Same Day Test


I don’t feel like myself as I pick up the phone. In a way I can see my body from a bird’s eye view, standing in the hall, holding the phone. I can see the curly cable as it stretches down to the base unit. It’s a really bad shade of creamy yellow and it’s dirty. I don’t know why I never noticed that before. I suppose people catch things from dirty phones. When you use a public telephone you don’t know who’s been spreading their ear wax on it.

I tell the receptionist I want an AIDS test. She says I want the department of genito-urinary medicine and she’ll transfer me. Another woman comes on. She seems bright and businesslike and for some reason this is terrifying. —An HIV test. A same day test? When do you want an appointment for? I have next Tuesday...

Next Tuesday? The time from here to there stretches like a huge canyon in the desert, with only a fraying rope bridge.

—Let me check. Now. Can you manage 9.45 this morning? We’ve had a cancellation.

Relief in my chest. Such a big feeling it’s ridiculous.

—What name?

My mouth is already open when I remember something about life insurance and premiums going up if you’ve had a test, never mind the result.

—It’s a confidential service. I just need a name, any name.

I tell her Smith. Then I say no, it’s Houston. Everybody must say Smith.

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