I went to “breakfast” wearing my scrubs, hair completely dry already. I kept touching it like I forgot what I did. I wasn’t hungry but they placed a giant tray in front of me so I moved the grits around with a fork.
“You’re new?” a woman asked me.
She yelled out into the hallway like it was only the two of us in there.
“Is Morris doing consults today?”
“Yes,” another woman walked in the room. White. Overweight. “He will be starting about 9:30.”
The black woman who had first asked me if I was new eyed my bracelet. Still red.
“Until Dr. Morris gets here, you gotta hang out where I can see you.”
I moved some grits around with my spoon.
“And you gotta eat,” she tossed over her shoulder.
The clock read 7:45. What would I do until 11:30? I examined my hard boiled egg, my carton of milk, my dietary restrictions (I’ll choke) being completely ignored again. What shall I do with all this tiiiime? I sat and stared. There was a couple syrupy peaches I ate. I drank the water. I noticed nothing and sat alone facing a wall. Every once in a while, I noticed the male attendant out of the corner of my eye checking me out. It wasn’t just the red bracelet. It was everything.
At 8:15, Shaina came back over. I know her name because she said I’m Shaina and stared at me.
“You’re not hungry?”
Shaina kind of lifted her eyebrows and paused.
“You may have a hard time in here.”
Maybe it’s the doe eyes or the white privilege or the red bracelet or the fact that there was still some faint permanent marker on the back of my shaved head; some child’s scrawl of desperation, a love not that made the applesauce keep appearing but when I blinked she had returned with it.
“I’ll see what I can do about lunch,” she set it down. “And don’t go anywhere,” she added as she took the rest of my tray leaving only the half drank apple juice box.
Being delivered in a tiny medicine cup, I drank the water in one gulp. I slurped the juice box in two sips. Liquids didn’t give me as much pause. No mistake day. Shaina bussed the tables which gave me something to watch for the next twenty minutes. No one talked that morning and I immediately took the blame. I felt like I was the cause of some rift between the two staff: male and female and that they weren’t saying anything because I was in the room. The news was on in the background. A forecast of doom; something about Israel, something about Sudan, something about Trump. An endless propaganda trough that I couldn’t turn off and I wanted to politely ask Shaina if she though it was better to have nothing but then maybe she was the one who wanted it.
“Excuse me,” I meekly began.
With women it was different. It’s about acqueiscence.
“Do you think you can turn off the TV or change the channel?”
“Yeah,” she reached into her pocket for the remote. “This is garbage anyway.”
No mistake day.
By 9:45, I was deep in contemplation. No mistake days put a lot of external pressure on me to perform correctly. When Dr. Morris called me in, and he hadn’t arrived yet, I had been watching the door, I would have to choose one path and stick to it. One story, one story told in linear order would have to flow effortlessly from my mouth. I lean towards desultory. It’s not that I don’t want passion, it’s that I am completely apathetic to any consequence or windfall that hits me. I once told a girlfriend of mine that I was worried people didn’t like me sometimes, and she responded by saying, really? I could never tell if you even liked me. your apathy is chilling. Don’t start there.
This is the problem with magical thinking. One of the resident doctors appeared out of nowhere in the doorway of the cafeteria. I had been sitting here for almost an hour quietly thinking and trying not to mumble. The attendant had been on his phone most of the time and no one had bothered me. Was I muttering?
“Dr. Morris is on his way and wants me to start the interview,” the man approached me slightly. “My name is Aarav.”
He stuck his hand out and I reached but realized I had the juice box straw still clasped in my palm.
“Excuse me,” I looked at my hands. “I’d like to wash my hands first.”
“Of course,” and he gestured to the doorway.
I said nothing as he led me down the hall to the bathroom. I am always careful about what I say even though I will go into long tangents at a time. I choose each word deliberately. I choose each story carefully. I pick where I go with vocabulary and inflection even if I wander through life carelessly.
“You’re perfunctory,” a gentleman once told me.
Do not start there. Indifference is a sociopath. Start with feeling. Aarav waited outside of my room while I washed my hands. Taking my time, I scrubbed in between my fingers today, longer than usual. It felt good to have the water pour over them like that. Sensation. A returning hunger for touch. Apathy. I’m cool to the touch. No, she said really? I never thought you cared. Your complete indifference to everyone is so strong sometimes it hurts. That’s what my friend said. Sometimes it hurts.