At the Doctor’s Room
“She was fired” Maria said with a hint of victory mixed with disappointment. The lady she told gasped in shock but not surprise. There was something off about her she said as if reasoning off her response.
“She didn’t really have the spirit of joy hey?”
“Ja’’, Maria continued “she took half a million rands in the eight years she worked here.
Her audience tried to work how much could she have taken per month quickly in her head before Maria could slot in another sentence. A slender man walked in with pieces of paper in his one hand and a cellphone and car keys in the other. He greeted the patients sitting on the sofas in English and “gooie more’” to Maria. With her his voice was lower and respectful. He put the papers on the table adjacent to Maria’s. A quick glance at his watch, he wrote the time on the paper and signed it. Maria rolled herself with her office chair to the table where the man stood and the two continued their Afrikaans conversation. Something about the kids and their school or their age they chatted while the man finished his paperwork and without any effort or thought handed it over to her.
The doctor’s room opened and an elderly gentleman walked out smiling, “I am going to live until I die” he said to himself and whoever was willing to listen. Laughter erupted from the male patient whose face hid behind the magazine. In between this the phone rang, it was not in a normal ringing loud tone and it rang only twice. Maria ignored it and continued to speak to her Afrikaans visitor. There was a regular patient in the room watching all this. She had a quarter past nine appointment and it was already nine thirty five. She arrived at ten minutes past nine, the same time with the doctor, something that disturbed and secretly infuriated her. She was actually more jealous than angry. Her day this particular morning started just before 5am. She read her Bible, said her prayers and got her kids to school by seven. She proceeded to her workplace where she found out that for the third day there is still no electricity in her office and her work is piling up. She worked for a financial company as a proof reader. A job that didn’t require much from her except her investigative skill of checking and making sure that there are no spelling, grammatical or typographical errors. The previous night she had told her husband, if there is no electricity tomorrow I am going to see the Doctor for my annual insurance medical checkup, I will let you know immediately when I get there so that you can book the appointment for me. She did and he made the nine fifteen appointment. She however didn’t expect to walk in at the same time with the Doctor but more importantly she didn’t expect to feel so jealous of the Doctor. She and her husband were looking for parking, the Doctor has relocated in the past months and it was their first time in her new offices. “All the parking were reserved”, her husband complained. At this time she was out of the car looking for the entrance of the new office and the Doctor came from around the corner. She had a grey plastic basket with both her hands in front of her, it seemed heavy to carry. A white handbag hanged down her right shoulders with files held under it.
“We are looking for your offices” was the first words she could utter at the Doctor’s surprise appearance. She walked to the first door and the patient followed. She noticed that the Doctor’s handbag was open, something she considered unsafe for a woman in South Africa, in Winkle. The doctor had a pair of three quarter pants on, black ones and her top was covered with bags, files and hair that the patient could not figure out what colour was the blouse. Her hair was definitely brown, curly brown and untied and no earrings but a cream white pearl necklace. She stood in front of the white security gate and turned the lock left and right. It was locked. “Woohoo” she called pushing her head slightly in the space between the gate bars. A lady, the patient assumed that she is the cleaner and immediately rebuked herself for being superficial or maybe racist, no in her case it would be tribalism. The gate unlocker was slender with a straight back hairstyle and a pair of jeans with a t-shirt on. The Doctor and her exchanged morning greetings and familiar smiles while the patient followed suit. She couldn’t help but imagine how the day of the Doctor started, what time exactly did it start for her to be at work at ten minutes past nine. She knew that the Doctor had at least one grown married child according to the photos in the office and so she took it that maybe, just maybe she have one last child who is in high school. A child who was able to wake herself up, bath herself, make her own breakfast and lunchbox without anyone screaming at them to “GET FINISHED NOW OR I AM COMING IN THERE TO SMACK YOUR BUM”. So if she has that perfect last born she might have woken up after her child left because the patient also knows that the Doctor has a husband but not sure of his working life or what he does for a living but he is there. So he took the last born to school, the patient continued in her imaginary world and that could have been after seven, the time the Doctor woke up. Like her she read the Bible and said a prayer. That would have taken her half an hour and then because she is a doctor she would have breakfast, unlike her as her stomach is only able to take water before ten in the morning. And then she would have bathed , no, got dressed because the patient’s mother did tell her that white people don’t really bath everyday especially in the morning and also on the movies she noticed that white people wake up, brush their hair and sometimes their teeth and then leave for work or school. So bathing for the Doctor was cancelled. She then after breakfast went to get dressed, washed her face and put make up and in the meantime her husband came back and they conversed in between. The patient imagined again that the Doctor lived locally so after everything else she might have left home at nine o ‘clock giving herself ten minutes. She might have called the office to ask if she had any appointments to arrive at this time, the patient concluded within mind.
