It's a River in Egypt
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A visit to the doctor's.
It's a River in Egypt
Patrick Frakes wasn't crazy.
"I'm not crazy," he told the disheveled man sitting several seats down. The man possessively clutched at a ball of twine in his lap and scooted another seat away. Pat decided to leave him alone; the guy was probably loopy.
The clinic waiting room was white and sterile, in that almost-obnoxious way that made him want to scuff his shoes on the linoleum and stick his gum to the wall. Miserable attempts at the comforts of home lined the room; magazine issues from six months ago with titles that nobody but unpaid hospital interns would order, like 'Housekeeping Innovations' and 'Tek'--spelled T-E-K. Cheap chairs with padding he suspected was packing peanuts surrounded a dinky wooden coffee table, scavenged from a nurse's home and plopped incongruously in the forest of IKEA pseudo-chrome. The seats were lined up preternaturally straight, probably by a previous patient a few cans short of a six-pack. Certainly the nurse behind the desk, with her surly glower and creative interpretation of customer service, wouldn't have gone through the trouble.
He began to tap a staccato rhythm on the knee of his worn Levis. In his opinion, waiting rooms were designed to make everyone who stopped there paranoid; you discovered you had a problem, then went to a room full of 'entertainment' you were completely uninterested in, only to watch nurses at the desks ignore you to gossip and maybe play cards with each other. He couldn't see over their high desk from his seat, and there was definitely enough room back there to get a roaring blackjack game going. Maybe they gambled with those little pens on necklaces. But you sat there, with your problem, and waited, and watched people ignore you. If it was a busy day, you got to sit there and watch other sick people (not that he was sick, mind you) watch people ignore you. If you were lucky, you would end up sitting next to the guy who smelled like cat pee, coughed like he was about to lose a lung, and wouldn't stop asking everyone if Gladys was looking for him.
The beat was starting to remind him of a David Bowie song he liked. Relax, he told himself. It's just you, Evil Nurse Brenda, and Twine Guy over there. You can take Twine Guy. Evil Nurse Brenda, as he privately called her, was a different story; as he made the mistake of glancing at her, he was pinned by her smoldering glare. If looks could kill, he would be a greasy smear on the cheap cushion.
His tapping ceased, and he grinned weakly. His smile usually met with grand reception from tipsy girls in bars, but Brenda seemed about to tear out his throat for disturbing her silence. Or maybe she just hated Bowie.
Pat rested his elbows on his knees, feeling like a chastened schoolboy. Stupid nurse, he groused. Stupid waiting room. Stupid court order.
He was definitely not crazy; the whole stupid situation stemmed from a minor misunderstanding with a police officer during a routine traffic stop. He'd simply been thinking out loud, and the cop was twitchy. He was probably new or something. Thinking out loud was absolutely not an indication of psychosis, and nothing that required a psyche evaluation. The whole thing was ridiculous.
Which really failed to explain why he was sitting there, twiddling his thumbs and being bossed around by Nurse Ratched's long lost sister.
His mental sulking was interrupted by the door on the far side of the room swinging open; a woman beyond it with a heavy Southern drawl called out, “Pat Frakes?”
He stood, tugging down his shirt and plucking invisible dust off his shoulders, then met Nurse Brenda's sardonic crooked eyebrow with an innocent expression. He wasn't entirely sure what the exchange signified, but it got Brenda to return her attention to her work, so he decided that he'd won.
The distance from his seat to the door was not great, but it seemed to stretch endlessly as he strode towards it, sweat trickling down his neck and the spot between his shoulder blades itching and prickling with paranoia. The urge to twist and watch the room behind him was nearly overpowering, but he kept his eyes trained on the faux-wood finish of the door.
The sensations didn't quite cease when he stepped over the threshold, but the tightness eased, and he took a deep breath, casting a glance down the empty hallway, then focusing on the red door on his left. He opened it.
In the center of the room stood a man with his face, wearing a stoic, slightly sad expression. He stepped towards Pat, flashed a small light into his eyes, peering thoughtfully, then turned over his shoulder and said to the infinite grey depths of the room, where silent shapes conferred on the edge of his vision, “The patient became catatonic following a suicide attempt after the death of his fiancée. Although he has recovered from the physical effects of his car accident, he remains unresponsive.”
The man clicked the light off and turned on his heel, stepping away from Pat's half-hearted attempt to touch him. He dissolved into the grey, and Pat slumped against the black door and wept.
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