Or, Theater of the Absurd, In One Act.
Or, A Visit to the Dermatologist
Or, A Visit to the Dermatologist
Me: "Are there any side effects to this medication? Because I think I've heard there are side effects."
Doctor: "Side effects? No-ooooooo...heh heh. " Brushes meaty jowls expressively with hands. "Maybe just a little dryness, nothing to worry about!"
Doctor scuttles from room like a Kafkaesque roach man in white jacket.
Nurse looks apologetically at me, and daughter, who is actual patient in question. One eye looks apologetic. Lazy eye is more uninterested, I feel.
"Let me just get The Book," she says, and disappears also. Returns with John Deere catalog. Only not John Deere catalog. It is the Book of Dire Warnings.
Nurse: "Now. You'll need blood work every 30 days, two additional prescriptions, registration in a data base complete with social security number, and to take and pass a test. Written. Every 30 days. Also, the blood work must be in an exact window of time, or you will have to begin the entire procedure over for that month. We will need to be able to reach you at any time. Okay so far???"
Me: "Ah. Wel-"
Nurse: " Now. Side effects include: (reads from catalog) Headache, dizziness, stroke, seizures, bowel pain, diarrhea, rectal bleeding, weak bones, stoppage of long-bone growth, hearing loss, vision loss, high cholesterol, joint inflammation, decreased red and white blood cells, diabetes, and serious allergic reactions resulting in severe face and tongue swelling that can stop breathing.... Also, a little dryness and skin irritation. How are we doing?"
Nurse: "Many of these can be permanent if not caught early. Also, there are withdrawal symptoms. Mostly occasional rage, and depression. Also suicide." Nurse looks up, closes book with air of achievement. Checklist reading and patient counseling, done and done.
Me: "Wait! You were in the room when I asked the doctor if there are any side effects. He didn't mention any of those. Was he lying to us?"
Nurse: Shifts slightly in rolly chair and taps front left tooth with ballpoint pen. "Maybeeee......I should get the doctor back?" Rapid, rapid blinking.
Me: "Is he going to read to us from the book?" There is a sarcastic tone.
Me: Sarcastic tone is now full-blown agitation, in manner of Woody Allen. "I asked you if there were side effects, remember? I did! You said 'a little dryness'. But now we hear there are a whole list of serious side effects. That's not 'a little dryness'! Why didn't you tell us about those? How common are they? I need some idea. Like.....1 in a million? 1 in 10,000? 1 in 100? "
Doctor assumes thoughtful back-of-book-jacket author pose. Crosses feet. I see he has little pointy shoes. Meaty jowls and tiny feet.
Doctor: "Oh, well, uh, not very common, I imagine..... Hard to say.... Heh. But, you know, for her (gestures vaguely in direction of daughter) it could be a 100% chance. Who knows? I certainly couldn't say."
Doctor chuckles at personal wittiness. Leaves room.
Nurse: Clears throat. "Um. " Blink. Blink. "My son took this drug. He couldn't stand it. He had...." Leans forward intently, voice dropped to dramatic whisper, "full body chapping. Even the bottoms of his feet. " Raises pen hand in air and pumps twice, as in Can I get a witness up in here?? "Then he had trouble blinking. His eyeballs were all dried out."
Pause. More silence.
"Don't tell anyone I told you this, okay?" Lazy eye, in particular, looks worried. Nurse places John Deere catalog on chair.
And then we are alone. We stand. We race-walk from building.
Daughter, slightly breathless: " So, what's rectal bleeding again?"
Me: "I'll tell you in the car."