and blows cold air on my legs. The hairs on my shins stick up and my knees begin to ache.
Muffled voices converse on the other side of the door, and when it opens, an African-American doctor enters the room, carrying a red folder. A Caucasian policeman follows him in, holding a pair of handcuffs, his hair styled like Elvis Presley. The policeman tries to take my hand but I pull my arm away. When he tries again, I say, “No,” very loudly. The doctor watches us and writes something in his folder.
“Look sir, you need to cooperate,” the policeman says.
The doctor looks at me and writes something else down.
“Can I get dressed yet?” I say and I gesture towards my pile of clothes. “The other doctor said I could put them. I didn’t catch his name. He had a green folder.”
The policeman looks at the doctor and back at me. The doctor finishes scribbling, and then he closes the folder and holds it against his chest.
“What doctor?” the doctor says.
“I don’t know,” I say. “Some Indian guy with a green folder?”
The policeman looks at the doctor. The doctor looks at me, confused.
“Okay whatever fine,” the policeman says, and he turns to the doctor and mumbles something under his breath. “Can you give him some medicine or something?” he says.
“For what?” the doctor says.
“To calm him down,” the policeman says.
“I suppose,” the doctor says. “I’ll send in a nurse.”
“I’m allergic to some medications,” I say.
“Which medications?” the doctor says. He opens his folder and flips several pages.
“Most of them,” I say.
“Well, we’ll just have to take our chances,” the policeman’s says.
“Shut up,” I say. I lean forward into the policeman’s face. He shoves me against the table and rears his arm back as if to swing.
“Now, now,” the doctor says. He steps between the policeman and me and places a hand on each of our shoulders. “Let’s let the patient rest.”
“I’ll be waiting outside,” the policeman says, jabbing his finger in my direction.
The doctor and the policeman leave and I lay back on the table. There’s an illustrated diagram of the human body on the wall with arrows pointing to different body parts, some of bone and others of soft tissue. I feel up my limbs and abdomen and attempt to match my organs with those in the illustration.
When I hear another knock on the door, I sit up and stretch my arms outward like a cat. The door opens and a tart nurse enters, carrying a metal tray with a small syringe.
“Where is your folder?” I ask.
“My folder?” she says.
“Everyone else has a folder?” I say.
“Oh?” she says. “I have something else instead.”
“What is that?” I say.
“They told me to give you some medicine,” she says. She looks at me smiles her oblique cheeks.
“I don’t want to take it,” I say.
“If you don’t take it, you’ll get in trouble,” she says.
“I’m already in trouble,” I say.
She pulls a pair of rubber gloves from her breast pocket and sighs. “I know you are,” she says. She slips the gloves on and begins swabbing my arm with a wet cotton ball.
“Is this going to hurt?” I say.
She looks at me, holding my arm below the elbow. “It’ll feel like a baby snakebite,” she says. When she reaches for the syringes, I look away. A moment later I feel her slide the needle through my sink, raking it around as if fishing for some precise vessel.
I clench my eyes and make a soft whimpering sound
“There there,” she says, patting me lightly on the hand. “It’s over.”
“That wasn’t so bad,” I say, closing my eyes
“I told you,” she says.
When I open my eyes, I look around the room the walls start to wobble. “I feel a little loopy,” I say, patting my tongue against the roof of my mouth, my voice misconstrued with saliva.
“That’s okay,” the nurse says. “Just relax. I need to take your pulse.” When feel her fingers on my wrist, I begin to choke. I try to control my choking, but it’s too late – I pull her into my lap, the tiles in the ceiling spinning like a cartoon helicopter, and I feel my teeth squeeze hard on something soft.
“What the fuck?” I hear her say, inhaling fast.
“Sorry,” I say, my voice fainting. “I don’t know any better”
“I’m bleeding,” she says.
I feel her rubber gloves slip away from me and slap against the reams of ripped white paper. The syringe falls and shatters on the floor, leaking resinous fluid. I watch it melt a hole through the floor, and through the floor below that, and through the floor below that.