Laura had set the afternoon and evening aside today to work on her screenplay — Ben, having been diagnosed with pneumonia and well into his course of antibiotics, had gone back to school today (albeit for the weekly half-day) and then he and Brendan went to the School of Rock for his drum lesson and Beatles rehearsal — but a few minutes ago she did something so dorky and idiotic that she can’t get anything done.
At the risk of providing TMI, Laura had some kind of — she won’t go so far as to call it an infection — kidney “issue” or “situation.” She’d gone to see a new doctor on Monday — one she hadn’t seen before and one with whom she has a longer get-to-know-you-new-patient appointment scheduled in a few weeks — and he seemed great. She described her symptoms, he prescribed an antibiotic, and now, a few days later, while most of her original symptoms were, as medical professionals say, “resolved,” she still felt a really uncomfortable tenderness in her left lower back and weird “discomfort” that seemed to radiate in all sorts of other places too.
Having too much time on her hands — specifically, and literally, too much time on her hands to sit in her bed with her laptop — Laura naturally started diagnosing herself for the 20th time that week. And almost instantly she concluded that she must have a kidney stone since her symptoms were semi-similar to one or two on the long list of symptoms she found on various medical sites for kidney stones. A few minutes after this fit of self-diagnosis, the doctor returned her call, and before she could stop herself she explained to the doctor that while her original symptoms were gone, she still had this left lower back thing.
“So I’m thinking that I probably have a kidney stone,” she said, laughing a little and mentioning that she’d just diagnosed herself on the Internet.
There was a pause, after which the doctor said, in a tone that wasn’t at all unkind or annoyed that here she was, talking to him, a doctor, but instead of him, the doctor, interpreting her symptoms, she was interpreting her symptoms herself, using stupid information from the stupid Internet:
“Let me put it this way: if you had a kidney stone, you’d be on the floor right now. You wouldn’t be talking to me.”
Laura laughed nervously, and, feeling like an enormous DORK, hurried off the phone. Apparently, according to the actual DOCTOR, the discomfort she was feeling was just part of the normal getting-better-process and would eventually go away. Then she tried to get back to her writing but of course she couldn’t — she was overcome with embarrassment that she’d acted like such a complete idiot with a doctor she barely knew. Even more, she started dreading her December longer-get-to-know-you-new-patient appointment and wonders if she should just do what she usually does when she gets really embarrassed: cancel.
She doesn’t really want to do that either — and not just because it takes about 6 months to see a new doctor, the waiting periods are that long in Massachusetts, if you’re even lucky enough to find a doctor who is taking new patients — but she doesn’t know what to do with the black hole of self-loathing and dorkiness she is drowning in right now. Squirming around in her head, trying to think of other things besides her stupid exchange with the doctor, she can’t help but remember the words of her first real shrink in New York — a woman named “Denise” who had a vaguely Eastern European accent and who never minced words (that’s a whole other brant — all those words Denise never minced). Whenever Laura started talking about or thinking about or squirming about something she didn’t want to talk about or think about and whenever she tried to change the subject or cancel several appointments in a row because of it, Denise would say:
“You just have to stay in the soup.”
The “soup”, of course, being the morass of misery and discomfort you experience when you’re talking or thinking about difficult things. Or self-inflicted dorky things. And so apparently that’s what Laura has to do now: stay in the soup of her extreme dorkitude until it, like the pain from her phantom kidney stones, passes.