I was on death’s door this afternoon. With a lump on my tongue and swelling in my glands and a raging headache, I made an appointment with a doctor.
I couldn’t get in to see my doctor so they sent me to another doctor in my network.
The nurse brought me into a room and started to take me blood pressure and pulse. “I have white coat syndrome,” I whispered.
She stepped back. “Okay, don’t look at me, I won’t look at you. Imagine you are on a beach.”
I tried to do what she asked because I really liked her and she reminded me of Niecy Nash’s character in Getting On.
“What, do you think you’re running a race?” she asked.
“I told you I get nervous. What was my blood pressure?”
“150 over 82.” (High, obviously.)
“If you take it in a few minutes, it will go down.”
“Have you felt depressed, down or hopeless in the last six months?”
“Yes.” As in, hasn’t everyone?
She handed me a questionnaire, to gauge my depression, downness, and hopelessness. I scored ones (occasional depression, not frequent or constant depression.)
“I’m not suicidal or anything, I just don’t feel very good.”
For some reason, good or bad, she moved me into the room across the hall, the only difference, the new room had a window with views of the Beverly Hills flats. If I squinted I could see the building that used to be Loehmann’s.
The doctor came in, skeptical. Since this was our first meeting, I tried to explain that I am a hypochondriac who is deathly afraid of doctors. I hoped this would be our ice breaker. It was not our ice breaker.
He asked me about my symptoms.
I told him about the bump or lump in my throat. I told him that my Dad had oral cancer twice. He looked at it and poked it with a tongue depressor. “This?”
“That’s a taste bud.”
“Oh. Well, my glands have been swollen.”
So he felt my glands.
“Your glands are not swollen.”
“Oh, can you look under my tongue? It feels like there are weird spots.”
“Looks fine. Nothing unusual.”
“I was thinking it might be oral thrush.”
“Oral thrush was white spots, you don’t have oral thrush.”
“Long dormant oral gonorrhea?”
“What do you think is causing my headaches?”
“Has there been anything in your life that has caused you stressed lately?”
“Yes, my job, you see—”
“Well, work could play a factor.”
“You see, Doctor, I am a very sensitive person.”
He nodded. He told me I looked healthy. I asked him if he could still write a doctor’s note since I missed work. He said he would.
“But don’t tell them nothing’s wrong with me.”
“Don’t worry, I’ll just tell them you have oral gonorrhea.”
I thought, he likes me, he really likes me.
He then checked my blood pressure. 120/80. Then he left the room.
Niecy Nurse came back to take my blood since I needed that checked for my blood pressure medicine.
“120/80, so I guess it was you all along,” I bragged.
“You’re really going to say that to me before I stick a needle in your arm?”
We laughed. Old friends laugh.
She drew my blood. I survived.
I asked her my favorite question, “Say you go home today and there is an envelope with $10,000 that you must spend on a vacation and you must leave tomorrow, where would you go?”
She told me that she just returned from where she grew up, in South America, and that she would love to take her three kids back there for another trip.
I asked what country she was from and she told me Guyana and we talked about the massacre that happened there so long ago.
“I’m surprised you remember, no one remembers.”
There is a silence, unacknowledged, but I know we are both thinking of what transpired this weekend.
I also thought how could anyone ever forget the Guyana tragedy? It was probably my first introduction to the evil that exists in the world. Nowadays, we have a Jim Jones or a Sandy Hook or a Columbine or a Virginia Tech or an Orlando, every few months.
Clearly, all this sadness takes an emotional toll, but perhaps there is something physical that happens too. And my connection to this particular atrocity is simply that I’m gay, just like most of the victims. That I am a person who has danced in a gay club, thinking, this is home, this is life. I didn’t know one person that was at Pulse on Saturday night, but the stories that come forward, I can’t shake them. I don’t want to shake them.
So I sit down and write a story about my trip to the doctor where I try to see the funny, because you know, life can be funny. And it’s important to laugh, especially when all you want to do is cry.