• The poetry of details

December 2nd, 2019

I was five minutes late for my doctor's appointment, so I ran out the U-Bahn station, crossed the street almost bumping into two tall guys, said sorry, and run further. I don't like being late, and it was raining and cold. I took a left at the corner, but I had to stop in front of the entrance as I couldn't enter the building. An older woman was standing in the doorway, not knowing how to go down the three stairs that would take her onto the street. She had a well-worn walking stick and those big shoes people wear when they have a motor impaired disease.


I was already scared of being at this particular doctor once again - have been coming here more often than I wanted to, and today could go very, very bad, or just ok. But seeing this woman trying to find a handrail and I don't know, taking a quick look at the stairs and thinking to myself that these are easily accessible to three-year-old children, made me take my left hand out of my pocket and offer it to her as a support. It was challenging for her to move her feet, and I could feel her strength when she was holding tight to my hand. I just stood there, watching her feet moving uncoordinated, trying to reach the stairs. Everything was in slow motion, like in an old black and white movie. Two legs were desperately doing their best to support the body of a woman that didn't want to give up on life, an older woman who possessed the determination of a child who first learns how to ride a bike. I don't know how long it passed until she reached the pavement, as I was unable to move or think, only to stare. I was glued to the wet pavement, my hand following the old lady's hand.

She lifted her head and looked at me, smiling, being proud of her victory. "Ich bedanke mir." I smiled back: "Bitte, gerne."


And then, as if I suddenly woke up from a dream, I remembered why I was there. I rushed upon the stairs, losing my breath as I reached the reception of the medical office.

"Guten Tag. Aaaah, ich habe ein Termin...für jetzt." I glanced at the clock on the wall and thought to myself that it couldn't be, as it showed 10:35. But 10:35 was when I was in the metro, one station before my final stop. The only logical explanation was that the clock in the reception hall was behind, which worked to my advantage.


In the waiting room, there were these beautiful origami stars - called the Moravian stars - the stars that remind me of my childhood. (I am a big origami fan because my mother was a big origami fan.) It's the beginning of December, the advent time has started, and everything seems jollier, although there was no sign of the sun in the last week. And this is how Berlin is in winter - grey. Groundhog Day of grey combined with jolly Christmas decorations.


There is always tea in the waiting room, and I was thankful for that. But every time I go there, the average age is 60, and I was sad once again. Only two women were waiting to speak to a specialist, and as I stood there on my black chair, I couldn't shake the feeling that I'm too young to be there. I know that being sick or having a terminal illness has nothing to do with age - nonetheless, I felt entitled to be sad. I opened Facebook and scrolled back on my timeline, trying to distract myself from it all. But it didn't help; it just made it worse. I remembered I ran my first 10K on snow; it was -7 degrees. I remembered that I hadn't had a cold that lasted more than two days, and Facebook reminded me of that memory. I remember someone telling me that, on average, each of us will get around 200 colds in a lifetime. It made me smile then. I used to laugh in the flushed face of flu. If I sensed a cold crawling into my body, I went for a 5K run, then took a hot shower, and the next morning I was healthy again. Well, up until last year.


I drank my tea and smiled back at the woman who just came back from having her blood tested. She seemed somehow happy, but that didn't change my mood. I smiled, yes, because smiling is contagious, but I didn't want to be there, and I kept looking at my phone, hoping that time will go by faster. I searched for motivational quotes on Pinterest, but that also didn't help.


When the nurse called me in another room to take my blood, she was overly polite.

"Do you understand a bit of German? My English is not so good."

"I do, not perfect, but if you talk slowly, I won't have any problems," I responded in German.

"You'll have to excuse me," she said, "my hands are cold."

"It's cold outside," I replied. "It's that time of the year again. It would be nicer if there were snow, though."

"I don't know," she said absently, as she was thinking about something else. "When it is snowing, the traffic is horrible, and snow doesn't last long in Berlin, anyhow. It's just dirt."

"I see what you mean."

"Today's gonna be almost 4 degrees, so it is still all right. It can get colder in Berlin." And then she poked my skin, and explained that although it seems like she is taking a lot of blood, there are some tests they can't do in this lab, "and most likely, you will receive the results in three-four days."

"Alles klar."

"But what I can read from your first results, it seems like your levels are more or less the same."

She had this testing machine as big as a coffee machine that took some blood from a test tube, and after 3 seconds of processing, it printed a receipt.

"I don't know what other tests the doctor wants to confirm, but please wait in the waiting room until we call you again."

