By Jim Farrar (1987)
My wife and I have been married for two years and today is our anniversary. But instead of celebrating this evening we're going to the doctor.
The tests will be done by six thirty or seven, they told me last week, and who knows, you may even feel better after them.
Feeling better after having half a bucket of needles – about a hundred and fifty of them – stuck in my body seems like a rather unrealistic expectation at the moment. For somebody who's deathly afraid of doctors, such as myself, the idea of being a six-foot-tall-human-honest-to-god-living voodoo doll does not thrill me at all. I've been dreading this thing all week.
Oh, I know, it's an irrational fear I have, this fear of doctors. God knows how many times I've been told that. God knows how many times I've told myself. But still, the fears you carry with you since childhood run deep. In the past, I circumvented the problem by staying healthy, but now. . . well, I have to go.
The first attack came last spring. I was walking along a river bank when it happened. My chest tightened up, I couldn't breathe, my legs turned to goo and I felt sure I was going to pass out. It was a frightening feeling, made even more so by the fact that I was alone.
But it soon passed, and I put off going to the doctor, saying it was just "one of those things that happen from time to time."
The attacks started coming on a regular basis, and I started getting frightened. What if there's something wrong with my heart, I thought. It'd be pretty silly to ignore that.
So I summoned all my courage, and with tough thoughts I fearlessly. . . had my wife call and make the appointment.
So here I am in a doctor's office at five o'clock on a Tuesday afternoon. The heat outside is oppressive, over a hundred degrees. I have no energy and the ride across town in a car with no air conditioning has made me sweaty and left me feeling vaguely unclean. My wife sits in the waiting room calmly reading a magazine and smiling at me occasionally through the glass.
To pass the time I look at the medical charts on the wall. I read about ankles and ligaments and why it's important to stay on your blood pressure medicine once you start taking it.
I look at the door and the black plate with white lettering on it saying ALLERGY ROOM. As if they stockpile allergies in here, I think to myself, as I start humming the tune coming over the Musak.
I look at the table in the center of the room. It's covered with tiny bottles with syringes poking out of them, all arranged in neat little rows, according to antigen type and strength of dosage.
"Those all for me?" I ask.
The nurse gives me a big smile and tells me that they are.
I really don't want to go through with this, I'm thinking, but there's no way out now, not without embarrassing myself and looking like a big baby.
The doctor comes in and motions me over to a seat by the table. He smiles at me, but, unlike the nurse's smile it seems more ironic, and yet kinder, like the smile of a man who has to work far too hard and knows it, but likes his job anyway.
"Tell me if you feel any tightness about the chest or dizziness. Or if you're having trouble breathing," he says to me as he methodically inserts, then withdraws, the needles from my right arm.
My arm almost immediately becomes a series of huge welts, running in three parallel rows from my shoulder down to my elbow.
The doctor shakes his head and says "the human body is an amazing thing, the way it's put together. And they try to tell us it's all a result of evolution."
I can't tell whether he's joking or not, so I don't answer. And, who knows, maybe he's right.
An hour later, when the testing is done, the doctor tells me that my immune system is shot to hell.
"Kind of like AIDS," I say with a smirk.
"No," he tells me, "kind of like a very allergic person."
He pats me on the shoulder as he leaves the room, grinning.