Day swelled gently into Mary’s consciousness. The violence she associated with morning was a non sequitur, as her alarm clock was the real crook. Time itself seemed fluid and made of light in the morning. The darker it was when she woke, the less time it would take to get ready (but the more energy it would take to get out of bed). It always seemed to come down to a battle of time and energy.
Mary had not been to the doctor in months. The office had called, tactfully finding a polite way to tell her she was overdue for a visit. It took Mary three weeks after that to call and schedule a real appointment. She imagined the front desk ladies snapping little party poppers and breaking open a bottle of champagne, enthusiastically circling the date on their calendars. Mary was pleased to be the source of any celebration.
She pulled into the lot with nine minutes to spare. Not bad, considering she encountered some unexpected cat sick to clean up on her way out the door. Three bodies was just too many for one small apartment.
The waiting room was fairly clean, and Mary found herself absently organizing the disheveled magazines as she waited. Apparently Buddy Graham, everyone’s favorite country singer, was having an extramarital affair. Mary made a mental note of this as she leaned back into her chair and pulled out more wholesome reading from her bag.
Mary stood and gathered herself. Taking a breath, she followed the nurse and took a seat on the wax-paper bench. The wait was her least favorite part.
The LED lights were harsh in the white cell, and a sharps container hung on the wall, red label looking particularly dramatic, Mary thought. She found herself leafing through the brochures in the plastic stands and was just beginning to wonder if she had perhaps contracted syphilis without knowing it when there came a sharp rap at the door.
“Come in,” Mary said, placing the brochure title-side down on the counter.
“Mrs Cutter,” said the man, slipping inside the white room, “it’s a pleasure to have you back.”
“I had hoped to give the front desk ladies some cause for celebration.”
“Ah, yes. And Mr Cutter?” he asked politely.
“Quiet,” Mary replied, “but enjoying God’s embrace!”
“Indeed,” frowned the man. “Well, I suppose we best get right to the chase.”
“Please,” Mary said, opening her palms to him.
“It’s been about six months since we last spoke, is that correct?”
Mary did some quick math.
“Yes,” she said, “and?”
“Are you still hearing voices?”
The question shocked the air, grasping for emotional purchase.
“Not quite—no!” Mary said quickly. “It’s like intuition, not voices—I’m not hysterical,” she added.
“Mm-hmm,” the doctor replied languidly. “I’m afraid, Mrs Cutter, that we are going to have to try a new medication for you. If there’s any chance at all you are still hearing things, we have to press forward. Yours is a condition which we really can’t allow to run away from us. Besides, I hate to see you so agitated.” He gestured with one hand at her after adjusting his glasses, and began to scribble furiously on a white piece of paper. The sharps box screamed at Mary from above the sink, red plastic practically dripping down the white wall.
“Fine—just fine,” Mary said, a little tersely. “I understand completely.”
For about fifteen solid seconds, there wasn’t a sound in the room but the ticking of the clock and the sound of the doctor’s pen on his notepad.
“There,” he said at last, handing her the new prescription. “Don’t take more than the prescribed amount, and be sure not to miss any days. You’re free to go.”
Mary stood and placed her bag over her shoulder. She was halfway out the door when the doctor called.
“Mary,” he said, “Don’t wait so long for us to meet again, hm? Let’s make this a monthly habit.”
“God willing,” Mary said, and left.
Mary pulled into her apartment complex parking lot with new prescription in hand. Her cat was there to greet her when she pushed open the door.
“Shelly, you stinky beast,” Mary cooed, “What rotten thing have you been eating?” She shook a white pill from the bottle, drank it with eight ounces of filtered water, and laughed and laughed and laughed.