On the Verge of Hypertension – Alex Antiuk
April 25, 2023
Dr. Ruben didn’t listen to a single thing Wendy said, before he took his big, hairy fingers and began to scribble notes on her chart. He was using a pencil, which Wendy found odd.
“We’re going to have to just keep an eye on it… But let’s take a reading before you leave to make sure…” Dr. Ruben smiled while his diagnosis deafened Wendy. She had to place her long fingernails deep within her ear lobes. All she wanted at that moment was for Dr. Ruben to admit he’d made a mistake. Take his pencil and erase her diagnosis.
“But… I don’t understand how.” Wendy started, her heels banging against the metal beneath the exam table. “I always get my ten thousand steps in…”
“I’m sorry, Wendy… Sometimes it’s just genetics.”
Dr. Ruben placed his pencil in his white coat pocket. He turned, preparing to walk out of the room when Wendy screamed, “Wait! I need to get Tanya’s opinion.” Dr. Ruben had already used the automatic hand sanitizer machine, and rubbed his bushy fingers into stylish, slick skin.
“Feel free to take a moment… But I need to see my next patient. Tell the front desk you need a follow-up in three weeks… Take care, and try and take it easy, Wendy.”
The phone continued to ring when Dr. Ruben left the exam room. Tanya picked up a moment later, and Wendy said, “It’s me…” The two sisters had a peculiarly intertwined life, despite being fifteen years apart. Their parents had already passed, but made sure to tell them that Tanya was born out of love, and Wendy laziness. It was news most children would’ve revered, but the sisters learned to relish it. Their hatred for their parents’ need for honesty brought them even closer.
Tanya had a tired voice that showed no signs of loosening. “Are you still at Dr. Ruben’s?” Tanya had four, overactive kids, with a fifth soon to join.
Wendy had to take a deep breath, before she began to go over every detail of her visit. Even recounting the dream she had after the nurse said “Dr. Ruben will be in soon…” Wendy had fallen into a trance, waiting on the exam table. Her eyes closed, and when they re-opened she was standing in line in the waiting room, and had begun to light the medication pamphlets on fire. She was using a box of matches she got from the Italian restaurant she went out to the night before. She was planning on burning the clinic to the ground. The heat from the flames made Wendy’s face red, and people were screaming. But Wendy couldn’t leave. She refused to pay a fee for missing her appointment, and while the fire raged she handed over her insurance card. The receptionist made a copy, while Wendy had to clog her nose from the scent of burning flesh.
“You need to get a second opinion.” Tanya said, snapping Wendy back into reality. Tanya believed in doctor shopping. And anytime she got a physical, she made sure to see at least two or three doctors in order to get the diagnosis she wanted to hear.
Tanya’s advice calmed Wendy, who said goodbye, hung up and hopped off the table.
Wendy reached down, grabbed her beat up, power walking shoes and slipped one on. The other had laces that wouldn’t untie, and when she rammed her foot in and it got stuck, her body tumbled.
She fell directly in front of the lone mirror and Wendy admired her normal frame. She wasn’t an almond woman like her mother had been, and she wasn’t heavy enough to warrant any kind of concern. Wendy also took daily, long walks, slept at least nine hours and avoided soda, candy, desserts and any other foods that could mess with her regular bowel movements.
“Wendy…” Said a familiar voice from the otherside of the door.
The intake nurse walked in, and added, “Dr. Ruben asked me to take another reading… Just to paint a better picture.”
There was an overwhelming sense of doom, the moment the nurse asked Wendy to hop back onto the table. It was the most anxious moment of Wendy’s life. It even trumped when Wendy’s mother forgot Wendy’s name, after years of digressing from functional to diapers.
“Please… I’ll take my blood pressure at home… I promise…”
The nurse didn’t flinch and wrapped the cuff around Wendy’s arm. It fit tightly and Wendy’s heart began to pound. Wendy could even hear her heart beat in her ears, the deafening sound making Wendy unable to even fathom the reading could be normal.
