After six months of waiting for insurance reasons, I saw a doctor today. Technically speaking, I saw a "nurse practitioner," frontline support for the human body, but the important thing was that it was a medical professional, whose advice will almost certainly be at least as good as the informal network of semi-informed acquaintances I've spoken with since last February about my problems, and may possibly be as good as the advice of earlier doctors who chased pain-causing wild geese through my abdomen.
I walked out of the office feeling better. My fears about serious illness weren't completely allayed, but whether they're justified or not, I feel like I'm doing something about it, really educating myself and applying (and questioning thoroughly) the judgements of professionals. I am trying to cooperate with them as consultants, as much as depend on them for a cure. Will the diet supplement and the drugs work? Perhaps. Perhaps not. If not, after some time, there are more serious tests we can use to check to see if something is more seriously wrong.
I joked with the receptionist on the way out, payed less than I thought I'd have to for the visit, and smiled with semi-relief. But there was a woman sitting in the lobby, face weighted with concern, staring into baby seat which sat in front of her. I studied her for a moment, and realized that concern wasn't transient or new, it was a lingering shadow that had hung there for some time. She looked up, I caught her gaze and smiled, and she looked away, perhaps unable to bear it. I wondered what her story was, if it were her medical problems that had brought her there, or one of her children, and realized that either way, the responsibility and love of being a parent would make the weight of the illness heavier.
I hesitated for a moment before picking up my bag and walking out. Sometimes, catching people in their vulnerable moments like this, I have an inkling in my head of some way to help, a scene I can imagine which plays out where there's something useful or even simply compassionate that I can do. It's OK to pull over if you see someone on the side of the road, or to ask someone sitting on a curb with their head in their hands if they're OK, even if you're strangely nervous and shy about it as you move through the actions, wondering if it's out of place. But this time, I couldn't even imagine it, there was no sequence or set of instructions to go with the impulse that was there.
I hestitated and lingered for a moment before finally concluding that I could only turn that feeling into a kind of bracing gratitude and charity, something to breathe raggedly as I stepped out into the December evening and my face glistened a little bit with snow and good will towards men.