Going to the Doctor

Part I: Parked

She opened the door and walked down the hall, past rooms filled with students in large, auditorium-style classrooms. In the bathroom, she flushed the toilet and approached the sink. No soap. She rubbed her hands under the water and reached for a paper towel. No towels. Dirty ones spilled over the waste bin onto the floor. A printed note on the wall read, “We have removed the door to this facility for your convenience.” Thanks, she thought.

To her, this institution made a mockery of the education system. The staff miscalculated GPAs, forgot to register students, e-mails went unanswered, departments refused to communicate internally, and a student could draft a last-minute paper at 4 a.m. and still walk away with an A+.

Walking down the spiral staircase she raised the volume on her portable music player to drown out the sounds made by students collectively pouring out of the classrooms. It was Davis during his cool jazz era. She didn’t want to listen to anyone sing or speak, just wanted time to think about what the day had in store for her. In two hours she would meet with a clinical psychologist at a doctor’s facility to see if she would qualify for free anxiety treatment.

Outside the building, she walked down the sidewalk between sandwich shops and Asian restaurants. She considered what kind of questions the doctor would ask, and how she would answer them. Was she to tell the truth? If she wanted a solution, she knew it would be unwise to omit details which could offer some insight into her condition. Except people didn’t want to know the truth. Moreover, she didn’t want to talk about it.

At the corner of the intersection she took note of the orange hand lit in her direction before looking both ways and crossing the intersection. Davis broke off into a solo on the trumpet when she felt someone touch her shoulder after she reached the sidewalk. She removed her headphones and turned around.

“Didn’t you see the no walking sign?” a police officer asked her.

“No, officer,” she lied. “I was distracted.”

“It’s called jaywalking. I can give you a ticket.”

“Yes, officer,” she said before he walked away.

Rolling her eyes, she put her headphones back on and continued walking, past a small park that breathed among the tall buildings downtown, between firms and banks near the university. To the left of the concrete path were black men sitting and standing along the rock walls that held the park’s roots, stains on their shirts and nail beds. A large gazebo to the right housed a life-size chessboard set. Two black men rivaled deep in thought as others stood in silence and watched the game, the crowd sprinkled with students brave enough to walk outside the park’s surrounding path.

Approaching another intersection, she took note of the orange hand lit in her direction. Fuckers, she said to herself. There was a nice Spring breeze, but it failed to do much to battle the rays soaked by her black jeans and T-shirt.

When she worked at the office of a construction company in Midtown, her boss once advised she not wear so much black.

“It’s off-putting,” he said. “It makes you look like those kids in Little Five Points with the shaved heads and combat boots.”

“What?” she replied.

This was the same boss who came to her every Monday and asked, one arm leaning into the cubicle wall, “So… how was the dungeon this weekend?” He was convinced she went to sex clubs on her days away from the office. She was convinced this was his manner of projecting his own fantasies into the world without having to admit them.

“Why? Afraid I saw you?” she would say.

He’d laugh and walk to his office, the one with a bottle of whisky tucked away in his desk drawer.

“That’s sexual harassment,” a friend of hers said of his routine implication. “Nah, they just think I’m one of the boys,” she’d say. The truth was she felt she could be sailor-mouthed self at that company, which was a nice and comforting advantage to working in a construction company otherwise run by good ol’ country boys. On Fridays she drank with them on the company tab and later would get high with one of her bosses, the one who ended up banging the two most religious girls in the office. “I don’t like taking the Lord’s name in vain,” one of the girls used to say.

Back on the street corner, the walking pedestrian sign finally came on the street light. She walked across the street and down the sidewalk. She swiped her ticket at the parking entrance and got in the elevator when she saw a young man swipe his card. She decided to hold the elevator door open for him. He got in. “Thank you,” he said. She thought he was handsome. Slim, with dark hair, a toothy smile and black Chucks. She wondered what would happen if she asked him to fuck right then and there. The elevator stopped and he stepped out. “Have a nice day,” he said, smiling. “You too,” she beamed.

Up on the fifth floor, she walked out of the elevator towards her car. She opened the trunk and set down her laptop bag, before looking around. With no one in sight, she reached under the car’s jack tucked under the trunk flap and pulled out a small Altoids tin can. Come to me, she thought.

In her car, she set it to idle and turned on the radio. She looked at the clock. Another hour-and-a-half until the appointment. She scanned the parking lot through the rear view mirror before opening the tin can and removing a bud of weed and a jade one-hitter she’d bought in Chinatown in New York City while on vacation. She packed the bowl and took a deep hit, puffing out her cheeks and holding the smoke in. She pictured THC molecules floating through the smoke and clinging to her lungs, their magic seeping in.

Marijuana and she had a love-hate relationship. It made her paranoid unlike it did when she was in high school, to the point where she began to avoid people when on the social drug, and instead holed away with a book or would try to write. Except then when she wrote, she would lose her thoughts, which at the time always seemed like brilliant ideas, but proved to be nothing more than abstract jibberish when read sober.

She took another hit when she heard the elevator. A woman stepped out talking on her cell phone. Lowering the pipe, she sunk down in the driver’s seat and held in the smoke until the woman got into a car. She exhaled. She put the pipe back into the tin can and waited for the woman to drive off. She opened the driver door and looked up to see if there was a cloud of smoke. Nothing. She popped open the trunk and hid the Altoids can back between the spare tire and jack. Before closing the trunk door, she looked around and grabbed her laptop bag and sat back in the driver’s seat. She unfolded the computer and waited for it to turn on.

This was her favorite parking spot. Two more to the left and she would not be able to get an Internet signal, but it was always guaranteed to work from this corner of the deck. She checked here-mail and her Facebook and CNN, as if the world would object less if they knew she logged on for normal, wholesome reasons. She clicked the Private Browsing option on her browser and typed in her favorite adult site. Her eyes looked at the rear view mirror before she smiled at the lifeless parking deck and focused her attention on the screen. She supposed she could have shopped at Target to kill time before the appointment. Or maybe bought a book or some coffee, but none of that interested her at the moment. She finished and put her finger in her mouth, tasting her juices. Delicious, she thought. Lowering the driver window, she lit a cigarette and looked at the clock. Forty-five minutes left. Time to hit the road.