“I just need you to stay silent for a few seconds, hun’…” The nurse was older, had baggy eyes and a belly. Wendy’s eyes fell straight onto the nurse, and she began to wonder how they let someone with noticeable health deficiencies take readings. Wendy believed this was just as bad as letting a blind man drive a bus.
The cuff suddenly tightened. And in a flash Wendy’s breathing sped up. It was moving faster than when Wendy had to climb a large hill during one of her walks. Her lungs were working overtime, and Wendy grabbed her chest. The sudden, sharp pain was too much to handle, and when Wendy noticed the nurse’s smile Wendy began to imagine she’d kick the nurse straight in the teeth. Sending her flying into the small sink, her mouth bleeding and foaming while Wendy stood over her, pounding the nurse’s head over and over against the countertop.
“Are we a bit nervous?” The nurse said kindly.
The question made Wendy’s teeth clench. And in a flash, Wendy’s cross trainer landed directly in the center of the nurse’s chest. The nurse became frozen. Her mouth didn’t know how to react and her soft, brown eyes became gargantuan.
“Ma’am… Are you OK?” The nurse said in shock. But Wendy wasn’t listening. The cuff was still doing a reading, the automatic machine making beeps with every passing moment. The cuff became tighter and tighter, before Wendy’s eyes fell on the small screen. The number had risen far beyond Wendy’s first reading, turning her results bright red on the screen. It made her chest begin to collapse.
“I need you to take a deep breath.” The nurse said, after pulling herself back together quickly.
“I’m having a heart attack!” Wendy yelled. Wendy’s nerves moved the pain from her chest into her shoulders, back and fingers. It made Wendy begin to squirm, spasming violently while still on the table.
“Just take a deep breath, ma’am…” The nurse paused. “Dr. Ruben will go over your results during your follow up. Just let them know at the front desk, three weeks from now.”
The nurse smiled a professional smile and walked out of the room, leaving Wendy in a heap.
Wendy’s body had turned into mush. She was spiraling in place, and Wendy knew there was only one person on Earth who could calm her down.
“Tanya… It’s me, again.”
“What was your reading?” Tanya was fumbling with her youngest son in the kitchen. Wendy could hear Tanya say away from the phone, “Timmy… Don’t touch that you little shit.”
“It was… Over…”
“What the heck is Dr. Ruben talking about? That’s perfectly normal.” Tanya was a self proclaimed health expert. She was the first in their family to take vitamins and supplements. It made her skin perfect and her body was remarkably tight. “You really need to get a second opinion…”
Tanya was making eggs, and there was a loud banging sound, followed by tears. Tanya’s son had flipped the pan over and burnt himself on the fake butter.
“Jesus, Timmy… Wendy. I’m going to need to call you back. But I’ll send you a link to my yoga teachers site… He’s got treatments for everything on there.”
The phone went dead and Wendy waited for the message. She was still on the exam bed, but knew someone would be in soon. Dr. Ruben’s office was a slaughterhouse. Patients flew in and out of exam rooms, only seeing the doctor for two or three minutes.
Wendy’s phone beeped and she clicked on the link.
It was to Tonyogi.net. The front page had a picture of a white, cross-legged man, heavily burnt from the sun, with beads around his neck, crystal rings, and a robe that accentuated his chest hair. But Wendy knew she was in the right place when she read the headline, which said any ailment could be cured with the right mindset.
Wendy began to scroll, passing everything from polio to cancers she had never heard of.
