Better Breath

Today is thursday.  I made it to the day I marked, but now that I’m here there are no fewer questions than there were before, no more solutions, or even promise thereof.

The place isn’t what I remember.  It’s been years since I was intimately familiar with the building.  Memory degrades, the structure has bulged, grown like Tetsuo at the end of Akira, enmeshing a good deal of arable land into the hospital super structure.  I suppose patients don’t often drive themselves.  It was a fifteen minute walk, twenty with my limp, from the parking area to the oncology clinic.

The nurse I called tried to give me directions, but I don’t know where she thought I was as they ran counter to common sense and I was better off ignoring her and following the nearly ample directional signs.  For a privately owned building the place was well marked, for something the size and population of a small city, the demarcation was a bit sparse.

Arrived twenty minutes early, into the office one minute late.

New doctors, new nurses.  New protocol.  A binder full of information, a trite book about surviving and coping that I’ll probably read through just to be better able to dismiss it.  Take it easy, it says.  Feel special, it admonishes.  Accept your failings and realize your own unique wonder.

Time enough for narcissism and self-pity in the grave.  I say, all men are made of coal, either crumbling to dust, burning out, or hardening into diamond.  I say trite affirmations rot the brain worse than treacle rots the teeth.

Transitional meeting, introductions, social service woman who I’m quite sure I exceed in age by half a decade, Echocardiogram, EKG.  Nurses who remember me from before, from the sick days, the old days.  Walked back across the mile and more of indoor halls, ignoring the suggestion for lunch, making it the long way out and around the far arm of the semi-attached clinic building to discover they’ve since moved the individual labs around.  Back up to floor 2, no stairs without alarms, long waits for slow elevators just to go back up a short floor.  More signs.  I was asked earlier by the nurse if I knew where I was going and I told her yes, and to me it wasn’t a lie.  I’ve played video games, I know how to read a way point well enough, even with only the fragile and changeable overview in my head to check against.

Finally onto the pulmonary lab, dry shave Dalmatian chested and itchy.  Almost an hour early but I was keen to be gone, had no interest in a cafeteria the thought of which still wrings out decades old nausea.  Bag down, folder down, book down, hat, keys, eighteen tons of shit I’d over packed and with which I’d since been overburdened.  Signed my name and an alarm went off.  Slowest speed fire escape ever made.

As we shuffled  on the sidewalk next to the building I found the cool relaxing.  The receptionists, nurses, and techs shivered while I carved a smiley face in a snow bank with my right, functional foot.

Back in, signed the second half of my signature.  Set to wait, was called back as soon as I’d sat.

Breath in, push out, cardboard tube between my teeth.  Hard to focus on breathing when it feels like I’m blowing a toilet paper roll.

Two tests, out I get.

“You don’t even have to check out,” the masked nurse said.

Just as well.  I’ll be back tomorrow.