You may have noticed that yesterday (the 6th) we had a little bit of downtime here on the site. Obviously we’re back up and running now, but unfortunately the glitch wiped out a few weeks’ worth of future posts. So, rather than deal with a frantic scramble to get everything going again and keep things smooth, I’m putting Linguankery on a temporary hiatus until about the 15th or so. We did this last year, and again it was out of necessity. For as much as I’d like to keep everything automated, every once in a while something slips through without warning, so I appreciate your patience and understanding in this. We’ll get you back to the story of Fran and Kyle soon enough.
“Dominique’s a robot,” she says, “and Koh–”
“No, no,” I say, “I mean, at class.” There’s only enough lemonade in the carton for a single glass, if that. I’d been going through it pretty quickly lately.
“Just finals reviews,” Kyle says. “Next week is gonna be brutal.”
“Tell me about it,” I say. “Stupid Portugese.”
“I thought you dropped that,” she asks me.
“Was thinking about it,” I say. “I just didn’t think about it until after the deadline had passed.”
“Ah,” she says.
“How about you? Confident?” I sit down next to her on the couch and glance at the TV.
“Eh,” she says, frowning. “I’m really more worried about the flight.”
“It’s a couple weeks now, isn’t it?”
“Ten days,” she says. “I leave that Friday.”
“I’m gonna miss you,” I say.
“You too,” she says, leaning against me. “It’s gonna be rough.”
“You’ll be okay,” I say. “New York isn’t ready for you.”
“Hah,” she says. “If only. Remember that trip I took in February?”
The flight in February, over Spring Break, had been disastrous. First, inclement weather had caused the Pittsburgh airport to delay her flight by a few hours. Not because of snow, but because of freezing rain. Then, once the airplane had gotten into the skies, LaGuardia had closed down and her flight was stuck in a holding pattern over Pittsburgh for an hour. Then, when they had finally received clearance to leave Pittsburgh and were on their way east, the alternate airports all closed down as well, forcing her flight to land at Harrisburg because they ran out of gas. My first reaction at that point was, “Harrisburg has an airport?” Then, after waiting on the tarmac for three hours to refuel, the flight took off… for Charlotte, North Carolina.
I chuck the bathroom gear into the closet, crumple the prescription up, and crawl under the covers. A nap will do me a world of good, I think.
When I wake up a couple hours later, my forehead is beaded over with sweat, and the fogginess that had been encasing my thoughts is lifted. I feel tremendously better, but still not a hundred percent. I look over at the clock, and see that it’s just after six-thirty in the evening. Some sounds are coming from the living room; I pull the comforter off my bed, wrap it around my shoulders, and head out.
Kyle is sitting on the couch in a t-shirt and shorts, bare feet up on the table, with the controller cord wrapped around her left ankle. Some game or another is on the TV. “Did I wake you?” she asks.
“No,” I say. The creakiness in my throat is gone, too, I notice. “I think I broke the fever.”
“Good, good,” she says. “You’re still gonna be vulnerable. I think there’s still some lemonade in the fridge.”
I nod and wait for her to wave me across her field of vision; once I have the signal, I step gingerly over the cord and into the dining room area. “Did I miss anything?”
Which, when you get right down to it, is probably the best course of action to take. I mean, think about doctors. A kid, like me, goes to college for four years and gets a degree in pre-med. Then she goes to med school for another four just to get the right to try to treat other people. I’ve met a lot of pre-med kids and a lot of med school students. I wouldn’t trust them with a Nerf bat and a bag of marshmallows, let alone a scalpel and a prescription pad. And yet, here I am, sitting on my bed and staring at the scribbled doctor’s note and a bag of unpleasant-looking gear for the bathroom.
The prescription, I note, is for ten days. Amy, the PA, came out with it and said to try to get it filled right away. She also said that it was to be taken with a multi-vitamin and with food. This raised alarm bells for me. If I’m taking this pill with a vitamin and with chicken soup, what the hell is the pill supposed to do for me that the rest of them can’t? Cheer the vitamins on?
