Dr. Rosenthal’s Office

“Is Karen in her office?” I ask Elba, one of Dr. Rosenthal’s Registered Nurses.

“Yes she is, but she asked me to put you in a patient room.”

“Oh, ok.”

“Are you having blood work done? If not, I can grab you a cup of coffee. Dr. Rosenthal is on a phone call so she might be a few minutes.”

“Don’t worry about it, Hon. This is fine. Wow, great view from up here.”

The late morning sun is sparkling off of Biscayne Bay. I can faintly hear the roar of jet skis soaring past sailboats filled with snowbirds bathing in light. I almost forget that I’m sitting on one of these paper-draped recliners. I feel like I’ve only been to the gyno and the pediatrician since my kids were born.

“Would you mind stepping on the scale for me?” she asks after taking my blood pressure. Elba isn’t as cheerful as the other nurses. I guess she hasn’t gotten used to Karen’s sarcasm yet.

“One twenty-eight. I weighed myself this morning.” It’s actually one thirty-two, but nobody has to know about the two slices of pizza I had after the kid’s baseball game last night. Plus, I want the file to reflect the sudden decrease in my weight since last year. It’s the main reason I asked Karen to run tests in the first place.

“Alrighty. Dr. Rosenthal will be in to see you soon.”

“Great. Thanks.”

It’s eighty degrees outside but colder than the arctic in this small white room. Doctors say it’s because of germs, but I’m convinced it’s because they have to walk around in those thick lab coats all day. I scoot closer to the window, hoping that the same light that’s keeping the room bright will warm me up a little.

I’ve always told Karen that she could take home twice as much money by moving her practice to West Miami, but this view makes it very clear why she’s paid so much in rent for all these years. It must be so much easier to tell people what’s wrong with them with the bay glistening in the background.

The mental picture of Karen breaking bad news to someone makes me wonder why I’m sitting here.

There’s definitely something wrong.

I’ve never been this tired. I would do three spinning classes a week when the boys were still in diapers. Now I’m lucky if I can stay awake past their bedtime. And to top it off, I lost ten pounds over the holidays. And Lord knows that’s impossible when you’re a Cuban woman. Unless…

Shit. What if it’s bad news?

The idea that I might actually be sick never even crossed my mind. An electric current crawls up my spine and makes the hair on my neck stand. I run through my symptoms in a cold sweat as images of ailing mothers on daytime TV start flooding into my head.

Could that be my destiny?

My heart beats faster than it did the night I took my baby to the ER. That was the worst day of my life.

Wait, what if today’s the worst day of my life but I don’t know it yet?

No.

No, Karen wouldn’t tell me like this.

Then again, she did move my appointment up from this afternoon. Is there a reason she didn’t want me to come in with the boys?

I refuse to follow that train of thought.

Nothing’s gonna happen to me.

Then again, nobody thinks it’s gonna happen to them – until it does.

Damn it. I should have taken better care of myself. I should have eaten better, exercised more, gone to the doctor more often…

How could I have been so careless?

I try to read a pamphlet on osteoporosis to keep from going insane, but all I can do is stare at the elderly couple in the picture. I’d never thought of growing old as such a privilege – until today.

Jesus Christ, where is she? I feel like it’s been hours. I just wanna know what’s wrong with me. Whatever it is, I need to know that I can fix it. An operation, medication, radiation. I don’t care what I have to do. I can’t leave my boys.

Not yet.

Their freckly little faces pop into my head: Danny with his missing tooth and unruly brown hair, Alex and his big brown eyes, Jorgie following his big brothers everywhere.

I’m already on the verge of tears when Karen walks through the door and says the two words I’ve been dreading.

“Bad news.”

I feel the all the blood leave my face as my heart begins to pound. I’ve never been more conscious of my mortality in my life. I try to keep the tears at bay while she reads me my sentence.

“No more triple espressos on ice for you.”

“Huh?” I don’t know what coffee has to do with anything, but I’m glad it’s not the other C-word.

“Everything looks okay, but I’m gonna have to send you to an endocrinologist to run tests on your thyroid. For now, though, I can tell you that have to start taking better care of yourself, Annie. No more crazy dieting, skipping meals, dosing up on caffeine all day…”

A torrent rushes out of my eyes before she can finish her sentence.

I’m not going to die.

Karen looks up from her prescription pad and rolls her eyes. “What’s the matter with you? It’s just coffee.”

I take a deep breath and reach into my purse for a tissue. “Oh thank God.”

“Did you think you were dying or something?”

“Umm, yeah! First you move my appointment to the morning, then you leave me in this frigid little room all by myself. What was I supposed to think?”

“Oh my God. I was just finishing up a conference call and I moved your appointment to lunchtime so that I could take you to the new vegan place downstairs for a plant-based meal. But since you’re acting like a crazy person maybe I should walk you over to Julie’s office upstairs for a psych eval instead.”

As I regain my composure, I pull a compact out of my purse and do what I can to resemble a normal human being again. “I’m not psychotic, Karen. I’m a mom. And you should work on your bedside manner.”

Karen rolls her eyes as I reapply my lip gloss.

“So am I dressed okay for this place? Had I known we were going to a vegan place I wouldn’t have brought a huge leather satchel or worn these snakeskin booties.”

“You’re fine, Beyoncé. Now let’s go before I rescind my invitation.”

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