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  • the seventh
    adam blackrock
    11 Jan 2002

    The second doctor to enter the waiting room came in slowly, as if he had all the time in the world, and I had not been waiting for him for thirty minutes. I forced a smile through my anxiety and impatience. Bidding him good morning is slightly more difficult than I anticipated; it catches in my throat, and forces me to swallow and take a breath before I can spit out the worlds: they sound like marbles hitting pavement. I get the impression that his greeting is forces as well, it is curt and brief and the smile disappears as quickly as it came to his face. He sits, and writes on his clipboard for a good two minutes, flipping pages and examining. I sit and sweat, listening to the fine scratching of his pen and the whirl of the ventilation. My sheer concentration on the pen's noise amplifies the sound in my mind until it seems deafening. When he stops his work, drops the pen on the clipboard and lies back the quiet enrages me; I just want him to speak but he simply sits and looks me over.
    "Well?" forcing the smile is so taxing I know he can tell it's a fake. I quit trying, and my smile fades to the glare I had been meant to perform. He sighs and reaches again for the clipboard. I'm too exasperated to put up with it, like a puzzle game I don't understand.
    "No, you put that chart back down and explain my situation. You don't need that damn clipboard to do that, do you?" He blinks at me several times. My anger is almost comical.
    "I suppose I don't, but this is all very new" he leans forward and begins to explain

    The doctor who brought me to the next examination room was beautiful like sculpture. I'm too sick with fear to think about her perfection though: that part of my mind that would yell out at me about her is silenced, closed off and frozen. I'm wearing only a pair of hospital pajama-pants, white, with a drawstring and my silver necklace and ring, no slippers or top.
    Lying back on the bed, I watch her go to the desk and produce a black marker; very permanent, the kind that smells chemical. She stands next to my cot and begins the markings on my chest and head. The first is from the bottom of my left eye to the corner of my mouth, creating what looks like the path of a black teardrop. The second runs from behind my right ear, down across the softest area of my neck, above my Adams apple and to the front of my left shoulder. The pen leaves an ice-cold path as it runs across my skin, and the slight breeze from the AC blows air across the damp paint. She traces each of my ribs next, all the way around to my back, for which I must turn over. Next my spine, and lastly a diagonal across my right thigh, for which I must lift my pant leg.
    She is gentle and careful, and for the first time that day I can breath; however I remain conscience of just how little I feel for the situation physically or mentally. I am completely painless, and completely joyless. No matter her beauty, she is nothing to me.
    She thanks me for my patience with her, and asks me to follow her out: the usual artificial light of the hospital hallway is strangely absent as we leave the room. She walks with energy, and I lag behind, left in my bewilderment at the shadows and the passing of time. She doesn't wait for me, and when she reaches the end of the hallway and pushes the doorway open, out floods the synthetic sickening brightness that makes my skin crawl. The door is halfway closed when I stumble over to push it open again, squinting and distinctly aware that doors are not usually that heavy…

    "Sit down right there, in that seat, if you would." I sit, disgusted with my surroundings, and yearning for the woods, or a field, or the ocean. The sterile, painful atmosphere accentuates the doctor's white coats and masks. There are three of them. I recognize two. I twist, straining my neck to get a better look at the third, but the woman asks me not to move, because they will begin soon. I reach up and clutch the figurine hanging from a silver chain around my neck. Silence but the footsteps of doctors on the clean, unforgiving tile floor. Finally they stop, and I am aware of a high-pitched tone radiating from the room. A click and the lines on my body grow slightly warm (or perhaps they are simply not as frigid as they were a few seconds before). More silence. One set of footsteps approach. I feel unchanged. He comes around in front of me and looks down at my face; I feel like a child sitting in the center of an empty gym. His eyes widen, and a second set of footfalls approach, then a third. They stand around me, and it looks as if they are breathing hard, not out of exertion, but of fear. Finally, the first man, who I spoke to in the checkup room, speaks. His voice is shaky and his mouth sounds dry.
    "You weren't wearing that necklace just now, were you? I mean, you just put it on right now, right? After the exam right? After the click?"
    My ears begin to ring, painfully so, and I stand up from the chair, with my hands on my knees. It's the unknown feeling, the mistake one doctor, or I made. It accelerates my mishap and torture. My stomach churns with the fear-induced pain, a sense that not all is right in the world, that not all is in place. I look up in desperation at the female doctor, but I can't speak, and I can't keep my eyes on her. They dart around the room, completely on their own accord, up and down, left and right. Stumbling to the wall, hoping for a balance, I double over, and catch myself on the wall in just enough time. The fearpain is soon replaced with full out nausea, and I wretch and cough for what seems like hours but must have been minutes, at the end of which I drop to one knee, and roll onto my side, shivering with pain and fear. The black marks burn and freeze like IcyHot. Seconds tick. Mind races. Doctors scramble and argue. Muscle relaxant. Tranquillizer.