We’ll call him H, this doctor I met today. H for hot-shot, maybe—this doctor. I was referred to him. CF said he was the best, and anyway we had a history, H and me. Maybe that’s it—maybe the H is for history. These things are important. You have to have somebody out there in the world with whom you share a connection, a history. So you can understand each other, be there for each other. These things are important.
So it’s quarter to three and I’m sitting in H’s office, on that big patient bench just inside the door. Whenever I move around, whether to lean back on my hands like a sunbather at the beach, or to hunch forward, elbows on my knees, the bench’s paper dressing crinkles. I had the presence of mind to bring some reading material today, for this visit with doctor H—David Sedaris’ book Me Talk Pretty One Day—but there’s not enough time: I’m doomed, in a sense, cos by the time I flip through the pages and find my last spot and slip into the words again, the door’s going to open and in will step doctor H and I’ll have to put it away again. So I’m thinking why bother and stash the book on the bench behind me, where no one else can see. I don’t know what for—all the hiding—just that it seems to be my way, my modus operandi, and I’ve never read anything by David Sedaris before, I don’t know anything about him other than he looks kind of cute and well put together in the little picture they put of authors on the backs of books. So I’m wondering if maybe I should feel embarrassed about reading a book by David Sedaris, worried that I might be caught out in public with it, my bad taste exposed. But mostly I stash the book on the bench behind me cos I like hiding things, and it’s comfortable that at about ten to three, when H breezes into the room with white doctor’s robes and clipboard, I might have the upper-hand here, the tactical advantage—that I’ve got a secret stashed in his examination room, that I know something he doesn’t.
“Acne”, I say, when H asks me what’s the problem. “But I don’t think it’s acne though, really—it’s not healing. I’ve had it for six months and it’s not healing at all.”
H doesn’t look me in the face for most of our visit today. This is us connecting, having a moment. He’s sitting on a little stool with rollers and is hunched over the desk where my patient file is spread, his back to me. I can see the top of his head from up there on the bench with the crinkly paper dressing, see how his curly gray-white hair forms a ring around the perimeter of his head. But for most of our short meeting today, in which I am simply a prescription to be filled, I watch his left hand, the shiny chrome watch fastened around his hairy wrist, and the cerise sur le gâteau, the cherry cherry on top—the wedding band around his third finger, how on fire it is, how it burns with diamonds. And maybe this PDA, this public display of affluence, seems a little in bad taste, maybe it leaves a bad impression, maybe I watch all of that shiny bling and I feel a little worse about myself, embarrassed at my appearance and the fact that my best outfit is a pair of black jeans that don’t fit too well and highwater a little, a white V-neck way past its bleached prime, and a gray hooded sweatshirt. But, hey, I tell myself it’s not H’s fault. He’s the doctor, after all, and doctors are doctors because doctors know best.
“What’s the condition?”
I tell him about my Ulcerative Colitis. My theory is maybe I’m breaking out and not healing because they have me on an immunosuppressant and my body’s just not able enough anymore. In response, H asks if I’m on Prednisone.
“Not anymore. I was after first being diagnosed. I was in rough shape. They kept me on steroids for months.”
“Remember the dose?”
No, I don’t remember doses. Not even current doses. I don’t want to know—I’m way past caring, H. I feel like asking H if he understands what being in a state of way-past-caring feels like, but I don’t I stay quiet and keep my hands laced together in my lap and continue watching him work, his left hand resting there on the counter over my papers, his watch and wedding band and all those incendiary, luminous diamonds.
“Something topical,” H says at last. “That’s what we’ll try first. See if we can’t bypass all the oral stuff and just stick with a topical antibiotic.”
That seems like a kind enough gesture, H not wanting to dish out more pills. I can appreciate that. Though either way—pills or the cream—doesn’t really matter to me anymore; I’m used to my insides being a pharmacy. I’m used to it, doctor H. When I go home and urinate later it’s not only neon yellow but cloudy, swirling with drug-dust. And I’m used to it, doctor H. That’s what life is these days, and I’m used to it.