More than three hours late, but somehow still on time

The sound of a clock, hung haphazardly on a colorless cold wall, ticks repetitively — tick, tick, tick. Time continues to pass as my appointment scheduled for three hours ago seems like it will never come. I scheduled this appointment three months ago, and here I sit three hours later. The irony bounces around the room to the sound of the clock ticking. Tick. Tick. Tick.

A door squeaks open.

Just my luck, it’s not the doctor. She introduces herself to me as a medical student, but I want to see the doctor. Here she goes asking me why I am here in the clinic today. Did you not read my chart before you came into the room? Time swirls around the clinic room as I wait for the real doctor to speak to me. Tick. Tick. Tick. I am here today because I had a stroke last week and I need to get that situation taken care of. Here she goes again asking questions.

Muscle weakness. Check.

Vision changes. None.

Numbness. Tingling. Yes, and yes.

When will she stop asking me questions? When will she let me see the doctor, the real doctor? Time continues to laugh as fifteen more minutes go by with no answers. She continues asking me questions and tells me she wants to do a “neuro exam.” I don’t know what a cranial nerve is, but I oblige — maybe the doctor will see me soon. Time continues to slow. Tick. She asks another question. Tick. Tick.

Headaches. Yes, duh.

She continues like this for another five minutes. She asks one last question.

How is your mood?

I can feel myself unraveling at the thought of responding to her question. I had no trouble answering her questions about my muscle strength and speech, but my mood. Can I trust her and we have only been talking for twenty minutes. She slides a box of Kleenex toward me in anticipation of a waterfall of emotions. Hesitantly, I respond. I cannot sleep. I have no appetite. I think the last time I ate was a few days ago — I think, maybe, I’m not sure. I feel guilty about not being able to take care of my children; my relationship with my fiancée is suffering. I feel my self withdrawing. I’m not social anymore. I want to be left alone. All of the time. I’ve been smoking more — two packs a day. I used to only smoke half a pack. I can’t tell if I am freaking her out. She looks calm; I continue. I was diagnosed with depression in 2014 and have been uninsured until a month ago. I haven’t had my antidepressants in over five years. I am desperately trying to be happy. Is it bad I can’t remember the last time I was happy? I have no reason to not be happy, right? I continue. I have thought about killing myself. I tried before when I was younger — cutting and pills. What would keep you from trying again she asks. Of course, she asks.

My children. My grandchildren. I start to laugh thinking about my three grandchildren, I think about the years that passed without a glimmer of happiness. Oh, how I forgot what it felt like to genuinely laugh, to enjoy someone’s company. She’s not the doctor yet, but she’s a listener, now. The sound of the clock continues to tick, tick, tick. I have lost track of time. The doctor enters the room. More than three hours late, but somehow still on time.

Tasia Isbell is a medical student.

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