The Selfless Heart

Author: Jack Harris

I could break down a cold, but the diagnosis was misleading.  Of all the times I have stood forthright with arms wide to embrace an impact; they never come when I am ready.  It was such a beautiful evening.  The anxieties of having my first MRI all went away when Dr. Kerrigan explained to me that it was just precautionary.  I walked out of that clinic with sunglasses drawn to hide my eyes from the setting sun.

The next week ran over me like makeup in the shower.  I was greeted with “Hello, your wait time is 20 minutes.”  I did not like the hurried way in which I was dealt.  The MRI office to which Dr. Kerrigan had sent me had shades drawn to probably hide the suffering of its constituents.  As I sat, dust from my chair puffed out and settled onto the Lysol-soaked linoleum.  A child stared at me with his cute little eyes.  

After a few minutes, I had a sudden urge to use the restroom.  “I’ll only be 10 minutes,” I let the receptionist know.  She just glared indirectly at me then smiled with a downward nod.  I struggled for 10 minutes while my stomach cramped with urgency, but my bowels were strictured as a snake constricts around its prey.  I wish that I could have stayed for hours, but 10 minutes is 10 minutes, and MRIs are unpredictable.  On the other side of the restroom door, there was another, stuffy world that did not give a damn about me.

“Is there any way you guys may scan my abdomen as well?” I asked the receptionist.

She let out a wide grimace to say “You will have to get a referral from your doctor.”

So now gone are the days of personal respect and decency, of breaking chains to alleviate human suffering.  Christ, a woman half my age came in, weeping.  Her naivety kept her from realizing that everyone else was waiting in the same position.  I could have politely stopped her narcissism, but every crackling breath I took could not even satisfy  a little child.  I coughed.  People depend on me.  More than twenty minutes had passed, there couldn’t be a young snarky receptionist in the world who could keep me from my family, and my chair was a torn mess; the office had not been refurbished for decades; I could now see death in the eyes of the child who continually stared at me.  A chill tore through my abdomen.  My sight narrowed in on the receptionist just in time to see her swiping her phone left then right then left 3 more times.  She hovered over her phone, snorting like a pig.  Her breath was congested by choice.

I only asked her to help me.  She must not have taken kindly to a person engaging her full attention.

“Ma’am, please wait your turn.”  I had been waiting for nearly 30 minutes.  Does she not know that I have much more than just a job to attend?  

“Ma’am please sit down.  You are making me uncomfortable.”  I had not said a word.  Could this girl not hold eye contact?

“Please have your son stop staring at me,” I had simply told the child’s mother, still standing at the reception desk.  The room was silent, just glaring at me.  I felt as if the entire room had turned against my inquiry.  “Alright, I will sit down.”

Nothing had happened; there were two people having a disagreement.  A simple argument.  I was probably wrong.  I cannot have this conflict when I am in such pain.  I channeled positive energy through my being.  I could now tell the receptionist that I was sorry in order to ease the tension.

“That’s okay, sometimes the radiologist has to take extra scans.”  She did not say that she was sorry, however, her response was natural.   I was also not there to correct her.  I was not even there to guide my friends or even my family. I was there to live, to be happy; and possibly to die in peace, knowing that I know how to make it through to the end.  After the MRI, Dr. Kerrigan told me I had no choice but to quit smoking, and I agreed.  Now as I sit with my husband on our front porch, cigarette in his hand, me on oxygen, I am happy that we can do this.  As he says to me looking outward at the kids playing street football, “those boys are going to hit our Jeep,” I look at him and laugh with a blush as he does the same.  We both let out profuse coughs, still laughing harmoniously.

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