Irony: a literary technique in which the audience can perceive hidden meanings unknown to the characters. (Oxford Canadian Dictionary)
I sat in the waiting room of my doctor’s office. The tiny space was packed with sniffling patients; the yellow walls replicated the color of their skin. I squirmed in my seat, jamming my elbow into the woman next to me. I apologized and pulled at my turtleneck in an attempt to allow cooler air to ease the stifling heat. The waiting room at the arthritis clinic was much larger. Five days a week I passed by the exposed area on my way to my desk, catching a glimpse of dejected skeletons, moping faces, and twisted bodies, all waiting their turn with the specialist. They flip through medical magazines looking for a cure for their particular ailment; the magazines are old, dog-eared, and years past the current date. I looked down at the magazines beside me — a May issue of Cosmopolitan; it was October.
I massaged my sore and swollen joints. My knees and ankles seethed and my blood boiled beneath my pallid skin. Small fevers plagued me, like a mild flu virus returning again and again. Every now and then, a rash left its tenuous footprints over my skin and then disappeared before any medical practitioner could see it. Tender spots puffed out around my elbows and knees. My bulbous hands and inflated fingers did not look like they belonged on the end of my bony wrists. I was sluggish and tired. I told myself I needed a vacation, I was working too hard; the clinics had been extra busy lately. I made a note to take some time off the next time my employers popped off to a conference.
The pallid walls and bright lights of the doctor’s office struck a chord. Cool air seeped through the vents. I sat on the exam table, my legs dangling beneath me like a marionette. My family doctor examined my swollen fingers, prying them apart, squeezing my knuckles, seeking out the puffy, swollen parts, as my own employers did to their patients. He asked me how long I had been experiencing these symptoms; I thought probably around six weeks. A niggling feeling danced on the edge of my consciousness.
“I think I may send you to a Rheumatologist”, the doctor pronounced, as he poked at my joints and made notes in his chart.
“What?” My voice echoed in the small room and plugged my ears with its astonished tone.
“I am going to refer you to a Rheumatologist”, he repeated, as he set about writing test requisitions.
He asked what type of work I did.
My dazed response was, “I run a Rheumatology clinic.”
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J.G. Chayko is a writer, actress, and international arthritis advocate who’s been involved in theatre for more than 30 years and has published poetry, fiction, and creative non-fiction.
Oh, Julia. One of life’s bitter ironies. Too much.