217 - bag flame
he little square signs on the walls guided Teresa down the endless corridors of the hospital. The speakers in the ceiling paged doctors and issued codes that she couldn't understand. She was afraid of ending up in the wrong place and seeing or contracting something she didn't want.
The signs did not lead her astray, fortunately. She arrived at the radiology department. Teresa handed the receptionist the referral form that the doctor had given her. The receptionist in turn handed her a number printed on a slip of paper and told her to wait down the hall.
Teresa sat on a little bench and stared at the red LED number on the wall, waiting for her number to appear. She would have been quite satisfied if the number never advanced, or if it simply skipped over her. But after about fifteen minutes and watching four other people disappear behind the door, the illuminated number matched hers.
She stood up and shuffled through the door. Inside, she was immediately greeted by a large man in blue scrubs. He gave Teresa a warm smile, which she appreciated but had trouble reciprocating.
"Teresa, right?" he asked.
She nodded and handed him the paper from the receptionist.
"Great, I'm Jerry, and I'll be helping you with your X-ray today," he said while taking the form from her, and noticing the slight tremble in her hand. "How are you feeling?"
"Well, I know it's a little silly, but I'm a bit nervous being here in the hospital and getting an X-ray," Teresa answered.
Jerry wore a patient smile. "There's nothing silly about that, lots of people come in here every day who are more nervous than you. Heck, I would be describing myself before I started working here! That being said, you've got nothing to worry about. This is just a standard chest scan. Just part of a check-up?"
Teresa nodded again, "Right. It's for a new job I'm starting. They said I needed to get a complete medical evaluation."
"New job! That's great. Can I just have you stand over here?" Jerry asked, pointing to a little spot marked on the floor. Teresa moved over to where he signaled, and he was quite pleased.
"Thank you! Now, I'm sure they already informed you, but you're not wearing any sort of metallic objects under your blouse, are you? Necklaces, other jewelry, anything like that?" he asked.
Teresa answered with a simple "No."
"Wonderful!" Jerry said in his continuously upbeat tone. "Then I'll just ask you to hang tight here for a moment." He walked to the other end of the room, taking his place behind a shielded machine.
He began punching commands and settings into his computer terminal. "So, do you mind if I ask you about your exciting new job while I'm getting set up here?"
"Well, it's for this non-profit that helps people in developing nations get access to clean drinking water," Teresa began.
"Sounds like rewarding work with a purpose," Jerry responded, still at work.
"Yeah, it's really great. I'll be going to a bunch of these really remote and impoverished places, so that's why they need to make sure I don't have any health issues that could cause complications while I'm abroad," Teresa explained.
"I see, I see. Could you do me a favor and just take in a full, deep breath and hold it for me?" Jerry asked. Teresa followed his instructions, holding her breath for a few moments.
"Perfect! And, you're done," he said, quite proud at how unaware Teresa had been.
"That's it? I'm done?" she asked through a disbelieving smile, apprehensive to let the wave of relief pass over her.
"Yes, all done and on your way. Good luck changing the world," Jerry said.