February, after lunch. Every chief complaint
includes aches and sore throat. Nine
women. Two men. Deep lined faces seek
relief in this familiar space with blue
countertops. Three exam rooms, ordered
exactly, labels on drawers and doors.
I can’t find the correct swab I need
in this pile of white-tipped applicators:
compressed foam for viral cultures,
difficult-to-open rayon heads for strep,
and so on. I can’t catch a rhythm. It’s like
cooking dinner in someone else’s kitchen.
Between patients, one of the nurses tells
me about her trip to Mayo. She starts chemo
next week. Stethoscope thumps gawky against
my chest without breasts to damper the bumps.