I saw myself kind of after-the-fact kind of fumbling around at the desk with exchanging the signed permission slip for my money. I didn't notice I was out of kilter till I saw the reactions to me at the desk. I said that I was late for an appointment I had to get to now, and that I would come back afterward to finish the questioning. They kind of said OK with question marks.
Isabella and I used to be equals. We were the same in the ways we weren't opposite. We are the same age, I'm older AIDS-wise. I worked on the board of an agency she worked for, but it felt like work of equal worth to me. She was paid. I used services. I'd tell everyone I was positive before I'd tell them anything else about me, so I'd know how they'd react from the start. Isabella was discriminating. Her sister knew, but she's still never even told her parents. We are both straight. She tended to be self-assured, outgoing, and curious. I tended to feel lonely and to want to be wanted. She went back to school and finished. I went back to school over and over again, but kept having to start over. She has an adult career now and I finally even gave up on volunteer work. She washes her white dog's feet off when they come in from walks. My black cat stays clean and doesn't go outside. Isabella became a therapist fast without ever really going through therapy it seemed to me.
Before I knew it, I was at my psychiatrist's office at AIDS Health Project. I apologized for being almost 15 minutes late for my appointment with him. The receptionist looked confused and said she didn't think I had an appointment, but to have a seat. My psychiatrist came out at noon with a patient leaving. He told me my appointment was at 11:30 on Monday. It was still Friday. But he told me to come in anyway. I was worried I was taking up his lunch break. He said, "Yeah well that's not don't worry about it."
We checked in about my meds and problems with them for about ten minutes, and then I said offhandedly in the middle of something, "I just ran into Isabella for the first time."
He said, "Yeah? How did that go down?"
I told him about the hallway. And that I was in a hurry going down it, and he said, "To come here?" and I said yes and realized that I'd confused the appointment times by believing my own would-be excuse to not have to stop and talk to her. And I said that I had said hi, and that she ducked and went like this: and put my hand up to shield my face from him. I was a little out of breath describing it. I was going to say, "And now I'm pumped," but didn't, and he said,"And now you're pumped," and I said yes that that was the word I was going to use.
He said,"And what are you doing the rest of the afternoon?"
I said, "I have to go back. We didn't finish. I'm supposed to go back. But I'm not going back there. If she's working there now I'm quitting."
He asked what the study was and I told him, knowing he already knew, without really knowing what he was getting at with that.
He saw the cotton ball taped to my arm right as I remembered it and said, "Do you want to get rid of that?" I said a quiet yes with quiet finality.
He reached behind him to get the lined trash can and held it out to me. He said with believable compassion in his voice, "I don't think that's doing anything for you anymore," and I pulled off the tape with the cotton ball and my little spot of blood and put it into the lined trashcan without touching the sides like it was poison, and we didn't say anything more about it.