Ovidius’s Journal: Health & Care

Owning Harpies is a diseaseMy friends, if ever you are to visit Earth, I would advise you to study human medical textbooks cover to cover before attempting anything out of the ordinary, or even anything that might seem ordinary to us. Whilst hiding amidst the displays in the space and science centre, I worked up the courage to speak to a local science enthusiast calling herself Uhura, who refreshed my heart with her open mind and willingness to discuss which star cluster is more mathematically beautiful : M45, the Seven Sisters cluster, or M7, Ptolemy’s cluster.

When I had finished extolling the virtues of the Seven Sisters to such an extent that my face was sweaty and bluer than average, her demeanour changed completely.

“Oh, so you’re that kind of shroud howler of Spica Five, are you?”

I had no idea what she meant, and told her so.

“Oh, and you play so innocent! Well, Mr. Parsaecum, why don’t you come along and help me with something?” She then winked at me as though it were the first time I had ever witnessed such an act, then walked off batting her eyelashes and swinging her hips in an exaggerated manner. Eager to be of use after so much time using my secretions to secretly ruin then steal children’s lunchboxes, I followed Uhura into the women’s washroom.

She locked the door and pushed me against the wall, initially making me wonder if I would have to wrestle a beast that had symbiotically attached itself to her spine, like some of those horrid creatures I had encountered in the aptly-named Blackeye Galaxy. Uhura then switched to a more gentle form of touch as she lowered herself and proceeded to have a conversation with my lower half.

It was stranger than anything I’d ever experienced, including the rituals I had partaken in with the Necroregulators of Mimosa. I was shaken awake later, with my pants down, by an angry and disgusted museum employee. Uhura was nowhere to be found, although I thought I dreamt of her telling me to live long and prosper.

My refuge in the museum lost, I spent several days as a vagrant, wandering from place to place scrounging food and drink. When the painful blisters appeared on my lower half, I tried to ignore them at first, but the irritation compounded by my starvation and general misery caused me to abandon all sense of reason. I went to a hospital.

The glass doors slid open to a room full of tired, coughing and pained people whose exhaustion had extended to the point that they barely turned their heads my way. The nurse at the reception desk, a man in his twenties, looked me up and down as though I were some enthusiastic nerd in a permanent Halloween costume. It was the reaction I was growing accustomed to.

“Can I help you?” he asked skeptically.

“Yes, I’d like to see a doctor,” I replied.

“What for?”

“Well, you see, I have a bit of an irritation on my skin.” I wasn’t sure how to broach the subject, since it wasn’t something I was proud of, nor was it something I deemed polite to discuss in front of the general populace.

The nurse rolled his eyes. “Have you talked to your family doctor about this?”

I frowned. “I don’t have a family doctor.”

“Have you tried going to a walk-in clinic?” His eyebrows were raised in an exasperated expression.

In fact I had, and the man’s question was somewhat silly, the time being 11:30 pm at night. I thought humans would have a better grasp of their own time zones, but that was evidently not the case with this nurse. “They’re closed now.”

The nurse nodded and smiled, as though to say, That’s a likely story. “How long have you been irritated?”

I wasn’t quite sure how to respond to that. “Well, almost since the first day I walked on this Earth.”

The nurse looked incredulous. “So this is a condition you’ve had your entire life and you don’t have a family doctor? You really should get one, you know, we can give you some phone numbers to call.”

I wondered if the nurse had ever called the numbers he handed me, since all the doctors I had tried were no longer taking patients. Or no longer had patience. One of the two.

“So you decided to come to emergency tonight because…?” He leaned his head in as though his brain would function better by tipping it at an acute angle.

“It’s become quite painful, and this is where I was told I could receive medical care.”

“Is it really that bad?” asked the nurse, skepticism once more on his face. “It really can’t wait.”

I scanned the waiting area once more. “Well, it looks like I’m going to have to wait anyway, am I not?”

“You’re not a priority compared to the rest of the patients, so you will have to wait at least six hours for treatment.”

“Are you suggesting I go home?” At this point my level of annoyance had risen (I tried to avoid thinking of the word ‘irritation’).

The nurse put up his arms in defense. “No, I’m just saying it’s going to take a while. You’re welcome to stay here, just know that in advance.”

“Know that my illness is not important to you whatsoever.”

“That’s right.” The words had slipped out of the nurse’s mouth before he could catch himself, and he flushed red. “Do you have your health card?”

“No, I don’t have one.”

He stared at me. “We’ll need some sort of identification to treat you.”

I will spare you the painful details of the remainder of our conversation, which proceeded in this vein until the nurse’s shift was done and he was replaced by a tired-looking woman who gave me a bracelet and sent me into the waiting area. I wondered if the nurse I had spoken to prided himself on being functionally useless, or if he had been trained that way. Hours later, the blisters beneath my jeans got so itchy that I was getting strange looks from the frantic way in which I scratched. It was then I was called in.

The doctor inspected me but I was careful not to let him touch.

“You have herpes, Mr. Parsaecum,” he said, snapping his rubber glove in finality.

I had heard of the harpies of Winnecke 4, said to be capable of flying in orbit for such extended periods that they could orbit the double stars. Never in my life had I owned one. “No, I don’t.”

The doctor sighed. “Look, it’s a natural reaction, but I’ve seen this lots before, trust me. It’s treatable but there’s no cure yet.”

I frowned. “Owning harpies is a disease? And it’s incurable?”

“Well, I guess you could say you own them,” the doctor said thoughtfully. “Thinking of them as property might help you to cope a bit better. And avoid spreading them.”

I wanted to tell the doctor that even if I owned an entire flock of Winnecke 4 harpies, I wouldn’t be letting them run amuck, but felt that there was something I was missing. “Did harpies cause these blisters?”

“Herpies are the blisters, Mr. Parsaecum.” He put a reassuring hand on my shoulder. “Look, I’ll prescribe you some medication that will help you deal with things.”

I fumbled around in my jean pocket which was beside the bed. “I, um, have a bit of a special physiology that may need to be considered when you decide upon–”

The doctor snatched the paper out of my hand, his eyes going wide before his brow furrowed in annoyance. He looked at his watch, then back at the paper. “I don’t have time for this,” he concluded, shaking his head. “I’m sorry, you’ll just have to leave this with reception. I’ll figure it out and you can pick it up in the morning.”

With that, he left, and soon after, so did I, having gained psychological irritation but nothing to mitigate my physical irritation. That night I couldn’t help but think of the term healthcare, which was a juxtaposition of two concepts which seemed at odds with one another in the current system. I thought it might be a better idea to pay for the two services separately.

I have yet to see Uhura, but would greatly like to if for no other reason than to tell her that she has somehow contracted a disease normally found in space-diving birds of Messier 40.

-Ovidius Parsaecum

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