(Author’s note: I wrote this and posted it on Facebook about two months ago. Part 2 should be coming soon, so I figured I’d post Part 1 here…)
He walked into the doctor’s office, and the wind blew hard enough to close the door quickly behind him, startling him. It was a cold morning, and the office was warm enough for him to immediately take his coat off and drape it over his arm. He gave his eyes a few seconds to adjust to the interior light before ambling to the sign-in clipboard at the nurses’ desk.
He wrote his name – Jeffrey D. Holden – in blocky, all-capital letters that looked like an old man’s handwriting. He couldn’t remember the name of the doctor he was there to see, so he pulled her card out of his pocket and wrote “Dr. Pramesh Ranattayam” in the appropriate column. “These foreign doctors are everywhere these days,” he grumbled to himself.
He sat down in the waiting room. It was early enough in the day that there weren’t many people there, even though five doctors shared the same office building. He looked down at the magazines; they were all old and had the area on the cover where the address usually is torn off. Many of the covers looked similar. The names “Brad,” “Angie,” and “Jen” seemed to be on nearly all of them. He picked up a magazine with Paula Deen on the cover, figuring that Southern cooking was the only interesting topic among the magazines on the table.
Jeffrey felt at peace with the reason he was there. A few weeks ago, during a routine visit, his regular doctor discovered a spot on one of his lungs and ordered him to see Dr. Rama-lama-whatever-her-name-was for a biopsy; he would get the results today. “I’m 73 and fit as a fiddle,” he thought to himself. “Just because I’ve smoked for 56 years, don’t mean I’ve got cancer, and it sure don’t mean I’m gonna quit any time soon.”
It had been four years since Jeffrey’s wife died. Sharon had Alzheimer’s, and she suffered for several years. He grieved like any husband would and returned to his routine as quickly as he could. But for the last week or so, he had some rough nights.
He dreamed the same dream every night for the past ten days straight. In the dream, his wife was calling his name, but he couldn’t find her. The dream was so real that he would wake up at the same time every night, his heart racing and his stomach in knots. In a panic, he realized that he couldn’t recall what Sharon looked like. He would fumble for the lamp, nearly in tears until he could turn the light on and look at her picture, trying to burn the image of her face onto his mind.
This went on in the exact same way for ten consecutive nights; he struggled to figure out what it all meant.
A homely, unpleasant looking nurse walked out a door and squinted into the waiting room. “Mr. Holden,” she said nasally, “the doctor will see you now. Come this way please.”