This time the doctor was a woman in her forties. She wore hot pink velour sweatpants. Her fingernails extended an inch past her fingertips, with electric yellow and green tiger-stripe polish and press-on diamond rhinestones. Her make-up was caked, her hair dyed pink. Of all that, it was the sweatpants that really threw me because what was this? Pyjama day at the walk-in clinic? I don’t remember what I went to see her for. I don’t remember what she advised me. In fact, I never heard what she advised me. I’m not a huge believer in the value of workplace dress codes, but I spent the entire time thinking is this woman actually a doctor?
I woke up one morning with my left eye swollen shut and a hard lump protruding from my eyebrow. The upper left region of my face had gone full puff. Nothing like this had ever happened before, and I couldn’t figure out any explanation for it. By lunchtime the swelling hadn’t gone down, so I went to the walk-in clinic.
The doctor was a stooped, wrinkled man with snow-white hair. If a police officer had later asked me to guess his age, I would have said 90. His navy blazer was three sizes too large, making him look like a kid playing dress-up. More disturbingly, the blazer was coated in white dog hair, as though at least three samoyeds had tried on the jacket earlier that day. Overall, this man looked less like a medical professional and more like a homeless guy who’d wandered in from the alley.
I pointed to my eye. He reached a withered finger toward me and pressed on the lump, hard.
‘It’s an insect bite. Might even be a wasp sting.’
This was January in Winnipeg, Canada. Outside, the snow banks were up past my knees. I had not seen a wasp in months, probably because they were all dead or hibernating underground through the winter. Maybe he was recently arrived from Florida and hadn’t yet figured out which insects to randomly attribute his extremely professional diagnoses to.
Also, I feel like I would have known if a wasp had stung me on the face.
I went home. The swelling went away on its own.