patricio took me to see the doctor for the first time on friday, and over the course of the car ride, the realization unfolded that i'd made it almost a year here without feeling under the weather. granted, the memories of a couple of bouts of food poisoning are waving around their nasty little arms, desperately hollering, "but what about us?" well, i'll have to tell them that i don't think they count, and that they get their own category all to themselves. last week i finally had a cold--my first case of catarro here.
i also admit to seeing a doctor in the first month after my move, when all this began to go down. a kind, unassuming gentleman who still makes a lot of house calls, he did the favor of chatting with me after my father-in-law's checkup. my mother-in-law repaid the favor with a plate piled high with freshly-sliced fruit and a big, hot cup of coffee.
and caffeine was most definitely on my mind friday morning, as i zombied my way into a presentable state to head into tlalnepantla. the night before was the crowning achievement of my body's efforts to sear the throat and produce as much phlegm as possible, right at the spot where surgeons perform tracheotomies. clearing my throat of loogies and sounding like a rusty machine gun is antithesis to sleep, and the phlegm won out, quite handily.
we were staying the night at cahuacán, in hopes of watching the wee-hour meteor shower. but the sky was spanned with clouds all night, leaving me alone with the loogies. i felt the situation growing dire.
somehow, patricio managed to sleep through four hours of the harrumphing barrage, when i finally decided to distract myself by alternating my face hovering over a magazine and over a pot full of steaming water. patricio, knight-in-shining-armor that he is, rubbed his eyes and came to check on me, soon bringing in a bundle of eucalyptus leaves to make the steam more deliciously de-congesting.
and then he drove me into downtown tlalnepantla to see his doctor.
attending to a patient in his office, the waiting room was empty except for the receptionist at the far end of the room. patricio knew her, too, introducing us and then jumping into conversation with her about her husband and their ranch. when patricio raised hogs, he'd struck a deal with the discount department store, aurrera (now owned by wal-mart), to buy all their day-old bread for a pittance. after feeding it to his pigs, he'd sell the surplus, and the receptionist's husband was one of his willing customers.
she took me into one of the office's two consulting rooms, happily chatting about how many centimeters taller i am than my husband as she took my name and blood pressure, all those precursory tasks. while she was bent over her pen and paper, i admired the ceiling's vigas, or roof beams, and their tri-scalloped brackets that reminded me of northern new mexican churches. and my gaze then fell on the medieval weapon's decorating the opposite wall. i knew then i was about to visit a doctor with a good sense of humor, and a few minutes later, my suspicions proved true.
it seems he knows most everyone who lives or works near the center of tlalnepantla, and remembers enough about them all to keep the conversation lively. charismatic, efficient, and with decades of experience, he decided what was needed to rescue me from the phlegm, and sitting behind his enormous hardwood desk, he typed up the prescription on a sheet of letterhead that wound through his old, sturdy typewriter. typed. he even saves the pharmacists from having to decipher his handwriting.
a visit to his office costs a good deal more than the two dollar consultations offered at many discount pharmacies and health centers, but only twice what my insurance co-payment would have been in the states. part of me was delighted, while another part of me was aghast at how little that meant in terms of a doctor's annual salary here. i still, unfairly, think in terms of what one would make in the united states, throwing the balance terribly askew. but in a way, i still think it is. the cost of living in mexico city's metropolitan area may be less than that of major american cities, but it isn't cheap. our next door neighbor is also a doctor. one afternoon his wife, maría, said to me in an exhale, "sometimes, alisa, it's just hard, you know?"
but much like the food poisoning, that kind of malady rests in a category all its own. whether or not there's a cure, in the meantime i'm enjoying the fruits of the 'town doctor's' knowledge, saying goodbye at least to that pesky catarro.