Copyright is held by the author.

I’M NEVER late, not even coming out of my mother’s womb. I ooze sweat, my fingertips tingle, and I feel like I have to pee when I even think I’m going to be late. Like now. Damn all those traffic lights.

My doctor’s office is on the second floor. Panting from running up the stairs — I don’t trust elevators — I enter the waiting room at 9:46. That’s one minute late according to the instructions emailed to me three times in the past two weeks. Hopefully, the restroom isn’t in use.

I check in at the desk and am directed to have a seat. On my way, I make a pit stop. Damn. The door’s locked. I take a few slow, deep breaths to calm me. Before I’ve totally settled down, I hear my name called from the door leading to the examination rooms.

I follow the nurse to be weighed (another unsettling necessity) and then to the exam room. A second nurse takes my blood pressure, which is higher than normal, and verifies all my medications. The two leave together, one telling me the doctor will be right in. Sure, he will, I tell myself.

I pull out my phone to find something to read when I hear two knocks on the door and the doctor enters.

I’ve seen the same doctor for 15 years. Based on the date on the diploma hanging on the wall, he’s in his 50s, with the body of a marathoner and voice of a cigar smoker. Streaks of grey have invaded his black hair. The doctor standing in front of me exhibits none of the same traits. She has on light blue pants and a white blouse with the requisite stethoscope draped around her neck. Her unruly, auburn hair matches her flair as she enters the room.

“Hello, Jason,” she says, brushing a shock of hair away from her face. “My name is Dr. Miller. Dr. Franklin is sick. I’m subbing in for him for a few days.” She sits and studies the computer screen while I attempt to speak.

“It says here that you’re having stomach issues, anxiety, and an uneven sex drive.”

I cringe at that last one. I have no trouble speaking to Dr. Franklin — well — frankly, but it doesn’t seem appropriate under the circumstances. “Yes,” I say.

“How long has this been going on?”

“A few of weeks.” She reads off a few more symptoms, and I reply accordingly.

“High, medium or low. How would you rate your level of stress?”

I hesitate answering, as she types some more, probably detailing what a loser I am.

“I would say medium.”

She smiles and continues typing.

“Well.” I swallow. “It may be closer to the high end.”

“I’d agree to that.” She stands, takes the stethoscope from around her neck, and listens to my heart and carotids.

“I’m afraid there isn’t much I can do medicine-wise. You just need to find a way to de-stress when things are going badly.”

I nod like a bobble head doll. She’s right, of course.

“You could think about something else to do. Like closing your eyes and watching ocean waves roll onto a beach. That’s my favourite. Or going to a zoo, or taking me out to dinner.”

That last one got my attention. We held each other’s gaze, until I finally broke the silence. “Isn’t dating a patient against some rule?”

“Yes, but technically, you’re not my patient.”

“Well . . .”

“Marvin’s. Friday night. 7:30.”

I sit stunned, not believing what I just heard.

She opens the door, turns, and says, “And don’t be late.”

I gather myself and exit the room. I look at my watch and see I may be late for my next appointment. A nurse points the way to the exit, and I realize my tension is gone. No sweating. No tingling. No need for the restroom. Maybe this doctor is the medicine I need to conquer my stress.


Image of Jim Harrington

Jim Harrington lives in Huntersville, NC, with his wife and two dogs. His stories have appeared in Short-Story.me, Ariel Chart, CommuterLit, Fewer Thank 500, and others. More of his works can be found at https://jpharrington.blogspot.com.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *