At the Clinic

“An STD? Me?” The acting in the informational video is exactly as bad as one would expect it to be. Performed by the sort of person who likely had dreams of going to L.A. and being a big star and then finally settled on this “gig.” The art of “medical acting.” The people in the waiting room of this diagnostic center are also as far away from that land of glamor as the person pretending to have an STD in this little scene designed to motivate you to get tested regularly. Lorraine knows that. In fact, she might be the only person in the boxed-in space who does. With everyone else around her having long ago surrendered to the so-called soothing comforts of the matrix. Particularly in this abysmal waiting room. 

They’re all here for a reason. To have something within themselves extracted so that some “higher power” can examine it. Determine if the contents within are viable or bunk. We’re all specimens waiting to be analyzed so that our worth can be decided upon. Particularly when it comes to being an “effective” worker. No company wants to hire damaged goods. Physically damaged ones, that is. They’ll take any cuckoo under the sun otherwise. History of violence? No problem. Posting sinister social media shit? No big deal. Are you able-bodied and “drug-free”? Come on down.

Lorraine didn’t want to think about these dichotomies in the hiring process of the American worker. She instead tried her best to focus on the book she was reading—Muriel Spark’s The Girls of Slender Means. It felt appropriate, for she was only getting this drug test in order to be considered for some garden variety low-paying job that had no business asking for so much of a person when it gave so little. And would continue to give so little. It was as though companies still had yet to catch on about how valuable a human being’s time truly was. That they only had so many “good years” to waste on frivolities like chasing a dollar. But such was the way of the world when the proletariat tried to function in it. Or, at least, just barely function. It was true that beggars couldn’t be choosers, and so Lorraine could not choose to opt out of the test… or so she told herself. And besides, Globe Corp. was offering to pay for it anyway, so what did it really matter? Sure, they were probably going to use her urine sample for something nefarious when they inevitably sent it to China (where all U.S. medical data ends up). But wouldn’t it be worth it for that steady sixteen dollars an hour?

Certainly, she chirped to herself as she read the line, “You don’t know what it’s like trying to eat enough to live on and at the same time avoid fats and carbohydrates.” In other words, to eat enough “on the cheap,” one had to stuff their face with some rather fattening fare. That was the slop that was most “affordable,” after all. And Lorraine couldn’t deny she had become a victim of its weight-gaining (and other) effects. Trying to survive at a baseline level made one ugly. It caused an overt loss of luster that rich people simply did not ever have to worry about losing. Their sheen was still there because they never had to compromise or debase themselves for a wage that could barely afford one side “luxuries” like CVS-bought makeup, let alone an occasional trip here and there. And that was one thing that really irritated her when it came to discussing a “universal” plan for the broke asses of the U.S. Any such “plan” failed to take into account that broke asses had a right to travel as much as they did to health care. But since the latter was already, evidently, asking for too much, travel for all would have to be reserved for some other lifetime and dimension.

The more she thought about it, the more she was forced to reconcile that maybe she really was no better than these other hideous freaks posing as normals in the waiting room. Like the fifty-something man sitting in the well-worn chair in front of her. What was left of his hair had been placed into a ponytail, and he was humming to himself for fear that if he ceased to make noise he would cease to be acknowledged, therefore cease to exist altogether. Lorraine couldn’t stand people like that—people who always felt an uncontrollable desire to attract attention to themselves. Usually, they were men. Even the younger man next to Ponytail appeared to only bring his giant German shepherd as a means to put a spotlight on himself. What kind of “emotional support” was he really claiming here? The worst moment came when Ponytail felt obliged to start up a conversation with Dog Man just because the German shepherd was eagerly whimpering, prompting Dog Man to ask with a cornball, high-pitched tone, “What is it? What is it? Yes, I know, I know.”

Dog Man didn’t know shit. And Ponytail, who could now also be nicknamed Captain Obvious, was compelled to stop humming long enough to comment, “They can understand, you know…” What a total no shit faux philosophical moment. It was even worse when stupid people played at having intelligence. Embracing one’s stupidity is actually more dignified.

As the two men kept kibitzing, Lorraine was practically ready to scream, and she couldn’t even concentrate on The Girls of Slender Means long enough to tune out the vexing quirks of this clientele. Was this job truly worth all this suffering? What’s more, it did not bode well that there was already so much suffering involved and she hadn’t even been hired yet. 

As Ponytail and Dog Man proceeded to bond over, in their minds, the arcane knowledge they had of communicating with animals, Lorraine decided she was ready to throw in the towel. Fuck this drug test, fuck this job, fuck this waiting room. Naturally, the instant the door closed behind her as she left, someone came out and called her name.

Back in the safety of her dark apartment, she plopped down on the 70s-esque paisley-print couch and let out a sigh of relief. She decided that 9:45 a.m. was just as good a time as any to light up a blunt. Because, really, it had been way too long since she’d medicated in this way, what with preparing her body’s system for this abandoned drug test and all.

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