And here’s the other questionable part. I was prescribed this pill before the doctor knew what I had. That, I realize, was the role of the poo bag I’d been given. I am to make sure that I have a good movement, and a fresh one, to go to a lab somewhere. Now, bear in mind, I have not had any solid food for a day and a half, and that the last thing I want to do right now is hold a plastic baggie over my bum and wait.
“Whoa,” she says, her voice almost a whisper. “Sorry.”
“No, it’s cool,” I say. “What was that?”
“It happens sometimes. I usually have sunglasses on to stop it.” She looks distraught now.
“Really, it’s okay,” I say. “I’m… it’s just, I deal with a lot of weird people in my line of work, and I get these feelings once in a while. That wasn’t…”
“It’s… I didn’t mean to peek,” she says. “It just happens.”
“Is that why you’re sick?” I venture.
“Kinda,” she says. “I’m not–”
“I know,” I say. A moment passes in silence, as she stares at her knees, and I stare at her. “I’m Fran.”
“Fran,” I say. “That’s my name. I go to school here.”
“I’m… I’m Chloe,” she says. “I guess I kinda do, too.”
I have never been the kind of person blessed with a lot of faith. If you want to get right down to it, I can be pretty damn cynical at times, and the times when it’s at its worst are the times when it’d be worst to be cynical. Kyle has often said that I’d be skeptical of finding a twenty on the ground with a note attached saying “Please take me”. Well, okay, that is a pretty sketchy situation anyway, but the point still stands. I don’t believe.
“Alone?” I ask. Weird. Why would a doctor send a kid alone like this?
“What’s that?” she asks, pointing at me.
“What’s what?” I ask. “My shirt?”
“No,” she says, “the–” She stops and squints at me. “Nothing. It’s gone now,” she says. “It was there, though, on your shirt. Like a big bug or something.”
I glance down at my chest. The Steamer is still there, boiling away slowly; it doesn’t appear to have gotten any bigger during the office visit. The girl, though, is watching me closely. “It’s nothing,” I say.
“But it’s something, isn’t it?” she asks. “I mean, I think it is. It feels like it is.” The way she stresses ‘feels’ makes me wonder. It almost sounds like she’s using the word in an entirely different way to how she thinks it sounds to me. “I– I’m not supposed to talk about it.”
I sit down across the waiting room from her. “Is there anything you can talk about?” I ask.
“No,” she says. “You’re a stranger.”
“What if I told you there was something on my chest?”
She glances at me, and for an instant we make eye contact. Her expression changes in that moment. I know how crazy this is going to sound, but I swear to you it’s the truth. I can literally feel her go through a dozen different emotions. Not just notice that she’s experiencing them, but actually feel them with her. The conflict roils in my mind just as much as hers. Is this girl a time traveler?
“You’re sick,” she says, not looking up.
“So I heard,” I mumble. I glance around, but the waiting room is empty except for the two of us. She idly swings her legs back and forth underneath the chair, and flips the page.
“You should sit down, you’re gonna fall over.” She waves at one of the chairs next to her.
“I’m not,” I start, but a wave of dizziness comes over me. My equilibrium is shot, and I land on my butt, barely avoiding crushing my purse. “Whoa.”
“Told you,” she says, smiling slightly.
“Knock it off,” I say. “Aren’t you supposed to be in school?”
“I’m sick, too,” she says, and frowns. She puts down the magazine and stares me in the eye. “I’m not supposed to talk about it.”
This girl looks to be no older than about eight or so. She has long-ish straight blonde hair, and her pale blue eyes look clear and bright. She certainly doesn’t look sick. Maybe a little skinny– her jeans and t-shirt are hanging off of her– but not too badly. Maybe her mom thought she’d grow into them.
“Sounds familiar,” I mumble, picking myself up off the floor. “Are you with a sister or something?”
“Nope,” she says, glancing at the table next to her. She shuffles a few of the magazines around, trying to find something more on her level, I guess. For a moment I catch myself wondering just what is on her level. Child psychology isn’t my thing. “My other doctor told me to come here.”