Disrupted and dislocated

Today is the sort of disrupted day that makes prognostications such as I indulged in seem irrelevant. I’m sitting in the French restaurant I visited a couple of weeks ago. French music is playing again. I have a hot chocolate in front of me and an almond croissant on it’s way. I’m killing time a head of a hyperbaric session at 12.30. Earlier, I was at St Vs for another scheduled appointment.

The appointment this morning was with an infectious diseases specialist. It puzzled me at first when I was reminded of the appointment. Bad as it is, cancer isn’t infectious at least. Then I remembered. They’d discovered I had an infection last time. I’m on a long course of antibiotics to treat it. This was a checkup.

It’s all very familiar to me by now. I see specialists of every stripe, confusingly so sometimes – who’s responsible for what? But, no matter, the routine is identical.

I sign in at the front door, as you must do at every hospital these days. Then I make my way to one of two waiting rooms where I register my presence. Quite often, the waiting rooms are full. Many of the patients are aged, and it appears more than half are obviously in a bad way. You sit up straighter. You try to project good health, as if to prove to the world that you’re just a visitor and don’t really belong. Hospital waiting rooms are dispiriting places.

On this occasion, I didn’t need to wait long. I was called in to see a doctor I hadn’t met before. He was affable and conscientious. He had a quick look at me but didn’t have much to add. He went through the scans of my last PET scan, which I found vaguely disconcerting. He pointed out the white patches which were plates, and loose clips which would remain in place forever.

It was clear he was a sceptic when it came to hyperbaric treatment, which put a dampener on things. Through the conversation, it became clear that there was still a long road ahead of me, and that I would be returning to them regularly in the years ahead, even if it all went well.

I left feeling chastened. That’s not unusual. Out in the world you can blithely believe what you want, but in hospital medical reality held sway. They’re always encouraging, but cautious in their prognosis. You remember fresh, nothing is certain.

After another blood test, I left. There was just short of three hours until my next appointment and there was no point returning home. I walked towards the CBD. I felt a little glum thinking it’s alright being positive, until…

It was quiet and there were empty shop fronts, but so much I recognised and remembered still. There was a time the Melbourne CBD felt like a second home to me. I knew every nook and cranny, was familiar with bars tucked down anyways and cute little eating places I shared with friends. For probably 20 years I reigned over that, but that time was gone forever I realised.

I looked through the front window of a favourite bookstore before entering The Hill of Content just down the road. I browsed the bookshelves, as I have hundreds of times before over the last 30 years.

As always, there’s the serenity of a library, made hip by the interesting music playing in the background. As I take down books to examine, the same chastening thoughts curl like smoke in the back of my mind. There’s a rising resistance however, until I bump up against the edge of ‘fuck that’ – so familiar and welcome. It’s lucky I’m a gnarly prick.

I felt better after that and so I bought a book, for old time’s sake. I wandered down to the city centre and then through familiar stores, making my way slowly towards the station. I was surprised to see so much demolished and new construction in their place.

Soon, I will return to the Alfred for my daily treatment (though none tomorrow). I suppose I’ll make my way home after that and I suppose I’ll rouse myself to do my job. That’s what I mean by disrupted, though dislocated may be a more apt term. After all this, what point work?

There is a point, though. I just have to recall it.

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