Secret Pop

Oct 6, 2004

I've never put much faith in Eastern medicine.

My mom tricked me a little bit. The doctor she took me to, whom she described as a Chinese doctor who practices Western medicine, too, is actually a potential business associate of hers. Someone who wants to work with her. I should have known when she showed up at my apartment and asked didn't I want to change. I didn't know she was hoping I'd make an impression. It wasn't atop my priority list, as I was sweating to death and bereft of energy. My fever had already broken, and I was taking my temperature like an OCD-haver. Believe me, it was not my great desire to leave the house today, devoid of make-up, damp hair in sloppy pigtails, shuffling along in my cute pink and white Pumas and rumpled pajama pants. When I took the bands out of my hair just now, my reflection looked to me like a sad little boy with hat hair. Believe me, that was not my plan.

We drove all the way out to Temple City, to a hole-in-the-wall clinic on the side of the road. The waiting room was warm. And the music playing in the PA system was horrendous. First some sort of Chinese opera and then a Filipina singing evangelical folk music, always slightly flat. And for some reason, they were keen to play her entire album. Because song after song whined forth. And when I pointed it out to my mother she said, in that way she has of showing you how she is better, "I just don't listen to it. Just ignore it. You used to play music that I didn't like, and I didn't complain." And I said, "Yes, you did," recalling the countless times she had pushed eject when the cassette I had chosen wasn't to her liking. And she said, "Well, it's different when you're in the car."

An older Chinese man in a wifebeater came out and delivered some herbs to a Caucasian fellow waiting with us. Later, that same wifebeater was covered in a white smock, and he was the first doctor I saw. Although he insisted on not being called a doctor. I presume because he is not one. I went into a cramped office with an untidy bookshelf and began to explain my symptoms as my mom helped with frequent translation. He asked me to say "aaah" and I did. Then he reached down and picked up a flashlight -- and I mean the kind you buy in a hardware store -- and shined it into my mouth as I continued intoning. He then reached down -- possibly onto the floor, I couldn't see -- and produced a wooden tongue depresser and put in my mouth. And that was about it. He prodded at my lymph nodes for a while. Then the real doctor, my mom's friend, arrived and did a few of the same things. At one point, the un-doctor reached across the desk and dropped a little needlepoint pillow that read "God Bless America" down in front of me. I wondered if this was intended to put me at ease. It didn't. But then the doctor reached for my wrist and placed my hand on the pillow as he felt my pulse briefly, and that made more sense. He diagnosed me as having some sort of infection and said that I am also suffering from exhaustion from overwork and too much stress. And my mom made a sound and a face that had an "I told you so" quality to them. I asked if it's a sinus infection, as I suspect it to be. And he dismissed that as immaterial. It's an infection. My desire for details apparently made me nosy.

While in the car, my mom had asked me if I would let them do acupuncture on me, if they suggested it. And I told her that I don't really have much confidence in acupuncture. I don't mean to be closed-minded. I just don't know that many people whose serious afflictions have abated at the behest of those weird smoking needles. It was no matter. They never prescribed it. But I did walk past a room with multiple exam tables in it and people with needles sticking out of them. And later, it smelled like pot to me.

The doctor suggested I receive an IV and take some herbs. I agreed, but no one ever told me what was in the IV (it looked sort of like iodine). Before they started me up, they offered me use of an abysmal-looking bathroom, but I did not have need of it. The un-doctor -- who was really very nice -- stuck me a few times in the crook of my right arm, but that didn't work. I have been told my veins are hard to find. I wasn't surprised. He ended up finding a vein in the back of my hand and administering the IV there. I had to lay there for an hour or so as the fluid drained into my bloodstream. My hand and arm began to hurt. Like there was an icy cold pressure being applied all over them.

And then it was over.

And my mom stayed and talked with the doctor a bit as I stood in the hallway and was bored. That happens when two people are chattering away in a language you don't understand. It left me the time and distraction to peer into a utility closet of sorts where countless jars and bottles and boxes and tupperware containers were stacked in disarray. The substances in them were mysterious to me. Some looked like cinnamon. Some looked like industrial solvent. Many of the lids did not look securely placed. Some of them were lidless altogether. I tried not to think too much about it. I probably ingest all sorts of things I wouldn't want to know about. This is just an unnecessary glimpse behind the curtain at the sad little man working the controls. And he doesn't have anything in his bag for me. My shoes are already awesome.


I just took my temperature. It's up well over 101 again. I'm anticipating a bit more up and down. I don't know if my symptoms will devour themselves or if I will be devoured by them. But people have called and cared, and that's lovely. I can be both overglib and overdramatic when I write, so I know that people don't always know whether to take my woes seriously when I voice them. Don't worry. It's not your job to sort it out. I am in a great deal of inconvenient pain. But I'm getting used to it. And my mom bought me take-out Chinese and then told me how much she likes Everybody Loves Raymond moments before she fell asleep in front of it. I think that is her favorite show. The one that puts her to sleep the fastest.

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