It was the strangest thing, but something I guess I never thought about until now. And it’s strange and scary, but it never used to be. It never was like that before, it was just something we talked about and laughed at and thought weird.
What it is is that one day I called the local doctors to make an appointment and the nurse answered. She said ‘yes Ryan, I have you booked in already’. I asked her how she had me booked in already when I’d just decided to call her now and she said that she always knew when people were going to book in and she usually had the book filled out with appointments before anyone had even called for the day.
‘Just a special talent.’ She chirped.
Now this was in a small town, so knowing everyone wasn’t too hard, but I couldn’t believe that she could possibly know when people were going to book in before even they knew. But somehow she did. I spoke to friends about it, some of the old farmers in town to get the mail and the milk and they said the same thing, about the nurse. They said they’d ring up and she’d already know who they were and when they were booked in. Even one time when one of the local workers, Shane, cut his hand and had to be brought in specially, the nurse was out there in the car park in her white dress with her hair blowing in the breeze like an angel, waiting for them to arrive. And they didn’t even call.
One time I walked in, unannounced, just to check if she was for real. It was first thing so she was busy writing the appointments for the day up, in pen, not grey lead. I came up, leaned onto the desk and she said ‘Ryan, you’re not due in today.’ I said I knew that and laughed with her about testing if she was right. And right there in front of me, she answered the phone and already had Mrs. Hawkins booked in. The doctor came out and knew what I was looking at.
‘It’s a miracle, I reckon,’ She said. ‘Just amazing.’
It got to the point were I didn’t even call up, that and my phone had a busted wall connection, which made it not work. I’d just come in and she’d lead me straight through.
It was one day a few months ago when old Mrs. Stewart called up and tried to book in. But she wasn’t in the book. The nurse looked over her penned in names that she’d written up just that morning, but Mrs. Stewart wasn’t there.
‘I don’t know what’s wrong.’ The nurse said. ‘Are you sure you need to come in?’
But Mrs. Stewart did need to come in, most definitely. The nurse was taken aback and confused. She pencilled in Mrs. Stewart for just after twelve, in between other appointments, but she couldn’t understand why she’d got it wrong, everyone else had been right.
I think it was about twenty minutes after the phone call that old Mrs. Stewart died. She had heart failure I think they said. So the nurse was right, Mrs. Stewart was no due in. Because she was going to die before making it. And this made the nurse pale and afraid and she took a few weeks off, knowing that somehow something in her knew Mrs. Stewart was going to die. And she did nothing to stop it.
After a while though, the nurse was back. Back with her pen, writing up appointments before anyone had called. I thought maybe she could work for the government or something. But after Mrs. Stewart there was a different feel about this special gift she had. Something, bad.
So this is why it’s scary today, why I’m remembering all this. Because I’m holding the phone talking to the nurse, trying to make an appointment.
But I’m not on the book.
I’m not coming in today.
And I can hear the nurse’s voice start to shake, her breathing get deep.
‘Oh no. No, no. This isn’t right.’ She’s saying, flicking papers.
‘What should I do?’ I ask.
‘Well, I don’t know, um, just stay where you are, okay? No wait, that might be the problem.’
‘Problem?’ My mind is sifting through scenarios, ways my life could end today. An unexplainable feeling, when you imagine no longer being here. A vulnerability that you can normally ignore, now shining in your face light a bright light. A bright, white light. I can only relate the feeling to two other times in my life, once when I was climbing the school water tower and lost my grip for a second, hanging by nothing, 25 metres up, for that second. And one time when I jumped into a pool not realising how deep it was and me being unable to swim and no one took my cries for help seriously. They thought I was playing. That feeling.
‘I don’t know.’ The nurse says, defeated, and I think she’s crying, but trying to hide it. ‘I don’t know. I’m sorry.’
Outside it’s raining, clouds suffocating the sun, and I’m trying to think of the safest way to get to the doctor. I’ve become as fragile as a baby, and everything could kill me, stop me making my appointment. There is no right way. So in my car I look both ways over and over. Like tiptoeing around a sleeping monster.
The wheels slide on the shining road as I turn into the car park, slowly. Slowly. I see myself crashed into an electricity pole. Flattened by a falling tree. Shattered drops of water and glass. The sweat on my head will only come back when I wipe it. I can see the nurse through the window, being comforted by someone as she panics through paperwork, looking for answers. Reasons. Excuses.
I lean my hands onto the desk and beg the crying nurse, please, please. Sweat rolling over my skin. She is screaming, high pitch, tears rolling over hers. She’s sorry. She says maybe the doctor can see me now and I can feel my worry starting to tingle in my eyes. The lights buzz like insects and the TV is talking to no one behind me.
‘Just, can you give me…? I’m not going to die am I?’ I say.
‘No, just take a seat.’ The nurse says.
‘You could’ve got it wrong.’ I say. ‘There has to be something.’
‘Just stay, maybe the doctor will come out.’
‘No, I… I’m not meant to. What will happen?’ It feels like something is fizzing inside my chest, trembling my chin.
‘I don’t know, I don’t know.’ The nurse cries at me, leaning over her desk. ‘I don’t know why.’
‘There’s got to be something. This can’t be it, y’know?’ I think my life is flashing before my eyes, like they say, but it’s more what people will think of me than what I’ve achieved. ‘I can’t stay here, there’s… I’ve gotta’ go.’ There’s things I have to do. Not here. I need someone to be with.
‘No, no, just wait.’ The nurse lunges over her desk at me, her make up smeared like ink.
Across the noisy pebbles on the doctor’s driveway, I look back and see the nurse still wiping away her make up and coming around the desk. I can hear my phone ringing behind the locked door, singing on the passenger seat. My sister speaks.
‘Ryan, come quick,’ She says ‘It’s Mum, you gotta’ come. Mum’s died, she’s…’ Her voice sounds hurt, deep and breathy.
‘Yeah. I tried to call this morning but there was no answer.’
‘No, the phone’s got a dodgy connection, I…’
‘Mum didn’t have your mobile number, had to drive home to get it. Ryan come quick. Please.’
I drive out at full speed, dig holes in the driveway with my wheels. The nurse, worn out from crying, stands confused on the pebbles. She fades out like a bright light, dimming, out of power.