I got out of my car and started across the parking lot, making my way towards the hospital entrance. I had an appointment with my psychiatrist.
I saw a large woman walking in front of me, and I glanced at my reflection in the shiny black paint of an SUV beside me. I’d once been as large as that woman. I still wasn’t thin, but I prided myself on having lost as much weight as I had. And, though I was slightly ashamed to admit it (even if it was only to myself), I was proud that I looked better than the woman who was walking in front of me.
I went into the hospital and boarded the elevator, riding up to the third floor. I checked in with the secretary at Dr. Moreno’s office, offering my new insurance card. I smiled at the secretary. I’d always liked her.
The small waiting area was full, so I went out to wait in the corridor. After a short while, the people in the waiting area left, and I went to sit down. I turned on my Kindle to read, only to find that the battery was dead. Damn. I’d thought I’d charged it.
I shut off the Kindle and sighed, folding my hands in my lap. I’d always been good at sitting silently. I didn’t really even get bored. My mind turned in slow circles, perhaps pondering the events of recent days, or even incidents ten years passed.
A little more than twenty minutes went by in this way, and then I heard Dr. Moreno’s voice – tinged with a strong Latin accent – calling out my initials. I rose from my seat and went down the corridor, smiling at Dr. Moreno as she ushered me into her office.
“Hello,” Dr. Moreno said, crossing the room to sit down in her chair in front of her computer. “How are you?”
“I’m well, and yourself?” I replied.
“Very good, thank you. How have you been feeling overall?”
“Nothing to complain about, really,” I answered. “There’s just one thing, though. Last time I was in, we discussed discontinuing the Topiramate, but I’ve decided to stay on it.”
“Well, whatever works for you, of course,” Dr. Moreno said. “That particular drug has many benefits, including anxiety and craving reduction. It can help with lowering your alcohol intake, too, which I know is an issue for you.”
I said nothing. Dr. Moreno was aware that I was an alcoholic, but we didn’t always talk about it. She accepted state insurance, which meant that she had a ton of patients, and probably had a lot of difficulty remembering everything about them. I liked her, though. She was a good person.
“Let’s have a look at your most recent bloodwork,” she said, pulling up the file. It was the same bloodwork she’d looked at during my last two visits, but I didn’t want to be rude.
“Everything’s normal,” she said, “except your red blood cells.”
She turned the computer monitor towards me. “You see this number here? It’s a little high, which means your red cell count is a little more than it should be. If you keep drinking heavily, they’ll continue to increase – and we both know that the vessels they pass through can’t get any bigger. That’s what causes strokes and heart attacks.”
“I see,” I said politely. She’d never explained it so concisely before, and though I was mildly concerned, I wasn’t exactly terrified.
“I can help you with your drinking problem, if you’re ready to take that step,” she offered.
“I’m not,” I said simply.
“Can you explain why?” she asked. “What’s your reason for drinking? Do you have anxiety? Problems sleeping? Is it a form of self-medication?”
I smiled thinly. “I just drink,” I replied.
She nodded without comprehension. “And you’re not willing to seek treatment?”
“No,” I returned. “I’m not willing.”
She nodded again. “All right, then.”
“But thank you,” I added. “I appreciate you taking the time to ask.”
“Of course,” she said. “Now – have you had any thoughts of harming yourself or others? Any voices or visions?”
She asked this question every time. My answer was always “no.”
“All right,” she repeated. “I’ll see you in three months.”
“Thank you for your time, Dr. Moreno,” I said.
She smiled, and I got up to leave. I booked an appointment for January with the secretary, then walked out of the office.
I checked my watch. Nearly three o’clock. I had a few errands to run before I went home, and it was supposed to rain. But I had no umbrella.