Wild Encounter

bear
The doctor looked at the woman and back to his laptop, unsure of his patient.  I’m pretty sure this isn’t just an American thing, he thought and adjusted his glasses. She wore a large fur hat that covered her neck and the sides of her face. Little round ears stuck out from either side of the hat. Dark eyes peered out from within the fur and as she watched the man.

She looked remarkably like a smallish brown bear, sitting with her legs crossed at the ankles. When she pulled her hands from the pocket in the front of her sweatshirt, he silently noticed the brown, furry mittens.

The smallish bear patient giggled when the nurse walked in and stated in a flat voice, “Well that’s cute.”

“Thank you,” she said, flattered. Large, square teeth were exposed as the woman smiled in a contrast of white against brown.

The nurse continued, “Here something else that’s cute,” she paused for dramatic effect and continued in the same monotone voice.

“Your blood sugar levels. I just checked your meter, and they’ve been out of control. Are you taking your insulin?”

The woman pulled the hat off with one hand and held it in her lap; it looked like the decapitated head of wild animal, lifeless and out of place anywhere but her head.

She had no answer as this was not her world.

Cyber Monday

I’m not a doctor, but I do have a knack for diagnosing myself with rare medical conditions.

It’s a gift, more or less, that runs in the Bones family.   As far as I know, this sixth sense that teeters between hypochondria and medical genius, started way back with Granny Bones.  Many unusual diseases and disorders such as the blue finger syndrome, slappy foot, and rot nose were discovered and termed by my very own mammy and pappy Bones without them ever receiving their due recognition.

As for me, being a less “medically” gifted member of the Bones family, I take plenty of guesses at the cause of a stomach pain or headache but can only confirm the condition after extensive Google research.  WebMD is generally the final authority.  Forget about conferring with a White Coat when the internet is free in most places and available with the right device.  There is no appointment needed to double check with Google on a deep cough to find that it is definitely tuberculosis.  Why sit in a germ filled waiting room for a doc when you can search ‘bleeding from the eyes’ to find out you have Ebola?

I have just had the misfortune of diagnosing myself with a new condition, perhaps the gravest of all of my imagined conditions, brain mush.  There’s no information online to support this disorder, so I hope WebMD looks into this phenomenon and recommends a non-invasive, non-physician involved treatment.  If I had to guess the cause of brain mush, it would certainly be from hours of staring at a small screen looking for deals.

I wonder what I was thinking wasting so much time online before my grey matter started to deteriorate into the consistency of day old oatmeal, and I was left with only the promise of a box of thin t-shirts, a copper pot and a pair of distressed pants to be delivered within the next seven to ten days.

Before Cyber Monday, I was decisive and motivated.

I had big thinks.

Now, only mush.

Small Victories

After taking the zillionth call of the day, I knew that my limit was reached.  A red light flashed on my phone, indicating that a voicemail was waiting with more questions and requests but there was nothing left for me to give.  I simply closed my laptop and headed towards the door for a walk.  The receptionist saw me leave and shouted, “Wait, I’ve got a caller on the other line looking for you.” 

I took a lesson from my clients and proceeded outside, pretending that I never heard her plea.   

At first, I walked hard and fast.  The sun was hot and I wore a long sleeve shirt, which was not great planning on my part.  Beads of sweat started to form on my forehead and I slowed down.  I focused on my breathing, like my husband/stress guru advised this morning.  I felt better about life and could think again.  The stress wasn’t controlling me.

I rounded the corner and headed back towards the building through the parking lot when I was spotted by Ms. E, the mistress of custodial services for the ladies restroom.  She was dressed in an all purple outfit and was holding a bucket of cleaning supplies. 

Ms. E called out, “Baby, why you walking when you have a car?”

I told her that I was having a stressful day and had to get out of the office, thinking this explanation to be justified and straight forward.   

