My new Pharmacist is staring at me like she’s just witnessed the return of Michael Jackson. Ok, maybe not. But she is definitely giving me a very strange look. Clad in sensible shoes, glasses, her dark hair in a ponytail and her white coat, she personified her position in the medical community. Complete with a pen in her pocket and a pill cutter in her hand. She had a nervous tick, I suppose, and constantly pushed her glasses up towards her forehead, although they seemed to be in no danger of falling off. A leftover childhood habit, I guessed. She probably wore glasses that didn’t fit.
Had I been less nervous, I would have most likely amused myself by piecing together her life story by observations. Higher degree, but young. Her parents had bought glasses for her that were too big at an early age. Plain hair, no makeup. Well spoken and definitely educated, but without any pretenses. She actually likes her job. A woman’s shoes are a direct snapshot into her soul. Sole? Super high heels, designer styles, anything providing an escape from her daily wardrobe either signifies a sense of adventure or insecurity. Paired with too much makeup, insecurity. Paired with a sensible outfit that draws attention away from and not towards her choice in footwear indicates emotional bravado. Her? Her shoes indicated a sense of confidence and a preference for comfort and performance over style and emotional jangle.
I had just requested a forty-five day supply of medication to take with me on a vacation to Florida. A camping trip. With my wife and two-year old toddler. I was beginning to wonder if I were insane, but I really feel like we need this trip. My significant other and myself have been tense for a while, we need a vacation: We need some space long enough to acknowledge that we are still human and we do in fact still love one another.
As any recovering addict knows, the scars left behind from years of suffering on both entities don’t go away very soon. Trust issues are still there, despite how much you both try to dig them out. A simmering anger sometimes boils for no reason, often over something as simple as making the bed, or ordering a three dollar movies. There is no reason behind many of the emotions that you go through, and you can only ride the ebb and flow of the emotional currents as they pass. They do pass.
But now, standing in front of this very intelligent young woman who is responsible for providing me with enough medication to keep me alive and just as importantly act as a liaison between my insurance company and my doctors, I’m not thinking of any of that. I’m worried. The Insurance Companies now have the upper hand in these transactions. They determine and interpret the doctors prescriptions so that they can pay as little as possible in keeping you alive. It is a sad truth, but it is truth, nonetheless. For whatever the political reasons, this is where we now are as a society. So, I was a bit antsy in awaiting her questions.
When they came, they were not what I expected. She pushed her glasses up, studied the screen, and then me. Back at the screen. Me again. I quickly began to feel guilty, as if I were somehow stealing the very medication keeping me from fertilizer. “You have cirrhosis?” It was not really a question. She could see that, right there on her screen. I nodded. She read more, pushed her glasses up again, and stared at me. “What I have here,” she tapped the screen,” indicates that you should be dead. Personally, I’ve never seen anyone make it past one year after developing cirrhosis from drinking this badly.” She studied me again, this time tapping her teeth with her pen. I was about to lose my mind with anticipation. Was she able to give me the medication or not? Damn it. I don’t need a prognosis.
“I’d say you are very, very lucky.” She glanced at my running clothes, soaked with sweat and back at her screen again. “You take really good care of yourself, and the medication seems to be working. But diet an exercise, and of course, not drinking are the things that most people are not able to control. They usually feel too bad to start a program of wellness to begin with.”
“I’d say you are really one of the lucky few.” I stared at her for a moment. “How many times have you had paracentisis procedures?” I shrugged. I was thinking, do I get my medication or not? She made sure I had enough, checked my vitals, looked into my eyes and wished me luck in my travels.
The man behind me was horribly jaundiced, with the abdominal swelling so typical of patients like me. His breath reeked of ketosis. Alcohol fumes seemed to leach out of his skin into the environment, as if he were a poison cloud, breaking apart as we watched in horror.
I stepped outside. Out of habit, I looked up. It was cold, but the sun was shining. The beach seemed to be so far away, but a reality. I’m leaving with my wonderful wife and my precious son to enjoy the warmth. I really am a lucky man.