It was an encyclopedia of treatment and Wendy couldn’t wait to find her diagnosis. She scrolled and scrolled, until suddenly the website froze and a gray circle appeared. It began to spin, sending Wendy into a sweat until she became drenched when the same nurse reappeared and said, “Ma’am… We are going to need this room for another patient. If you could please come with me…”
Wendy couldn’t stand hearing another word. And when the nurse came to help Wendy off the table, Wendy grabbed the flash light used to look into patients ears, and flung it straight into the nurse’s eye. It was a direct hit in her left socket. Blood began to drip and the nurse let out a horrible scream. Her voice echoed around the tiny room, and the yelp made Wendy’s worries disappear. The horrid shriek made Wendy smile, and unexpectedly Wendy leaped off the table, grabbed the nurse’s head and smashed it into the metallic faucet. Blood began to pool in the sink, before the nurse fell and a puddle formed on the tiles.
Wendy turned back around, and went to grab her phone. She was about to walk out of the exam room, her mind completely preoccupied, and gratefully unable to worry about her heart. The nurse had become silent, but Wendy’s phone began to ring. It was Tanya.
“I got the page up on my tablet… Did you pull it up?” Wendy put her phone in-front of her face and looked at Yoga Tony’s advice, when suddenly she noticed blood dripping off her screen.
It sent Wendy’s eyes back onto the bloody floor, towards the nurse.
Wendy’s heart was the first to react to the horror she’d created. Her breath disappeared, because her heart was beating in a spastic pattern. It made Wendy’s eyeballs want to escape their sockets. Her body began to wobble and shake, and the reality of what had happened was too much to bear. Wendy began to cry into the phone, knowing her heart wouldn’t let her escape this moment. It was going to be the end of Wendy’s life, and she said, “Tanya… I’m not going to make it.” Wendy could barely muster those words as her mind began to run through all the things Wendy hadn’t done.
Wendy had wanted to have kids, own her own home, get married. Simple, basic accomplishments she assumed she’d have done before departing. It made her eyes welt and her body couldn’t hold itself up any longer. Wendy floated into the soaked tiles and her cheek fell on the warm, gooey blood. It tickled Wendy, and she unexpectedly began to play like a child in a small pool in the sand on the beach. Wendy was laughing, coating her cheeks in blood. She even used the metal base of the exam table as a mirror. Her face looked radiant, and it reminded her of when Tanya bought Wendy a Groupon for her birthday and they went to a Korean spa. It was the happiest moment of Wendy’s life, despite the kimchi Wendy had at the spa cafe which made her puke.
“Wendy? Hello…” Tanya said into the phone.
“Tanya… I’m going to get Dr. Ruben. I can’t just hope it gets better… I want to make sure we can go back to the spa for your birthday.” Tanya didn’t say anything, until she yelled, “Timmy… Stop picking your nose you little brat.” Tanya hung up abruptly and Wendy lifted herself. She cracked the exam door open, and saw Dr. Ruben about to walk into another room with a plastic bag in his hand.
“Doctor! Doctor!” Wendy yelled.
Dr. Ruben turned, let out a tired sigh and headed toward her. Dr. Ruben had treated a million Wendy’s, and didn’t want to have to waste his lunch break on another one.
He was holding his salad, and knew he didn’t have long before the salad began to wilt.
“Did the nurse take your reading?” Dr. Ruben said. He pushed open the door and walked in, the nurse’s feet making Dr. Ruben almost trip.
Wendy stared at Dr. Ruben, wondering what he was going to do. His clean, brand new orthotic shoes were soaking in the blood.
“Dr. Ruben… I can’t take a chance. I’ve got too much life I need to live before…”
“Do you really want to know the secret to longevity?” Dr. Ruben interrupted. He let out a small, phlegmatic cough before he looked at the lifeless nurse, didn’t even blink and said, “Ignorance, Wendy… That’s all there is to it.”
Wendy stood in disbelief, her cheeks coated in blood like she was reenacting a Vietnam war movie.
Dr. Ruben turned back around, used the automatic hand sanitizer machine again and told Wendy on his way out to skip the follow up and come back in a year. Wendy smiled, and unstuck her shoes from the puddle and reached towards her bag. She double checked to make sure everything was there, before opening the door and taking one giant, relieved step towards the rest of her life.