The office I was looking for was in an old building that for many years I thought was a theater or ballroom. The lobby was full of glassed offices and small businesses. A gorgeous ceiling made from stained glass. I saw a security dude seated at a desk. He sent me to the third floor, not to a doctor’s office, but a plain business office with little in it. An open room with chairs– a oak desk behind which sat a a woman in a white smock: the only hint that this was a medical facility. It was late in the day and I was the last appointment. I filled out the form, paid cash, had my photo taken on a small camera, then met with the doctor. Ten or so years older than I. Warm, patient, kind. Blue shirt, business casual. I went into his sunny office. Clean desk. Book shelf with a dozen books. There was nothing of importance anywhere: either back in the waiting room or here. One could empty the entire office in less than 10 minutes.
Initially, he didn’t speak; just typed quietly into his laptop. I took a breath then just started telling him what brought me here. I didn’t tell him about waking up crying in bed, or how much slower I now walk. I focued on the knee pain and how exhausted I was from it, exhausted from bracing myself for hurt while walking or standing or sitting and just tracking the ache stroking my leg.
He asked if I had a letter from my physician and I gave him the report my doctor wrote after my x-ray. Arthritis, he’d written. This is why you’re in pain, he’d written.
The man gazed at the letter and sighed. Do you have anything else? The man said. On the edge of his desk there was a stack of handouts with a stethoscope on top, like a paper weight.
I didn’t have anything else. The other papers I brought were just receipts from my appointment and perscription for the awfully generic sounding Ibuprophen. I mentioned the vicodin I got, but never took, from my dentist just to beef up my case.
Then he said: I need to see your medical history. Evidence that your doctor has been treating you for different ailments. He said: You could just go on your medical website and print out the page you see regarding your medical history and fax it too us…
After a couple of seconds I took out my phone to look up the site, and immediately found an app.
I’m over 40 & insist on noting this: It took less than 2 minutes to download and open my medical history on my phone. Both a modern miracle, convenient and still creepy how much of my personal info is out there and so easy to get.
I opened the app and touched the tab for medical history. It was empty. Tapped it a second time– still empty.
Looking at it this way: There’s nothing wrong me.
I told the man about insomnia, (getting in bed, shutting off the tv, closing my eyes only to rise again 5 minutes later and turn everything back on and brood) but never mentioned this to my own doctor, whom I barely trust. The last 3 or 4 times I went to my doctor, I was able to google more effective treatments than he provided. In my doctors office, I usually leave feeling like I’ve wasted my time. The last time I swore I would never go back. The app even included my all emails with the doctor. His last email after I asked him for a podiatrist read: I haven’t seen you in a year. Come in the office to talk about your knee.
But there was no record of anything. I’ve been seeing my doctor over 10 years. On paper: there was nothing wrong with me. Arthritis was the gift I got for my birthday, two weeks ago today.
I looked the man in his eye. I was truthful. I did hurt. I am exhausted. I’ve begun noticing all the people on the street with canes and walkers. Its no big deal, you say, everybody has arthritis. Everybody hurts.
After clicking away for a few minutes and us not speaking, the man said: Do you have any questions for me?
It surprised me, emerging out of my mouth, but I asked about treating depression. He told me certain strains elevate mood. We talked about insomnia a bit. He asked if I tried over the counter salves and ointments for my knee and I rattled off what I could. He said how dispensaries have a topical oil salve that’s good for pain. I’d heard same about a week prior. We talked about ebibles versus smoking. I flashed back a decade to my old coworker Tree’s pound cake that after I ignorantly shoved the entire slice into my mouth, left me debilitated for 5 hours. He handed me one of the printouts on his desk, then listened to my heart with the stethoscope. He gave me a fist bump as I left his office. He offered professorially, that when I come back for my renewal next year, I should have some more items on my medical history. The woman at the desk gave me a temporary card I could use today until my official card arrives in the mail. I left. The security dude at the desk downstairs was already gone.
I got what I wanted, but what did I have? I walked up the street, thinking about Jesus and how the universe just gave me a nice present for my birthday. I was walking to a cafe meeting with a new friend which went awesomely well. Once our meeting finished talking, a dude got on stage behind us and began playing Bach on violin. (How old were you when you learned that piece? The host after his set. Nine, the man said.) But after all that, leaving the cafe and heading home, I kept thinking–
Why did I do that? Really?? What is wrong with me– if there’s nothing wrong with me?
I immediately thought about my nephew. How years ago we first bonded over it, him showing me the way since I was so green and clean and ignorant. I thought about me sharing it with my friend even though he didn’t want or really need it. I thought: I’m here because of them. Its not for pain or insomnia, its because I’m lonesome and have no idea what to do with myself. I was there because I wanted to find a way to be okay. I wanted to be okay without family or feeling loved. I wanted to be okay that my nephew and I no longer speak, and I’m no longer certain my friend wants my friendship any longer. He certainly doesn’t need me as much as I needed him. I just wanted to be okay. I’d forgotten what that was.
I’m glad they didn’t ask me for emergency contact. I don’t know what I would have said.