I never like going to the doctor, especially to my psychiatrist, since I consider him my sovereign — he is the person who has the most power over me — but it is a benevolent authority. His name is Dr. Sabanayagam, but we patients call him Dr. Saba for short. He is a cheerful, brown-skinned man originally from Sri Lanka; his wife acts as his secretary and assistant. I have often wondered if they emigrated here because of the thirty year ethnic conflict in that country between the government and the so-called “Tamil terrorists,” but I never dared to ask about it and it was none of my business. I sometimes talk to him about the books I’m reading, and one time I told him about the conclusion I made once in that to read history was to read about war. Dr. Saba shared with me that in the country he came from, the history books were all edited and changed over and over to suit those with prerogative.
The patients whom Dr. Saba treats are precisely the ones who have no sway at all — the poorest of the poor, the sickest of the sick — persons in group homes, children who have no parents, and people like myself who are disabled mentally ill. Dr. and Mrs. Saba travel from Goldsboro to Greenville every month. Their Greenville division is in an old, decaying office complex that the owner has been trying to sell for years. Most of these offices are vacant, and the ones that are not cater to those persons who are struggling to live on their own, in their own homes. The waiting room has old, dilapidated furniture which the landlord will not replace, and he was slow about repairing the heating and air conditioning.
When I entered the waiting room, Mrs. Saba saw me come in and retrieved my file from her portable filing cabinet. A man in a wheelchair — with one leg and with his upper chest strapped in — was wheeled out of Dr. Saba’s office by one of his caretakers while the other one carried a file folder full of paperwork, who immediately called someone on her cell phone so they could get picked up by the nursing home staff. His next patient was a young man who walked very slow with a dazed expression on his face, accompanied by another human services worker who was also carrying a file folder. As soon as the two of them exited the office and approached Mrs. Saba to make their next appointment, Dr. Saba came out, picked up my folder, and called me by my first name.
When I entered his office and received his cheerful greeting, the first thing Dr. Saba did was to put me on the scales. I weighed in at 167.6 and he wrote it down in my chart. I told Dr. Saba about the health problems I had experienced since I saw him last. I showed him the empty bottles of tizanidine and predisone I had finished taking, describing to him how I injured my spine in the shower. He told me that the tizanidine was a muscle relaxant, it could make me feel fatigued and sleepy, and that the predisone was a steroid to clear up the inflammation in my back. I replied to Dr. Saba that I hoped that I never have to take predisone again. I told him about the insomnia I experienced. I told him how I wet my bed. It had an impact on how I felt — it made me nervous and angry, making me hate everything and everybody, but now the pill bottles were empty, and the steroids were out of my system. I mentioned to him that there was still a slight sensation in the lower center of my back. Dr. Saba said it would probably take around three months for it to clear up completely.
Dr. Saba looked at me with a rather pensive gaze. “Since I saw you last, you have lost nine pounds. How did you do it?” I had gotten to the point where I would rather drink coffee than eat, but I didn’t tell him that; instead, I mentioned the current situation he may have heard about concerning a polar vortex that has placed North America in the clutches of a January freeze. Since it is now too cold to ride my bicycle, my only alternative was to fast. Sometimes I would wait until the middle of the day, eat a small piece of bread, and that would be all I had all day. I didn’t want him to pick on me about my weight anymore. I knew that both my primary care physician and Dr. Saba wanted me to weigh 170, but it is very difficult to stay there, and Dr. Saba said not to lose any more weight.
He concluded by saying the I do well most of the time, but I let little things get to me. To this I wholeheartedly agreed. Dr. Saba rose from his chair behind his desk and said it was good to see me. As I exited his office, I received a prescription and an appointment to come back in sixty days. As I walked out the front door, I called Laura, who was at a retail store looking over the clearance aisle, and I asked if she was hungry. She picked me up and I took her to a Mexican restaurant across town. I broke my fast by eating four large tacos, and Laura got three burritos. She said that I didn’t have to take her out to eat just because she took me to the doctor, but I replied that I wanted to because she was so kind to me.