Updated: Apr 15
Written by Luke Boots
Well, there I am, on my way to the doctor’s office, to see them about a sharp ringing in my left ear, and pain on the left side of my neck. I had put it off several weeks, as the pain was inconsistent, but after several Google searches I was convinced of it: throat cancer, raw and real, growing in my neck after years of abuse to my body. What a fitting end! To be sober and dying of throat cancer!
Another concern was my tonsils.
I had been there once before for a rather bad cough several months prior. It wasn’t the nicest spot in town, but then again I was on MediCal, so you take what you can get.
More worrisome was the location: Pomona. Oh, Pomona! How I used to walk these streets, high as a kite, like a pale stick darting insect-like out of pawnshops and fast food restrooms. I can’t help but feel a tinge of nostalgia. Bad times sure, but boy was I living. Not a care in the world, except more drugs. I would drive out with my laptop in the backseat, pawn it for $70, score, get it out maybe a week later, and then do it all over again. One of many items I would export to the various Pomona pawnshops.
“Back again?” they would say, as I would scurry in with the laptop and charger cradled in my arms, pale as a ghost with sweat dewing my upper lip.
“Sure!” I would exclaim. “Just got another bill to pay!”
Damn those pesky bills. Whether or not they believed my endless bullshit lies, I’ll never know. They took my laptop all the same. It was a pawnshop in Pomona after all; little squirmy fucks like me had to be the norm.
I almost tear up with nostalgia, but alas, I was sober now and had serious responsibilities. Chief among them the growing cancer I was sure was eating me away from inside. Bills were a real concern now, and life had not been giving me any handouts that last week. I lost a job, was forced to replace my iPhone XR suffering from a busted microphone with an iPhone 11 (not such a bad thing?), got a worrisome letter from the probation office, and, neurotic as I was, was already dreading (in November) the amount of money I would owe come tax season. Life, as it was, was hitting hard, and a doctor’s visit was just the cherry on top of the shit sundae.
I pull into the parking lot of the doctor’s office and head inside. A young woman with face tattoos is demanding such and such at the front desk. The appointment was for 9:20 AM, and I had not risen early enough to shave and shower. There I was, fitting in, looking like a damn bum! Baggy camo sweatpants and XL black hoodie hanging off my skinny frame, hair greasy. I felt as if I looked like a drug addict sober as well.
Shameful of my appearance, I approach as the face tatted woman sits down. There is a lot of Spanish being spoken and I don’t know Spanish. The receptionist understands my blank face as “English please” and I check in. I sit down and survey my surroundings. Looks like a goddamn parole office in here, I think. I also think that I would definitely fuck the face tatted girl, even though the act would definitely break me in half, underweight and malnourished as I am.
After a short span of time, I am called back. It looks like a regular doctor’s office, there’s even a fancy tree sculpture in the middle of the back offices, but the chairs covering holes in the drywall are the telltale signs of what this place is. God, how I missed the coverage my parents’ insurance would allow me! Now I was thrown to the wolves, left to my own devices.
I am weighed in at 153 lbs and was led to one of the patient rooms.
“Does your ear hurt right now?” asks the nurse after I give her my long list of troubles, excluding the throat cancer worry (I’ll know soon enough….).
“No,” I respond. “But I am experiencing slight throat soreness.”
“Do you smoke?”
She walks out without responding.
I sit for about 46 minutes, and after exhausting all my social networking updates and refreshing my email for 10 minutes straight I realize this is taking way too fucking long. I consider storming out, throat cancer and all. That’ll show them! I’m about to kick open the door and ensure whoever happens to be walking by outside feels the force of my wrath, when a shriveled old creature briskly walks in.
It gurgles something in a low volume, in what may be some sort of heavily accented English. Without giving me time to respond it produces an otoscope and begins twisting my neck and head in ways I am certain are not considered professional. I instantly consider suing this dump.
Now, I am rather tall and this creature is very short, so I offer to sit on the much lower stool adjacent to the patient table. It nods in agreement. I am instantly given that same fucked up neck massage before it starts digging around my ear.
“You have something in there” it gurgles, this fucking goblin in a white coat.
It digs around in the other ear, looks inside my mouth while pressing down with one of those flat sticks, sets it down on the patient table and clearly forgets about it, which I find unsanitary. It roughly checks my other ear again, the affected one, and says there’s a piece of metal in there. This fucking goon has clearly never seen a silver tunnel plug before.
“It’s like a piercing, but a hole” I say pointing at my plugs.
It doesn’t register what I’m saying.
“Inside your ear. You have a piece of metal.”
It instantly makes sense as I realize I had been using a grinder to cut off metal pipe endings at the job I formerly had, which was assisting various independent contractors with tasks that included such things as grinding metal. Fuck! Not only did I lose the job, but no workman’s comp! Fucked from
beyond the grave!
“Can you get it?”
“No. You need a specialist. It is probably infected so I will prescribe antibiotics.”
It leaves the mouth stick wet with my saliva and the otoscope featuring my personal ear cap on the table and begins to scuddle towards the door.
“Wait, can someone else here get it?”
“No tools here for that. You need to go to an ENT specialist.”
I think it chortles and grunts something else but I can’t hear it. It clearly has some other patient to violate, and I am convinced this fucking imp has no idea what he is doing and I definitely do have throat cancer, but I am tired and irritated and just want to get the fuck out of there. Sober, dying of throat cancer, with metal inside my fucking ear. What a life.
The nurse comes back in and I explain I should probably get it removed ASAP.
“You said it doesn’t hurt right now.”
“Please!” I almost shriek.
She gives me an appointment date that is unspecified, but may take up to 5 weeks. 5 weeks with a piece of fucking pipe metal in my ear! I look forward to the antibiotics, as I’m sure my fucked up body can no longer fight infection that well on its own, even after some time in sobriety.
I am about to protest, for what I don’t know, but she’s gone. I see myself out.
The air is cold outside, although it’s a sunny morning. It’s November in California. Thanksgiving is in six days. True, I no longer pawn my parents’ jewelry or any belongings I had that anyone willing would take, but I also have a tiny shard of metal in my fucking ear canal. I consider getting worked up enough to cry. I’m thankful for some things, I suppose, but not enough. Sometimes I’m thankful for nothing.
Luke is a member of the wrting staff at Faded Morgana, as well as the Creative Director for the Film and Television projects releasing later this year. Luke comes from a pop-culture fueled background including healthy obsessions with Quentin Tarantino, Alkaline Trio and Wes Anderson films, as well as unhealthy obsessions with old school punk and the Smiths. Luke rates stories by Ewoks rather than Gold Stars.