By: Matthew Schwadron
Jane Kirkpatrick sat in the waiting room after work. Its other occupants were a man with dark grey hair and large glasses, and a mother, with her young children, who were a couple of years apart and were both probably in school, though the younger one might not have been – how old did school-age children look? She had a book, one of many worn seven-dollar sci-fi paperbacks from home, unfolded on her lap, but she was not reading it. She was trying to read it, but whenever her eyes moved down to the page, the children screamed or ran about, or the mother chided them for doing just that, or the man loudly coughed or cleared his throat. It was enough, whatever it was, to pull her eyes from the book. The room did not want Jane Kirkpatrick reading her book.
The scrubs didn’t want her reading either. “Jane?” She looked up from her book again, then smiled, adjusted her slim glasses, and stood up. She put her book in her purse. “Follow me please.” She did, and was brought to the exam room. The nurse took her height, weight, pulse, blood pressure, tested her reflexes, and listened to her heart and lungs. Jane opened her eyes when directed, said “ah” when she had to, kicked her knee when tapped with the reflex hammer, and shivered when the stethoscope touched her bare skin. By the time the nurse had finished, Jane’s shoes, jacket, and shirt were on the floor. Any man would be quite happy to see her in that state of undress – slim waist, smooth skin (save for a chicken pox scar next to her navel), and slender legs. The only three men who had seen her like that were David Walker (from high school; freshman, wrong locker room), Simon Park (from college; fellow business major, sweetheart), and Cole Lyons (in New York on her business trip; the arrogant type, irresistible after three drinks).
“The doctor will be with you in just a minute.” The nurse left Jane alone. She pulled her shirt back on quickly, then opened her book again and read a few pages before a knock came at the door. Dr. Ellen Olsen came in and shook Jane’s hand.
“Good afternoon, Jane,” she said. Jane thought she had heard Dr. Olsen’s voice on a telephone customer service menu at some point in her life. “You’re here for a routine physical today?” Jane nodded. “And you’re still on the Migranan, when needed?” Jane nodded again. “All right then. Anything I should know about? Any problems that you’re having?”
My career’s going nowhere. I feel like my boss doesn’t respect me.
I think Mike from two cubicles down is in love with me. I don’t feel the same way about him.
I think I don’t feel the same way about him. Should I?
I haven’t been on a date in two years. That can’t be normal. I thought I was making myself available. Am I making myself available at the wrong places? The wrong times?
Should I ask Mike out anyway?
Shouldn’t he ask me out?
I want to look better. More people would approach me if I looked better.
Am I too insecure? Is this healthy? Is there something I can take for that?
“Um. No, I don’t think so.” She smiled and shook her head.
“You’re perfectly fine, then.”
“Thanks, doctor. I’ll see you in another year.” She shook Dr. Olsen’s hand again.
“I wouldn’t recommend it. A yearly check-up’s not going to catch much in you.”
“I like to be careful.”
“If that’s what you want. It’s your body, after all.” Dr. Olsen smiled politely and left; Jane got dressed, grabbed her book, and paid her co-pay.
Did I just pay ten dollars to sit in two rooms, read three pages of my book, and be told I’m perfectly fine? Just take my money and say “you’re healthy.” It would save me the time and hassle.
Oh god, should I see a therapist? Deep breath. Rather – should I spend an hour every week lying on a couch, listing the ways I’m not all right, and paying more money for it?
Jane got in her car and drove home. She kept turning Dr. Olsen’s words over and over in her head: “You’re perfectly fine,” she said. “You’re perfectly fine.”