The doctor’s office is a sardine can of suffering humanity stacked side-by-side in pinched discomfort. I am waiting for the receptionist. Her head is an auburn porcupine slung with a device that curls along her cheek and stops suddenly at her mouth. With practiced courtesy she spills instructions to the soul on the other side of the wire, concludes her conversation and hands me a clipboard, without the welcome of her eyes. There is nowhere to sit so I stand aside, complete the form and wait for a seat.
We who wait here do not talk with one another; we recede into private worlds. We numb ourselves with the analgesic of glossy magazines, and await our turn like automobiles halted by highway construction. The eldest among us twitches when his name is called and rises with help from his white-haired mate. He shuffles down the L-shaped corridor and disappears at the bend. I take his seat, and wait for the mention of my name.
A big-boned nurse emerges from an inner office with a file which she deposits in a black tray. In my imagination I see an earth-woman, milk-filled, spilling over with hugsn’kisses for her children. She commiserates with a lady tucked in a coat of cobalt blue, buttoned to the throat as if protecting from a wind that only she can feel. Like I, she is one among the multitudes who have gathered here to beat back the hound of encroaching mortality.
The screen above her releases bursts of high-definition intensity: black vehicles cruise past the Paris Opera; vibrant women, coiffed and painted to perfection, fill the evening with cascading laughter; sleek, sun-bathed bodies, flaunt displays of health and vigour. Above the splash of cobalt, photonic images swim about in a rectangle of electrons. They are goldfish in a bowl, insouciant denizens of a world where youth, power and pleasure are worshipped; a world where disease and old age are obscenities.
An assistant recalls me from my daydream; she is amiable, she screens me and the doctor declares: take-this-do-that, avoid the obvious and all will be well. The clinic recedes in my rear-view mirror, and at home the evening is soured by the hypnotic violence of television news. Glutted, I turn off this herald of a nervous world and walk upstairs.
I check my e-mail, and review photos made a few days past: a lovely woman in red lipstick looks directly at me from a placard; it is inscribed with a brief conversation between passersby. One stranger says, “Are you really alive?” Scrawled in red reply, the second says, “Yes, but it’s painful. A Facebook bloop announces another post. One, recalling a conversation overheard at a restaurant, catches me like a fish: “brains…” it says, “leaking…out…of…ears.” It is another dialogue in the litany of daily misery. I turn off the computer and go to bed.