I remembered being here last Tuesday, and that’s why I didn’t have to look up to know that the wispy sound of scrubs swishing towards me belonged to the nurse, a far too chipper woman who had a glow to her skin that indicated that she still had dreams.
“Sweetie, can you follow me back to a waiting room?”
Stretching as I stood, I shuffled across the dingy dark blue carpet until I crossed the threshold into the tiled and sterile medical portion of the building. Everybody looked up from their desks as I passed through the halls and waved, not out of kindness or due to friendly dispositions, but because I was a far too familiar face.
Dr. Graham was already waiting in our usual room. I sat across from him and awaited a verdict.
“Your tests are still coming back positive.”
“Well yes, that’s because I’m still using, I already told you that.”
“It’s just, if you’re talking about taking fifty or sixty milligrams every other day just to stave off withdrawal, I’d probably want you taking ten milligrams of an analog five times a day. You know when you start to feel it wearing off you can excuse yourself and take another five, it’s all about self-awareness.” Dr. Graham pulled at the cuff of his starched and ironed coat and sighed as he picked up the puce colored office phone. “I think we need a third opinion, I want to talk to a specialist.”
As Dr. Graham dialed I stared straight ahead at the wall, uncomfortable with anyone being so enthused about something that, for me, was a really big problem. Once a doctor starts talking about specialists, that’s when you know you’ve made a mess and it will take you a while to dig your way out of it. I looked up at the clock, slightly off-center on an off-white wall. As hour three of my visit approached, I wondered how many other students spent two days a week in the health center and required third opinions and a four-inch thick folder of records. Dr. Graham sketched while he was on the phone, the pen scratched through the paper and hearing it against the soft plastic counter top made me slightly nauseous, or maybe it was just about time for another dose. I wiped the salty grease from my hands on my wrinkled basic t-shirt.
“Well kiddo, here’s the deal, I really need you to see a pain management specialist so we can raise your dose, and then we’ll keep you on that heightened dose, five times a day, for the next few months. After we get you stable we can lower it and start to wean you off of it completely.”
“A pain management specialist?” I wasn’t in any pain. I felt my lip twist and my nostrils tighten. Dr. Graham’s manicured and tanned brow rose in response.
“A pain management specialist, yes, they tend to deal with opiate addictions–they’re certainly better equipped then I am. I did my residency with this doctor, you’ll like him.”
We both knew I didn’t get a choice in the matter, and whether or not I liked him wasn’t worth addressing. Dr. Graham’s cufflink met the clipboard nestled in the crook of his arm and the dense clicking sound confirmed it to be plastic, not the polished brass that it so expertly mimicked. I glanced at his sketch; it was me reaching for a carrot.
“What’s that carrot represent?”
“It’s your transition, and the path to the carrot is your sobriety!” He smiled.
My throat tightened and I felt my tongue flick against my gums. The sticky oral sound of my disgust was sharp in the small sterile cubicle. I reached into my pocket to rub the pill hiding in its folds between my fingers, just knowing it was there comforted me.
“Well, you know, not to make light of it, but I was just sketching … and it’s just how I think … and it’s just I don’t really get interesting special cases that often.”
The light reflected off of the shrinking black rim of my green irises and played in the pool of my black pupils and I knew my lack of amusement was clearly conveyed. “You don’t say,” I scoffed. We were practically drowning in sarcasm; this room was too small for my defensive attitude.
“Let me walk you out.” Dr. Graham’s shoulders slumped, one with concern and the other in defeat.
“Would you like to see me Thursday?” My voice was soft but I held it firm. He reached to touch my shoulder and I arched back. His fingers brushed my jacket and fell to his side in limp defeat.
“Oh, look, it’s snowing out!” Dr. Graham looked out the window with the same smile I would imagine he used to have on frosty Christmas mornings. I nodded a goodbye as I made my way out. While I waited for the shuttle, I watched my past flurry to the ground and melt on the pavement through the industrial glass window. It isn’t that I was particularly unhappy; it’s just that nobody pays much mind to the snow unless they’re thigh deep in it. I would have seen that coming. I could have shoveled myself out. It’s the ice, what you can’t see, that will cause an accident.
Izaac Bacik is a 22-year-old student pursuing degrees in sociology and creative writing at UNCA who predominantly focuses on poetry and short creative non-fiction pieces and essays centered around identities as autistic and transgender. This short essay deals with surviving coming off of drugs in order to begin gender transition.