I'M READY TO WALK; I’ll leave the goddamn place. I’m not going to let anybody mess with me. They call you by your first name even if you’re seventy-two years old, and the little person behind the glass is no more than nineteen. Called me by my first name, called me Frank, like I was a child. That’s bullshit. And I tell her about it.
“Have we met?” I say. “ I don’t remember being introduced. Everybody on a first name basis in this office? Doctor’s first name is Gerald, you call him Gerald, Jerry? If you call him Jerry; you can call me Frank.”
I’m still in the waiting room, standing in front of the sliding glass window. First time I’ve seen this doc; first time I've seen any doctor in nine years, shaking a little, looking down at the receptionist who has me as mental by now; but she goes along. “No, no sir. We don’t call him Jerry.”
“That’s right. You call him doctor. Well, then, call me mister. Mr. Clements. Unless the doc is ‘Jerry,’ you call me Mr. Clements.” I’m holding onto the ledge in front of the window, steadying myself.
“Yes, sir. I will, Mr. Clements. And you can come in now, Mr. Clements. Please follow me.”
I walk down the hall behind the receptionist; she leads me into the exam room and shows me the chair.
“The nurse will be right in.” She leaves.
She’ll tell the nurse about me, say something about the old fool who just came in; I know that she will. “Watch out for the 9:30.” I know that she will.
But I don’t give a damn about the nurse, a fat Latina. Let her think whatever she wants to think. She comes into the exam room a few minutes later, comes in and doesn’t even know how to take my blood pressure. Has me at 200 over 95, and I know that’s bullshit because I take my blood pressure at home, like a fool. As if I could do more about my blood pressure than I’m already doing. I’m not taking any goddamn pills either. I walk my neighborhood every day, don’t eat red meat. I’ve cut back on my wine; I’m down to eight ounces a day. I used to drink two good vodkas as a start every night and then get serious with it. But that was before the hangovers got unbearable.
So I’m doing all I can, but I’m not telling the nurse that. She wouldn’t understand anyway. Fat-ass Latina, “Maria” her name tag says. Busy, busy. Messing with the bp cuff, sliding it around, pumping the bulb, checking my pulse.
“Ooooh,” she says when she looks at the reading. “Ooooh.”
“Yes? ‘Ooooh’? What does that mean? ‘Ooooh.’ ”
“Your blood pressure. Too high, too high.”
“Yes, very bad.”
The nurse isn’t supposed to be making any comments about my blood pressure. Isn’t that what the doc is for? All his expensive training? You don’t talk about a patient’s blood pressure after six months of night school.
“Yeah? Well, I’ll talk to the doc. OK, I’ll talk to the doc. But I have to tell you, Maria, if you don’t mind...You didn’t do that right,” I say.
“Didn’t do what right?”
“My blood pressure. It’s wrong. My blood pressure isn’t that high.”
“Oh, yes. Yes it is,” she says.
“Oh, no. No it’s not. Let’s let the doc check it.”
“Yes, sir. The doctor will be right in. And he will check it.” She walks out.
Good, yes. Goodbye. Go have your taco. Go have a donut.
So I sit there.
Oh, yes, the doc will be right in; I’m sure that he will. He’ll be right in. That’s why there’s a stack of magazines to read, a bunch of brochures. “You and Your Prostate”; “You and Your Heart... Liver, Kidneys, Brain.” How about, “You and Death”? I mean isn’t that why people go to doctors, why old people go? It’s why I’m here. My ass is bleeding.
The ceiling is that acoustical tile. The chair I’m sitting in is office green. The lights are fluorescent, and I’m not reading anything. I’ll just sit here and try to get comfortable on my hurting, bleeding ass.
Usually I’d be out for a walk this time of day or at the coffee shop near my apartment staring at the waitress who just got a boob job. Waiting for her to put some dirty dishes in the bin right in front of me at the counter. Where I’m sitting. Where I always sit. So that I can look down her top when she bends over. Which is what she wants, why she got the boob job. The first time I saw her after the ta-ta work she stood in front of me and stuck them out, like she was trying to blind me. Yes, yes. I see. Very nice. I didn’t say that, but that’s what she wanted. God how much money did it take? How many waitress miles did she have to walk to get the boob job?
There are instruments on a tray covered with a white towel. Scalpels probably, syringes. Rubber gloves for prostate exams. The stuff of invasion.
Listen to me talk about sex, thinking about Tiffany and her boobs. I should be reading that brochure, “You and Your Prostate.” Of course her name is Tiffany. I haven’t had an erection in five years. Wouldn’t think of taking Viagra. Erectile dysfunction, my bleeding ass. What does evolution have to say about a flaccid dick on an old man? Good for you, evolution says. We don’t want any of your old man sperm in the gene pool. That's what evolution says.
The ceiling is that acoustical tile. The chair I’m sitting in is office green. The lights are fluorescent and I’m not reading anything. I’ll just sit here and try to get comfortable on my hurting, bleeding ass.
A doctor’s office. That odor, the odor I remember from my grandfather’s office. Started the first hospital in my hometown. That same smell, sixty years later. What was that? Ether? Hell, they don’t use ether anymore. Maybe it's alcohol. I remember that I saw my first naked woman in my grandfather’s office. I was seven years old, waiting for him in his office above Bloomberg’s Department Store on Broad Street, and he was in the exam room, adjacent to where I was sitting. The woman was standing; I guess that she had some kind of drape on, but I could see her breasts and stared. Little seven-year-old Alabama boy. My grandfather saw me, smiled and closed the door.
I need to stop thinking about that, my grandfather, so good to me. I’m not doing well. My ass hurts; I wonder if I’ve bled through my trousers. My boxer shorts look great I’ll tell you. I change them three times a day. What the hell; the doc has seen worse.
There’s a knock on the door. “Sure, come in,” I say.
The door opens and a young man comes in. “Mr. Clements, I’m Gerald Davidson. How are you today?”
I look at him. Smiling at me. Holding out his hand for me to shake. None of that doctor shit. Didn’t say “I’m Doctor Davidson.” Didn’t call me Frank. Maybe this won’t be so bad.
1 February 2008