Ms. E nodded her head in a knowing (or pre-Parkinson’s) way, “Baby, there ain’t nothing worth stressing over.  It’s like this, either you have the money for the bills or you don’t.   If you have the money, pay the bills.  If you don’t, then you don’t pay the bills.  It’s simple, see.  Don’t make it harder than it needs to be, Baby.”

Well, yes, that does make sense, I thought and nodded to let her know I was listening.  I yearned to look at my watch, sensing that my absence was soon to be noticed.  The sun beat down on my head and shoulders.  Beads of sweat now started to roll down the sides of my face and neck.

She continued, “See, there’s a difference between thinking and stressing.  I thinks about my bills all the time but I don’t let it get me upset, like you are now.”

Ms. E called me out in a parking-lot-style intervention.  She forced me to realize, while sweating and missing in action from my cube, that there really wasn’t anything to stress over.  If I can take action, do it.  If there’s nothing to do or I don’t have the right tools or abilities, then that’s it.   Nothing more and nothing less but no need for stress.  

I am grateful to this strange cleaning angel in purple for helping me to put this Tuesday into perspective.  

I told her so as I walked away and she yelled after me, “Looks like you were meant to run into me.  Be good, Baby.”

She disappeared behind me as I scurried up the back stairs and slipped back into my cube without a stress in the world.   Then the phone rang and it started all over again.

Sunday night dread

Sunday night, the rumor returns to me, like a punch to the gut.  It lingers on the fore-front of my thoughts and gnaws at my peace of mind.

On Monday, I am due to visit a curmudgeon of an old woman.  She usually stays in her bed with the covers pulled up to her neck and mixes subtle insults for me with complaints of her health.  There is a haughty pride in her suffering that she is only too glad to share with others.

However unpleasant, it is not the curmudgeon that concerns me.  Rather, it is the visitor who is staying indefinitely in her basement.  He’s a wanted man with a bit of a mental health issue, already a felon, holed up in the damp and cool space underneath of the woman’s home. He is quite naturally no longer taking his mood-stabilizing medication. 

The situation gives me cause to wonder how strong the fight or flight instinct might be in a person so clearly desperate to avoid capture and arrest.  Does he ever leave or do friends come to visit?  Who is providing food and water to this person of questionable character when the old woman claims to be bed-ridden and living completely alone?  How many other curmudgeons are also hosting criminals in basements and back bedrooms? 

If I allow my mind the freedom to continue to wander, the questions keep coming and a sense of fear pervades.  Instead, I’m taking control and roping in my imagination.  More than anything, I’m sincerely hoping that it’s another silly rumor and then maybe looking for a new job on my next lunch hour.  

Comforted

Girl child with a tiny head
Wears lovingly plaited braids
Each one tied off in a colorful bead

She reaches out from her wheelchair
With fragile fingers
To hold her mother’s hand

Brown fingers interlock

Together they are strong

Without discretion

The old brown woman
Grows curly white hairs
On the end of her chin
She pretends to see with foggy eyes
Better than she possibly can
Even with the thick glasses
Forgotten on her bedside table
Names and faces now escape her
So familiar and so distant
Her memory is useless
Yet, she laughs
She giggles and chortles
Snickers and snorts
She is free now but can’t remember why

The Office Terrorist

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The woman had a plain face that was easily forgotten.  It was a face that was empty and expressionless, unless the woman was moved by emotion, and it instantly twisted into something dark and sinister.  There was nothing specifically interesting in her looks (average) or clothes (frumpy).  The important and terrible thing about this person lay hidden in her actions, specifically, what she did to each of her co-workers.

I suspected early on that this co-worker was cagey and unpredictable.  However, I couldn’t have known that at least once a week she waited until everyone left the office and crept around the cubicles.  Only a fly on the wall would have seen her rifling through unlocked drawers for treasures, tossing important papers and sticky notes, and readjusting the height and back support of the chairs.  

