4 The Clinic
“So, you’ve been feeling scared?”
The doctor clicked his pen and held it over the form. He was a man of average-build, wearing small wire-framed glasses over his long nose, and underneath was a thick mustache that was trimmed, though his five o’clock shadow was showing, and he was balding on top; the bright office lights shone across his bare skin, though the sides were lush with black tufts of hair.
“Uhm, yeah. Really scared, like it’s the end of the world kind of scared.”
Baron swallowed the dry lump in his throat. He couldn’t bring himself to look at the doctor because he was afraid he would be called a liar since there was apparently nothing to be afraid of. It was only him and the good doctor in that bright room, a bright room where everything was encased in the bright, typical lighting of a hospital, the white tile floors heavily polished, reflecting that same bright light, thus everything appeared in a heavenly aura.
“Okay, I see,” the doctor said. “But first I need to ask you some questions before we continue. This checklist needs to be filled. Is that fine with you?”
“Alright, good. Now tell me; does your family have a history of any the following; anemia, arthritis, asthma…” The doctor coughed into his own shirt.
“I don’t think so”
“Alright.” He cleared his throat. “Any blood disorders, breathing problems, any cancers?”
“No. I don’t think so.”
“What about depression, or diabetes?”
“You mean like being sad all the time?”
“Yes, for a period of three months or more?”
Baron stopped to think, because he’d been sad before. Does that mean I had depression? he wondered. When his bird died a few years ago, a small white canary that had the most adorable chirp, he was devastated; did that count as a type of depression? He was sad now, being away from his parents, feeling that they had abandoned him on purpose; did that count, too? As for his mother and father, they rarely showed their sadness around him, especially his father, who was stoic in times like that, so it was impossible to tell. Though, Baron remembered his mother crying on two occasions; when her good neighbor friend, Joan, had passed away from a rare type of blood disease, and when she had broken her own toe while exercising to some workout tape.
“I’m not sure,” he replied.
The doctor, Dr. Fitzgerald (Dr. Nasser was out for a few days), continued to list a few more conditions, to which Baron denied a history of; things like high blood pressure, HIV and AIDS, high cholesterol, and other conditions, the doctor named a whole collection. Almost half of the conditions, Baron did not comprehend, so he stuck to a default “no”. If I don’t know what it is, then I probably don’t have it, right? he thought.
“Are you doing alright so far,” the doctor asked.
“Good. Usually the nurses handle these questionnaires but we’ve been short-staffed these past few days. Forgive me for saying today is a good day, a godsend; almost no patients. Administration accidently allowed the same people the same days off, something about a computer glitch. You know, things are supposed to be easier with this new system, it’s supposed to make logging and scheduling a snap, but it’s been causing a lot of problems lately, some mix ups, it’s a really funny thing…”
The doctor rambled on while Baron sat quietly, unsure of how to respond. He didn’t mind, though; so long as he didn’t have to say a thing, he was content. Dr. Fitzgerald was so adamant on switching back to the older system, saying something along the lines of “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” and he blamed the aforementioned administration for the recent schedule mix-ups, even though he was aware it was the system that malfunctioned. He continued to voice his many thoughts while filling out paperwork, some concerning this and some concerning that; Baron was too absorbed in himself to follow the good doctor.
While thinking of Philadelphia and the people he had left behind, thoughts of his parents and the mystery of their whereabouts suddenly surfaced; his stomach began to churn with the butterflies and his thoughts raced. This uncomfortable feeling, the burning anxiety was beginning to surge, and the effects showed in his worried grimace. Dr. Fitzgerald noticed, and paused, in both his writing and rambling.
“Are you alright?”
Baron thought of something to say, he thought really hard, but his mind went blank, or rather streamed at too fast a pace to decipher. Meanwhile, a child’s cry rang throughout the clinic, slightly muffled by the bright white walls. It could have been Adrien or Harold, one of the toddlers who were getting their vaccine shots. May was with them. The cries happened periodically, for there were other children in the office, waiting to get a shot of some sort.
“Tell me, how are you feeling now?” the doctor asked.
Baron shrugged, holding his stomach. Dr. Fitzgerald watched him for an unspoken moment, the same way Mrs. Chou observed him the day before during their first encounter in the group home’s corridor. He was analyzing, dissecting his behavior.
“My stomach hurts and I’m scared,” Baron whined.
The doctor’s look was empathetic, concerned.
“Okay. Can you lie on the bed please?” he asked. “We’ll take a look at your stomach and see it anything’s the matter.”
