The Doctor's Visit
By Téa Mutonji
I am sitting over coffee and muffins in Leslieville in one of the new cafés that have recently opened up with my roommate Kate and she is telling me about the doctor’s visit. I told her not to go to the doctor’s until she was very certain, and, when she was very certain, I told her not to go to the doctor’s unless she was calm and had had a few cups of tea. She tells me she was calm but did not have anything hot to drink so she went with a bottle of water in hand. Now we are sitting in one of the new developments in the east. We like it here because the people are all young and vivid and the streets are mostly quiet.
This is what she tells me:
Finally, I decided that it wouldn’t be so bad. I think I’ve always avoided this step out of fear of being labeled, or stigmatized, but I figured, you know what, the university covers this kind of service and I’ve been feeling very alone lately, so why not go to the doctor’s? This is what I’m thinking, right. So I went to the doctor’s at the campus downtown because it made the most sense to do so; also, I didn’t think I could handle commuting back downtown alone after such a visit.
(Sips the coffee for a minute or so).
I went on a Friday before class, and, afterward, I didn’t make it to class, that’s how horrible it was. The lady was so small I had a hard time believing she had a degree, let alone a Ph.D., but I followed her anyways to her even smaller office. There weren’t any windows in the office so I had a feeling right away I would hate it. And of course, I hated it, only I did not cry because I did not believe she deserved my tears.
This woman, I’m telling you, she was small but she packed a really big punch.
How are you feeling, she says?
Good, thank you, I say.
Are you nervous, she says, it’s perfectly normal to be nervous, she says.
I say to her not particularly. I say I’m more tired than nervous. She says all students are tired.
Yes, but I’m not tired because I am a student.
Oh? Why then are you tired?
The woman, she was so small and had all these grand expressions pinching her face, as though being sucked on by a vacuum. She seemed very happy I made it easy for her, told her right away: I’m tired because life has gotten in the way.
And how does that make you feel, she says.
Can you believe it?
This is exactly why I did not want to see the doctor. It’s this exact rhetoric I was afraid of. Straight out of a sitcom. She really did say this, really.
(Waves to the waiter, gets a refill of the coffee, forgets to breathe in between the first round and the second, keeps going with the story.)
Of course, there is no true cure for fatigue. It makes me feel more tired, I say. Why do you think that is, she says. Why do you think you’re tired?
I know why I’m tired; I don’t need to think it through.
Is this an appropriate place for us to start, she says.
I’m not entirely sure how this works, I say, but I’m open to however it is you usually
Now this woman is looking at me very bored, you know, as if this is just a regular day for her. And then it hit me: this was just a regular day for her. I was just another visit, another statistic, another student, and another tired case. I wanted her to look at me at least like I was human and not some tired-out story. I know now why you said to drink some tea. I understand.
(Sips the coffee).
Anyways, she says, we can start wherever you like. I say, really, please, let’s do this your way. Okay, she says. We can do it my way, she says.
I did not think she had a way, I just assumed that everyone was different, that everyone was unique, oh God, you should’ve seen this woman, she was mocking me, she was high in her chair, so mighty with her degree!
Why are you tired?
Dear God, is this scripted?
I guess, I felt the need to talk about something that happened to me when I was younger. And that I’ve been feeling tired by this need, or tired by what happened, you know? There was this thing, and this guy and I don’t know, I guess I’ve just been struggling with all of it.
Did he hurt you?
Of course, she said that right? Verbatim. She was reading from a teleprompter behind me, I’m telling you.
I guess so, I say. I guess he hurt me. I guess, I really just didn’t want that and I couldn’t make it stop, and I guess, he did hurt me. I can say.
When it comes to those blurred lines, she says, it is very important to distinguish what you wanted and what you didn’t want, she says. For example, if what you didn’t want is the way it happened, say you had dreams of it happening in some other form, that is one thing, that is one category. But say, for example, it happened and you didn’t want it to happen at all, that is brand new territory. The most effective way to move on with this discourse is to first diagnose which part of the spectrum do you fall underneath, to consider how strong regret can feel. And how sometimes regretting something might blur the thing altogether. Sometimes, it’s that simple.
Yes. That’s right. That’s what she said, right? I’ve told you how my mother talks like this too, yeah, how my mother likes to hear what she wants right? I was talking to my mother!
She says, which part of the spectrum do you think you fall into.
There is no spectrum, I say. There is just one center, I say.
And how does that make you feel?
Now I’m looking at this woman very stupefied, I am thinking, you are the problem. You and the people up there with you that create these institutions and narratives and how we are taught about it, you are the problem. I really wish I had gone in there with some tea.
(Calls the boy over, replaces the coffee with tea, continues with the story.)
I was really expecting you to say: please, tell me more about the boy, and the experience, and why that has made you tired.
I say this and I’m reminded of how small the office is and how small the woman is and how I am just another patient in her day, and there will be four, twenty other women who will walk in that door and who will sit on that chair and who will be fighting like hell not to cry in front of this terribly small woman.
Kate finishes the story and looks out the window, as if the landscape, the mature trees, the cars travelling in either direction could offer her comfort, if only they would stop to notice.
Téa Mutonji is a writer and poet in Scarborough. She has been awarded and published by The Scarborough Fair in fiction and nonfiction, and by the Ontario Book Publishers as Scarborough's emerging writer (2017). Her poem "Après Viol" won excellence in poetry at the University of Toronto's English conference (2017), where she is currently finishing her minor in creative writing. Téa is the recipient of the Jasun Singh Memorial Award in Creative Writing (2017).