There was something inside of her driving her to do mean things, like a termite gnawing under a house, she couldn’t stop.   It was taking over her reason and common sense and making her more brazen each day.  Then one day, in the middle of the week, in the middle of winter, she reached an all-time low in her meanness and exploits.  

I had settled into my cubicle for the morning and was fiddling with the gears and levers to re-adjust my chair for the second time of the week. 

From over the wall, a voice yelled out in frustration, “Goddamned chairs.”

“These crappy chairs never hold their place,” I agreed with the voice from over the wall.

On hearing this, the edges of my co-worker’s mouth began to curl upwards into a smile.  She was hidden safely away in her cubicle.  She felt a keen sense of gratification that her efforts from the previous night had not gone unnoticed and thought with glee, Now, I’m ready to start the day.  Uh-oh, she felt a tingling take root in her nose and a pressure started to spread through her face. 

“Achoooooooooooo!” she gave a mighty sneeze.  It was a sneeze so mighty, it shook the walls of the cubicles and rattled the papers on my desk. 

Briefly pausing from the email I was typing, I said, “Sounds like someone’s sick over here,” and continued typing.  

“What’s that?”  a voice asked from behind me.

I turned out and jumped out of my newly adjusted seat with a shout.  The sneezer had silently snuck up on me, into my cubicle, bringing her dripping nose and germs with her.  On closer inspection, her nose was red and swollen, the rims of her eyes were pink, and she was mouth-breathing.

I thought to myself, Why did you come to work sick?  You’re going to get the rest of us….  

And then it happened without further notice or the chance to finish my thought.  She let out another mighty sneeze, in my cubicle, on my face.  It came faster than I could react or escape and with a force of putrid wind straight out of her evil belly filled with drops of flemmy moisture. 

“Whoa, ‘scuze me.  Didn’t see that one coming,” she said, and wiped her nose with the side of her hand.

I took off my glasses to clear the droplets from the lenses and glared at her.

“You Are Disgusting.”  I carefully articulated each word. 

“Don’t get bent out of shape, can I grab one of those Kleenex’s?” she asked and without waiting for an answer, she reached over and grabbed the box. 

“I better hold onto these today,” she said.

Another co-worker foolishly leaned her head out into the hallway, “What happened?” she asked.  She soon became the next victim of another mighty sneeze.

No one was safe, this rotten, germ-filled person even moseyed her way into our supervisor’s office where we all heard another mighty sneeze, and another victim was made. 

Sure enough, several days later everyone on the block was sick, sneezing and coughing, with red noses and pink eyes.

Everyone, that is, but the Office Terrorist.    

Making it work

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A woman sat on the edge of a hard backed chair.  She still wore her uniform from her work as a security guard, tight in all the wrong places.  She struggled to keep her glassy eyes open.

The room was dark and cluttered with boxes and furniture, speakers and shoes.   There was only one window in the room, sealed tight with a piece of plastic and blanket stapled to the wall. 

The off-duty security guard was not alone in the room.  An old woman sat on a couch with an afghan on her lap.  She wore wrinkled pajamas, unchanged from the day and possibly from the week.  The air around the woman smelled rank and greasy. 

“Mom, why did you do this?” the off-duty security guard/daughter asked with as much emotion as she could muster. 

She felt so tired that she didn’t particularly care about the answer.  Monday through Friday, she squeezed into that hateful uniform and walked to the bus station, and rode for an hour to work.  10 hours later, she rode another bus back to her neighborhood and walked home in the dark.  She trudged through rain and snow, past thugs and punks, careful not to trip over the broken sidewalk or fall into a pothole, to take care of her mother.  

“Do what?” the old woman asked innocently. 

“I found all of your pills in the toilet, Mom.  I’m sure you would have gotten away with it if you hadn’t tried to flush the bottles, too.”

The old woman snickered and leaned back against the couch.  “I’m quitting the pills.”