Baron walked over to the blue reclining bed, which was covered with a roll of white paper. He climbed up on the metal step and laid back, his torso and head slightly elevated. The bed was cold, colder than the room’s central air temperature. The building’s heating was on, so the temperature was milder than described, but it still felt less than warm. Dr. Fitzgerald cleaned his hands with sanitizer from a pump on his desk, then donned blue latex gloves.
“Alright, let’s take a look.”
He lifted Baron’s thin sweater and pressed the sides of his abdomen with his two fingers.
“Does that hurt,” he asked.
He pressed some more, around parts of his stomach, each time gauging for a reaction, maybe for a pain of sorts, but there was none.
“Okay, can you sit up for me please?”
Baron pulled down his sweater and hunched over at the edge of the bed. Dr. Fitzgerald took his blood pressure, manually, with a stethoscope and hand pump, then checked his temperature with a thin plastic strip. He looked into his ears with a light instrument, and moved on to examine his eyes. Then, he listened to Baron’s heart with his stethoscope; the metal part against his chest was cold. He was told to breathe in and out a few times, the stethoscope moving around his center chest, then around his upper back. As soon as the doctor finished, he hung up his medical instruments, threw away his gloves, sat, and rolled his chair up to Baron.
“So, there seems nothing wrong with you, physically…you said you were feeling scared, right?”
“Well, is there a reason for you to feel this way?”
Baron shook his head, “I don’t know.”
Dr. Fitzgerald paused a moment.
“Is there somebody that might be hurting you?”
The question sparked a shock in Baron. He was well aware of what the doctor was implying; abuse. Baron once knew a kid who experienced physical abuse at the hands of his own mother, who suddenly developed some “mental issues”. This kid would come to school with fresh bruises and other defining marks, and never complained, never spoke of the cause. This went on for a little while; that was, until a teacher interfered and called Child Services. The kid disappeared after that. Some said he moved away to live with other relatives.
“No,” Baron replied.
“Well, can you tell me when you first felt this kind of scared? The feeling that you are feeling right now?”
“Yesterday, when I woke up.”
“Yeah. I woke up and, and I remember that I was seeing stuff.”
Dr. Fitzgerald raised his eyebrow.
“Seeing stuff?” he replied.
“Yeah, I was seeing squiggly lines everywhere, and all the colors were weird. Oh! And I saw some ghosts, this lady’s ghosts!”
“You saw ghosts?”
“Yeah. I was afraid that they were going to kill me.”
“Did they speak to you, did the tell you to do things?”
Baron thought a moment.
“It’s kind of hard to remember, but I don’t think they did.”
“But you are sure you saw these ghosts? Are you certain?”
“Yeah, I think so.”
Dr. Fitzgerald rolled his chair back to his desk, picked up the phone receiver and dialed a short number. “Yes, can you send in a nurse for bloodwork, and bring an extra vaccine. Thank you.”
“What’s wrong with me?” Baron asked.
The doctor turned his chair.
“Baron, have you ever been diagnosed with any mental health issues?”
“Has anyone in your family? Your mother, your father?”
“I don’t think so. What do you think’s wrong with me?”
Dr. Fitzgerald coughed into his fist a couple of times, then pumped a handful of hand sanitizer. “That’s what I’m trying to find out before I refer you.”
“Refer me to what?”
“A psychiatrist. Are you okay with that?”
“I guess so.” Baron began biting his fingernails.
The doctor stood and grabbed some papers. “I’ll be seeing you in a little bit, Baron.”
He closed the door behind him.
A psychiatrist, like a shrink, Baron thought. Does that mean I’m a crazy person, like a lunatic? The thought exacerbated his already worried state, his stomach, and he rocked forward and back. No, I’m not crazy. I’m not. I don’t think I am. But what if I was and I don’t know that I am. No, I’m not, I can’t be, I’m only scared, that’s all. That’s all this is. Scared people aren’t crazy people, they are just scared of stuff. Why won’t this stupid scaredness just go away and leave me alone. I was normal before yesterday, why am I like this today, and yesterday.
The doctor’s door opened and a heavyset woman entered with a nurse’s station on wheels that contained various medical equipment and its most prominent feature, a monitor.
“How are you today, sweetheart?” the nurse asked, as she wrapped a dark fabric belt around his arm. “I’m just going to take your blood pressure, now.”
She took the thin tube with the metal rod on the end, which was connected to the monitor, and capped it with a plastic film. “Now, say ahhh.” Baron opened his mouth and she placed the metal end under his tongue. Within seconds, the monitor beeped and she removed the tube. Meanwhile, the fabric belt on his arm was tightening, like a boa constrictor coiled around its prey, and it tightened up to a point where he could feel the pulse in his own arm, the thumping. Eventually, the belt hissed and released all of its constricting pressure.
“Now it’s time to take a little blood,” said the nurse.
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