i keep thinking about tom. the radiologist at huntington-hill imaging center. they squeezed me in that day — the day after my first visit with the neurologist — for three MRIs (brain, neck, spine), so i had to wait there for a long time. on and off the table for hours. watching terrible morning shows that turned into even worse daytime shows as the day wore on. it helped that i was able to sit in my own little dressing room in my shapeless, blue hospital gown and long, green, rubber-bottomed hospital socks — instead of in a waiting room with everyone else.
it’s hard to imagine feeling more vulnerable than when you’re in a hospital gown. it’s almost like a declaration of incompetence and defenselessness — you are completely at the mercy of those with the machines, the knives, the needles, the tubes. you must cast off not only the accouterments (earrings, a pretty belt, a watch, maybe) that make you an individual, you must also forego even the basic dignity of undergarments.
the folks at huntington-hill imaging center were very kind, though, especially tom. he grew up in santa monica, just a few blocks from our little beach bungalow, and went to high school here. i keep thinking about my conversation with tom because he knew before anyone else. i didn’t find out that he was the first to know until later, when i asked the neurologist how she found out so quickly. (her assistant called when we were on our way home from huntington-hill imaging center that friday afternoon to let me know that the doctor wanted to see me at 8am on monday morning. she was supposed to be out of the office for the whole week, so i knew right away that something was terribly wrong. everyone tried to convince me that it just meant she wanted to start treatment immediately, but i knew. a neurologist doesn’t schedule an appointment at 8am on a monday she’s supposed to be out of the office unless it’s a big deal — unless something is terribly wrong.)
she found out from tom. because he called to tell her as soon as he saw the MRI. while i was still on the table, maybe. or changing out of my shapeless, blue gown into my cute, tropical print dress from H&M, reclaiming my individuality, not yet knowing that my life was forever changed. but tom knew. was it before or after the smalltalk about santa monica? tom knew. but he couldn’t tell me.