I woke up at ten-thirty. “Goddamnit!” I said out loud. My doctor’s office wasn’t far away, but I’d just slept another nineteen hours. The thing on my neck was now the size of a baseball, regulation size. I skipped the shower after seeing the abscess. I just threw on some clothes and headed towards the doctor.
When I arrived, the waiting room was full. I waited at the reception desk behind two other patients. I was feeling inpatient, but also too sick to cause a fuss.
“I need your chip card,” the nurse said without looking away from her computer screen. I handed her the card. “What can we help you with today?” She still wasn’t looking at me.
“Uh, I don’t think I can wait,” I said.
“We’re going as fast as we can,” the fucking bitch still wasn’t looking at me.
“No, really, look at me – I don’t think I can wait.” With an audible and annoyed sigh, she finally looked up. Her annoyance gave way to horror as her eyes scanned the abscess, red and pulsating, on the side of my neck. She trembled as she reached for the phone.
“Doctor Ratowski, we have an emergency. I’m not sure, it could be. I don’t know. No,” she hung up the phone. “Go through that door,” she pointed down the hallway. When I got to the door, I knocked. In the seven seconds it took for the doctor to say “Come in,” in a thick Russian accent, I thought about all the seniors in the waiting room. Just sitting there, waiting to die while some jerk with a leather jacket on came in and cut ahead of all the wait time. I seriously doubt they sat there thinking, “Oh, she must really be sick!” I wonder if they even noticed, the clock above the doorway wasn’t moving anyway, they were probably just dazed out, old people.
I walked into the tiny office and sat down. The doctor was fairly young. I looked around for a second and noticed that there was absolutely nothing in the room. There was a desk with a single pad of Post-It notes, a telephone, a computer monitor, a printer, two pens, and one of those really big desk calendars, which was completely blank. On the wall was token hotel art of a dew drop, and there were six fat medical books on the bookshelf. Other than that, there was nothing. No trashcan, no coat rack, no personal items of any kind.
“We need to take a look down your throat,” he announced as his eyes fell on the baseball attached to my neck. I stood up, and he grabbed a tongue depressor from his drawer.
“Ahhh…” I said.
“Don’t say ‘ahh’,” the doctor said patiently. He looked down there for a long time as I stared at a tiny water stain on the ceiling.
“Ok. Why didn’t you come to see me sooner?”
“I just got back in the States yesterday. I was in Bangkok on business, and I didn’t want to see a doctor there.”
“How long have you been experiencing symptoms?” He was leaning back in his big leather chair, writing in a leather bound book.
“I don’t know. About four days, I guess.” I was trying to remember Bangkok. I’d been drunk. I had no idea how long I slept or how long it took us to get back to the States. I was still trying to calculate however many days it had been when the doctor said,
“Well, it looks like one serious abscess,” he picked up the phone. “We’re going to have to get you to a hospital right away. It has to be cut open so that you don’t lose your ability to breathe.” There was a hospital next door, I figured I could just wander over. The doctor garbled doctor-speak into the phone and then hung up.
“So I can just head over to the emergency room, or what?” His impersonal office was starting to get to me, and I didn’t like the idea of having surgery.
Besides, I love my job, and even though I’ve been feeling inconsequential lately, I didn’t want to miss two weeks of work.
“You’re going to need to go to the hospital over in Harron. They have the best ear, nose, and throat specialists in the state. Do you have someone to take you, or should I call an ambulance? You need to go right away.”
“It’s alright, I live a few blocks away. I’ll make it there.”
“You need to go right away,” the doctor was looking me right in the eye.
“Yeah. I got it. Thanks.” With that I stood up and left the office. I didn’t even pay attention to the geezers on the way out.
Of course I didn’t rush home, hop in the car, and drive straight to the hospital. I figured they would have forced me into an ambulance if I really had to go “right away”. I meandered home. Then I poured myself a drink. This sort of situation called for Tequila. After three shots, the abscess was the backdraft of the fire in my throat, and I was ready to turn myself in to the hospital.