The jealousy came more from the relaxed mode the Doctor was in, the fact that she could see that the Doctor could control her life and come to work at her own time whilst she didn’t have all those choices. She was jealous that she never could get alone time as a mother the way she imagined the Doctor just had and still have money and access to a life she could afford.
As the patient walked in after the Doctor she informed the door keeper to not lock the door as her husband is behind her, “still parking the car” she quickly clarified herself. The lady agreed and waited for the unknown man while the Doctor slipped into the first blue curtained door to the right. The patient passed slowly and noticed that it was the kitchen and the heavy basket sat by her feet. The new offices seemed bigger, there was more seating room compared to the last offices, more light and more colour. The patient looked for familiarity, it was the first time she had come to the new offices but she was looking for comfort and continuation of her and the Doctor’s journey in the furniture. There was a new set of grey sofas that the patient didn’t know, but the blue vases were there and the matching sky blue curtains were also there at the now high windows. There were some extra plastic flowers, a green and red one sat on a free table while a fat short golden vase with a dark green flower sat on the corner of Maria’s table. The office still had two tables but this time they were all visible, in the old office one could see the two women but only one table, Maria’s one at the reception. In this office they sat back to back but this time the other table was empty and she assumed that it used to be that of the half million rand thief.
The patient has been one for the past three years. They have moved in town because her husband got a better job, he always was the road man, job after job, each year he probably would work for three to four different companies. And in his jokes he would say “coloured can’t keep their jobs hey”. In Winkle however he seemed to have lost his coloured genes and have been in the same job for three years. It might be the patient’s cry of having a settled home or their first born girl’s love for the sea but whatever it was he was still with the same company for three years. The first time she visited the Doctor was because her son had high fever running for three days in a row but she told the Doctor that it was a day and half. She didn’t tell her that she gave him a mixture of ginger and honey, crushed garlic and ginger and patted his body down with a warm face cloth. She also prayed for him but that was also part of the withheld information. She was first surprised that it was a woman, actually guiltier than surprised because she immediately felt judged as a bad mother by another mother, especially a mother Doctor. She found her to be nice though, her office modest and simple she seemed to be in her forties. She had an inviting bedside manner smile, was gentle with her son and with her up to a certain level. Through the year the patient brought all the other kids, her own self when her herbal cupboard was exhausted and her husband when he needed “rest leave”.
The phone stopped ringing, it actually is meant to after two rings, it is a code between the doctor and the receptionist Maria but the patient also picked on it. If the phone rang low and twice, it meant that the Doctor is ready for another patient. This time however Maria was still speaking her Afrikaans with the man and did not notice that the patient, no, the sales rep was finished with the Doctor and standing in front of her empty table. The patient with a low irritated voice informed her husband that the Doctor is ready for them but MARIA had not even bothered to call them. Her body was at the edge of the couch and was contemplating taking her own file and walking into the Doctor’s room and in the process humiliate Maria. “If it was a white person she wouldn’t have continued with the conversation, she would have immediately sent them in after the phone rang” she said with gritted teeth. Maria finished her conversation and absentmindedly picked up the file and gave it to the patient.
“She is wasting my time” the patient murmured walking into the Doctor’s room. I can’t afford to be away from work the whole day while she is blabbing her life away with useless people” she murmured while sitting down in front of the Doctor with a smile.