She says there's something about me that draws people in a way that makes them want to talk, share their thoughts, and ask questions.
"It's going to take more than one try," I tell the nurse who's about to draw blood. "No it won't," she says with a little smile. And she's right. For the first time I can remember, I'm not poked multiple times; she manages to find the vein in my arm and draw blood in one attempt. "This is amazing," I say, and she reveals her secret: she had spent 10 years working with babies. My skittish adult veins are no match for her skill.
Being peered at like this feels strange. It's an annual checkup, so it's expected, but it's still unsettling to get inspected from scalp to toes (where a mild subungual hematoma stains one nail).
It's a short walk, maybe a mile or two, but it takes longer than expected. There are different conditions to negotiate, such as where to walk so the sun isn't always in my eyes, what to do about impatient, aggressive drivers who are blocking the crosswalks, and where to turn when the pedestrians' route is a thread through construction chaos.
In the middle of the aisle, a girl in a glossy pink skirt hugs a girl with golden ringlets.
The thunderstorm sounds like a throat being violently cleared.
They say they listen well, but keep interrupting the young man and telling him they don't understand him. Even as he tries to explain, they cut him off. When he trails back to his chair, they tell him they appreciate his contributions to the discussion.