The girl sat in a folding metal chair, wearing a crude paper gown and holding her clothes on her lap while the woman fired off a barrage of questions.
Is someone here to take you home? Have you had a fever or any other signs of infection in the last week? Have you had anything to eat or drink in the last twelve hours?
She could hear more in the background, but she wasn’t listening anymore. She wasn’t even sure she was really there. The whole thing seemed so surreal.
She thought maybe it was all just a dream, a really bad dream.
But she couldn’t wake up and she couldn’t wish it away, it was actually happening.
The woman said something else, then turned and walked back toward the waiting room.
The girl tried to distract herself by thinking about better things like getting her driver’s license, graduating from high school and getting the f*ck out of her mother’s house.
But she couldn’t purge what was happening from her mind. She hated her mother for making her do this.
She subconsciously rested her hand on her stomach again then abruptly pulled it away as if she’d just touched fire.
She picked up a coverless magazine from the scarred wooden table next to her and carelessly flipped through it.
A small woman in a nurse’s uniform called her name. She set the magazine down, got up and followed the woman down a dimly lit hallway to a room with a small metal table.
She was told to lie down on the table and put her feet in the stirrups. She did as she was told, self-consciously keeping her knees as close together as possible.
A tall man with gray hair came in. He leaned toward her and introduced himself as the doctor. She missed his name. She was too focused on the beige crumbs at the corner of his mouth and breath that smelled of stale coffee.
The nurse mutely picked up her left hand, promptly stabbed a small needle into the top of it and then taped it into place.
The girl stared at the needle as if waiting for it to do something. It might have hurt, but she didn’t notice.
Somewhere nearby the doctor told her to take a deep breath and count to ten. She rolled her head in his direction and did as she was told.
One, she could feel the cold numbness radiating up her arm, two, three…
She woke up twenty minutes later in a different room sobbing in agony.
It hurts so much, why does it hurt so much?
A different nurse was standing next to her with a much larger needle in her hand.
This will make you feel better honey. She jabbed the needle swiftly into the girls hip.
No, it won’t. The girl thought. Nothing can make me feel better. Nothing will ever make me feel better.
The pain subsided and she lay there numbly, staring at the brown water stains on the ceiling tiles.
The nurse came back and told her she could get dressed.
She sat up without speaking and began to pull the gown off. After she finished dressing, the nurse helped her up and walked her to a different door than the one she’d come in through.
He was waiting there for her. He asked her if she was finished. She just stared at him.
Come on. He said.
He huffed impatiently, then took her hand and half pulled her down the stairs to the parking lot.
When they got to his truck, he opened the door for her then turned to walk to the driver’s side. She climbed clumsily into the cab and fumbled with her seat belt until she finally heard it click into place.
He huffed again and then reached across her to pull the door closed.
She leaned against the window and closed her eyes. When she opened them again they were on the freeway. She watched the infinite brown and rocky terrain as it flew past her window.
The drive back to town seemed endless.
He kept talking to her, just like normal, like everything was normal. He talked about his truck and his friends and his music. He played air drums on the steering wheel.
What the fuck? she thought. None of this matters, Why won’t he shut up? Does he even care?
When they arrived at her house, the girl saw her mothers shadow appear momentarily in the front window. The front door opened a moment later and she stood glaring at the truck.
Mechanically, the girl unfastened her seatbelt and opened the door.
She turned toward him but he stared straight ahead and wouldn’t meet her eyes.
I’ll call you later. He said.
She didn’t respond. Instead she picked her purse up off the floor and moved to get out, accidentally knocking an empty soda can out the door and onto the road.
She looked down. It was a cola can. She hated cola.
Don’t leave garbage on the ground, pick that up! Her mother hollered from the porch.
Once again, she did as she was told.