“Not doing it anymore,” the old woman declared and resolutely crossed her arms across her chest.

Ring-a-ling-a-ling, ring-a-ling-a-ling, an electronic song began to play and a screen lit up a digital blue.

“Mom, leave it.  They can wait.”

The old woman frowned at her daughter and sat straight up.  She picked up the small flip-phone, looked at the blue screen with a slight smile, and set it back down next to her leg.  

“I’m better now, so I don’t need the pills anymore,” she said.

 Frustrated and tired, the younger woman threw her hands up. 

“No, Mom, you’re not better.  You’ll never be better.” 

The old woman leaned back against the couch again and glanced at her phone with a secret smile.   

Vindicated

New doc

same problem

real exam and more tests

thoughtful listening 

new discovery

confirmed suspicions

treatment and vindication

at last 

 

 

‘Sup Doc?

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As I waited for the nurse to call my name, a massive man, spilling over the sides of his electric wheelchair, rolled into the office.  A woman yelled numbers and dates into her purple cell phone.  Two old women sitting side by side were held as a captive audience by a little boy who performed a dance while his mother checked in at the registration desk.

We became an impatient dysfunctional family over the next thirty minutes of waiting.  A show about controlling diabetes with diet came on the tv in the corner.  Those of us watching gave a collective eye roll.  How about something good, like Ellen or that show with Jerry Springer’s body-guard turned host?  The old women kept the bad little boy occupied, the fat man and an old black man struck up a conversation about the bus, and I quietly watched, while the woman on the cell phone continued to yell.

When the nurse called my name, I jumped up and scurried through the door without looking back.  It was time for this baby bird to leave the nest/waiting room and separate from my unhealthy, temporary waiting room family. 

I settled into my room to wait for the doctor, checked my Facebook, emails, and read a little from the book stowed away in my purse.  In fact, I had enough time to run through this routine several times before there was a knock at the door.

What, only twenty minutes waiting in the exam room after waiting in the waiting room for thirty minutes?  This is too good to be true, I thought. 

Not to worry, disappointment was soon to return when a baby faced kid in pressed slacks and a long white coat walked through the door.  I craned my neck, looking behind him, searching for the real doctor who should have followed him.  

Nope, empty hallway, just the baby doc with the sweet boy voice to diagnose and cure all of my womanly ailments.    

“Doc,” I explained, willing to give him the same treatment as a grown-up.  “It’s my heart, its been hurting.”  I grabbed my chest to emphasize the pain and relative location.

Baby Doc cocked his head to the side, like a curious dog, not understanding human-talk. 

 “Do you smoke?” he asked me, as through that was the only likely cause to my complicated complaint.

“No Doc, I stopped a few years back,” and thought, when you were in Kindergarten, finishing silently.

“I’ll have to talk to my staff about this,” he said and left without further ado, such as listening to my chest or asking additional questions.

A-ha, I have stumped Baby Doc, I mused, concerned at how easy it was to do.

After another long period of time elapsed, he returned with another timid knock at the door.  Baby Doc grinned with pleasure at his conclusion as he walked into the room.

“Nothing to be concerned about, we think it’s just anxiety.  So cut down on the caffeine and stress, ok? Well if that’s it, I’ll see you in a few months.  Take care,” he said.

Great, I thought, that was simple. 

Baby Doc left and disappeared down the hallway and through a set of double doors.  I imagined him high-fiving other baby doctors as soon as he was out of sight.  My chest started to hurt again and I rubbed my palm over my heart to work out the pain.  After all, it was all in my head.  I gathered my coat and scarf and followed Baby Doc’s path out the door and down the hallway, past the double doors and to the check-out counter.   

I left with more than a troubled heart; I had a full blown case of anxiety, too, according to Baby Doc.  

When I returned to work, I made my co-workers promise to find Baby Doc and avenge my death if my heart explodes between now and when get an appointment with a real doctor, one who’s completed puberty and med school.