"Ok, thank you."

She looked at me and gave me a big smile.


There were five new people in the waiting area, and one of them took my seat. He didn't know it was "my seat" - how could he? It was an empty chair on which he sat when he entered the room - but I didn't like that I needed to choose another one. I am stubborn like that, and although I knew this is something that makes no sense in being irritated with, I still sighed deeply. I chose another vacant seat, being between the man I recently discovered that I didn't like, and a family - three women who looked so much alike that no one could doubt that they are related. The grandma, the mother, and the daughter - all with the same eye color, same dark skin, and same fashion style - were talking louder than it pleased me. (And yes, I am well aware that people are not on earth to please me, but I was in a bad mood.) I couldn't make out what language they were speaking - I thought it was Turkish at first, but I don't speak Turkish, so what do I know? Could have been Arabic, but I have no idea what‘s the difference in pronunciation between these two languages, so I scanned them from head to toe, inventing a reason why they were there, making up a house they were living in, trying to imagine how the men in the family look like - all of it so I won't think about my results. I entertained the idea of them having a fabulous life because "the results are more or less the same" means the results were awful.


When I arrived at the doctor's office, he greeted me with a smile. He knew who I was because after saying two sentences in German, he added: "I need to speak English with you, right?"

"It would be easier for me, yes, but I understood what you said."

"I am going to repeat it anyway. So, I don't know what to tell you. There's no obvious explanation for your elevated values. I can only blame it on your blood anemia, but things haven't changed in the last three months." He printed another paper to show me the numbers that were also high in May. "You see, here. And then look here. I can't explain it, but I don't want you to get any other test. The bone marrow biopsy could give us more pieces of information. We make a small incision and then a hollow needle is inserted through the bone and into the bone marrow. It is painful, nevertheless, and as far as I can tell, you don't have another blood disease. And I don't want to put you through this. Of course, we need to wait for the other results - I will have them in a couple of days, but maybe..." He paused, looking at me to make sure I understand what he was saying.

"I see," I said with a half voice.

I was relieved that I didn't have to go to the hospital for a painful procedure, but what the doctor said next was still hurtful. Though he strove to put confidence into his words, and some reassurance, his words kept punching me in my face.

"You know, it might be that you'll be like this for the rest of your life. I can't predict the future, but this is not normal, even for you."

I gasped for breath and gazed at him with curiosity, hoping he will add something else.

"And there's nothing I can do. There's no treatment for it. It's just who you will be from now on."

I looked at him for a few seconds, feeling pained to see he doesn't have a solution.

"Do you have plans for the holidays?" He asked as it was the next obvious thing to say.

"I am going to Romania, and I pray there will be snow."

He told me about his childhood, how he used to build igloos "Do you know what an igloo is? My grandkids can't experience this anymore."

"Yes, I know what they are. And yes, climate change is real. I wish you a happy holiday. Auf Wiedersehen."


I left the building, not knowing what to do or where to go. I couldn't reflect upon this dreadful scene - the rest of my life - but sorrow filled my heart. I couldn't be at home, but I wanted to be on my own. So I took the metro in a random direction, went to a sandwich place, ate half of it and threw the rest away - and was once again irritated with the poor food selection Berlin has.

Of course, I was frustrated, but adults deal with disappointment all the time, no? I should have been happy for being only this "amount" sick, but the words "the rest of your life" stuck into my head. I was angry with myself, angry with God, angry with life. I have been feeling better compared to last year, yes, but it was hard to forgive myself. It's hard to understand how I was so stupid and delusional, and why I put myself through it all. I know how to act, and I know how my body reacts, but this year is a big "to-not-do list." One crappy decision after another, although I knew better. Another push when I should have been more gentle with me, another foolish desire that I knew wasn't safe just to make my life more interested — and in the end, it was all for nothing.


It's like you're at Season Seven on Netflix, watching a series that you liked at the beginning, but for the last two seasons, writers keep adding weird stuff to keep the show going. And you keep screaming at the screen "wtf is this?" but you're alone with your laptop, so by the end of the last episode, you shut down the screen and wonder why Netflix is still financing weird shows. That‘s how I feel my life is and I can't believe it's real.


December is the month we draw the line and think about the rest of the year. I guess the only right choice I made was making new friends and strengthening the relationships I have already built.


When it comes to the rest of it all, there's nothing left to say than "Dă-i, Doamne, mintea românului cea de pe urmă."


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