My mom called that morning, making the doctor’s appointment. I needed the doctor’s excuse from school. I had missed too much school already and it was only November. I’m sitting in the doctor’s office. I’ve been here a hundred times before, all sicker than this. I felt fine, I just had a headache. My head still hurts as I stare at the puce walls. My eyes squeeze shut with another bit of shooting pain. The only reason I don’t groan is because of the other people here, all a lot older than me. I’m 14 and they’re all adults. One woman is constantly sneezing and coughing into her balled up fist. Across the room an older man is sitting there reading a magazine. My mom sits across from me, reading her own magazine. She looks up at me, reaches across and nudges my foot with her own. My head lolls forward. “Alright?” she asks me.
“Yeah,” I answer. We’re still in the early stages. I haven’t started being honest yet.
The woman across the room sneezes again.
I don’t feel sick. I don’t have the awful cough this other woman has. I don’t feel like I need to be here. I want to be at home in my bed, and maybe that’s exactly why I’m here. I don’t feel sick, I just have a headache.
“Emily?” the nurse stands at the mouth of the narrow hall way.
I follow her back. I’m weighed. They check my height. I lost a couple pounds and gained a couple inches. Not bad. Now if only I could get rid of this…
“What brings you here today?”
“I’ve been having headaches for a while…,” I answer.
“How long?” she asks.
Christ. It seems like forever.
“For a couple months now,” my mom answers, “she’s missing school because of it,”
“What does it feel like?” she asks.
“An ice pick in my skull,” I answer.
She makes a couple notes, “the doctor will be in shortly.”
I sit back. My head hurts. I close my eyes.
“Hello,” the doctor enters the room, “how are we today?” she asks.
I’m not sick. I’m not coughing or generally feel ill. I just have a headache.
“Alright,” I answer.
People who feel alright don’t need to be at the doctor. The room suddenly feels too small with all three of us in here. I don’t belong here. I need to leave.
She gives me a skeptical look, glancing down at the chart.
“I’ve been having headaches,” I tell her.
God, I feel so stupid. Someone who’s dying should be sitting here talking to her.
I’m just some kid with some headache.
We talk for a little bit. Well, her and my mom. I just nod in confirmation, filling in the blanks.
“Okay well, I think a little diet and exercise should help. Try to sleep better. If it gets worse, then we’ll think about a referral to a neurologist,” she says at the end of the appointment.
My head thumps against the wall and continues to ache.