In the evening Gemy checks into Medisys Corporate Clinic for a compulsory medical examination to renew his refugee work permit. This is a huge relief from today’s smelly insults that he endured at the Intercolli Factory.
Gemy is late to the 5pm clinic appointment, so a nurse waits in the reception corridor. She is late for him too.
“Paraa…” she spells Gemy’s name which booms across the clinic ́s packed reception. “This is my turn now to meet a well-heeled immigration doctor,” Gemy tells himself. He darts his eyes around the crowd, walks fast, his lips stiff and so proudly. “I am a responsible refugee; partaking in yearly medicals; guarding America’s public health.” He tells himself. “Here Gemy, a vase for your yellow urine sample,” the nurse says, by swirling loud voice across again the eerily silent reception!
Two minutes later, he’s ushered into the physician room, shy from a very public urine test. People sitting in the clinic gallery have probably heard of him being called to lower his trousers, pee, and provide a urine sample. That makes Gemy feel uneasy and he lowers his eyes to avoid other patients in the clinic. Then the doctor ambushes him, “For the exam you remain with only socks and no underwear, Gemy.”
He layers off two jackets and piles them onto the doctor room’s sofa. The doctor taps Gemy’s knees with his reflex hammer, “Your watch follows underwear too,” the doctor says tapping Gemy’s knees with his reflex hammer.
Gemy’s bones recoil from the hammer ́s force. “Open mouth wide, breathe hard in-out,” says the doctor harshly.
“He mustn’t see my gaping two upper front teeth and obvious bloody gums—lest I fail the medical and work permit,” Gemy says to himself. God knows the dilemma of refugees hiding dental pus from immigration doctors.
“Does any syphilis in the last 12 months?” asks the doctor.
Christ! No sex in fifteen months since arriving in America, and he just dangled syphilis in my mind, at a time I am obsessed with iPadPro masturbation.
The doctor sees Gemy’s cold sweat and duly releases him back into the care of the urine-sample announcer nurse. The nurse fondles Gemy’s arm to gauge blood pressure. “Sorry it’s high, I will do a manual check,” she says and dashes out of the room.
Gemy frowns when she returns and squeezes his arm with her monitor cuff belt again and hallucinates, “Oh cheers 139/111 very normal.” He smiles, still careful to hide missing teeth.
HIV/Tuberculosis test at last. “Sign here double!” she tells Gemy. “Gonna be $300 in follow up tests, if we see HIV in your blood, Sir.”
She unbundles her test kit before Gemy nods. “I fear needles and fangs…” says Gemy to the nurse.
“Hospital needles?” she asks.
“Not needles,” Gemy says. “I mean staring at needles. I look away.”
“You can view through the window,” she says and rubs wet cotton onto his left cuff veins to draw a spit of blood. “It’s a lovely Boston day…Lord, very dark, dreary. Wonder if the sun ever shows up. Left or right arm? Oh I choose,” she says.
She plows the needle into Gemy’s vein. Swoosh, it is painless but she panics anyway, “Are you okay? Tell me Gemy if you feel dizzy.”
Gemy browses his arm ́s skin. She ought to drill a simple puncture onto my vein. “Oh this is bad, I try right arm. You got rich bloody veins – best veins in Boston,” she adds.
It is then when Gemy remembers Lourna, his factory supervisor—”you ́re too skinny Gemy!” He shut his eyes when the nurse pinches his left arm ́s vein.
“Oh I missed. It’s not you. It’s me that’s bad, I’ll call someone—my colleague,” she pleads and patches cotton swabs over swellings that now resemble those of Gemy’s Italian friend, Paul—a lustful Adventist whose left thumb is sponged by a lifetime of needle pricks. Paul ́s wife is a nurse in Boston. Each time Paul returns from a journalist trip that runs past six days, she takes vials of his blood to inspect in the home OraQuick HIV test kit.
A better nurse walks in at last and introduces herself doubly. “It’s a tense day for all of us,” she says and scrolls through Gemy’s veins with her ungloved fingers. “Deep blood; drank water lately?”
“Oh yeah, warm water today,” he says.
“Ate?” asks the nurse.
“A light breakfast it must be!” Gemy says, omitting the glass of Molson Export lager he downed at dawn.
The skillful second nurse has left Gemy’s veins charred with wounds when he loiters back to the clinic’s reception. “$265 you ought to pay now,” the cashier tells him. “Your HIV results will be emailed in 7-10 days. We are pretty fast now.”
Gemy still clutches his swollen left arm when he walks onto the train at Montmorency Station. Once inside, a street sleeper forages through seats and stops at him. “Any change sir, coins?”
23 November, 2022