It really was a memorable night in the dispensary waiting room last night. I can never get the timing right. I try to get down there when it’s empty so I can go right in and get my night meds.
At 8 pm the place is usually empty, but last night the Mets were playing at 7 pm so I thought I’d get down at 6:30 so I could watch the game when I got back.
When I got down to the med waiting room, I stopped dead in my tracks as I turned the last corner and saw the cluttered room filled with walkers, Rollators, canes, and the three rows of chairs filled all occupied.
In other words it was crowded.
The t.v wasn’t even turned to the Belmont race, which I wanted to watch. And as I’ve mentioned, there’s a cardboard sign over the channels proclaiming: DON’T CHANGE THE CHANNELS.
I had, as I usually do my over the ears Marshall headphones, and I can turn up Beethoven or Tom Petty to drown out all the crazy chatter. I have been known to do that even going out to the movies when the dialogue bores me. I watched the entire Black Panther listening to Tom Petty (which annoyed my friend Marty) but the plot and dialogue were very predictable and I enjoyed the action scenes and special effects with Petty in the background.
After all, this was not All About Eve.
So I found a seat on the recumbent bike, and zoned out as best I could. I should have had the soundtrack from the Good the Bad and the Ugly playing. My eyesight works like that. Lots of extreme closeups of twitchy eyes, nervous fingers.
Now I have to tell you about the three characters in the opera: Marge is a squat woman, who looks like she’s been made of clay, and before it went into the kiln she was squished down.
As far as I can see, she is white, has rosy red cheeks, and when she goes into the med room, she talks forever, usually about plastic in the ocean, as if the nurse cares and meanwhile people are grumbling because she’s gotten her meds and is still gabbing about the oceans as if she were at a meeting on plastic in the ocean.
I’d get Margaret Rutherford to play her.
Eventually, the nurse has to tell Marge that other people are waiting.
And then there’s Vincente (definitely Eli Wallach).
He’s hispanic, and works at a fevered pitch. As if there was gold in the med room.
Every night, he takes over the waiting room and makes sure that people get in to see the nurse according to their number. It’s not an easy job because several people sit with their number on their walker and they just stare at it with a blank expression.
This is where Vincente steps in, usually very agitated, makes the universal crazy sign to me and tells the out-of-it person that they’re next.
Sometimes, he has to pull their transportation device forward so they get they idea, and then slowly Mary Lou gets to her feet, still with the same blank expression and goes into the med room.
Then Vincinte sits down and his hands are shaking with annoyance. He tells me: coo-koo. All of them.
I tell him he’s doing a good job, but try and calm down. That’s impossible.
I said there were three characters in this story.
I don’t know the name of the third one. Spanish woman who must be the slowest walker in the place. She has a tablet on her Rollator and it is always tuned to wrestling. I assume she was gone upstairs as well.
So that’s the cast: Vincente, he’s sitting across from Marge and the woman without a name is near me.
I’m on the bike, not peddling but listening to Tom Petty – Free Falling very very loud.
A few minutes go by until Marge, is screaming like a maniac at Vincente. I can’t hear her over Free Falling by Petty and I don’t really want to hear what she’s yelling about. Sometimes she arrives in the med-waiting room with printed proclamations about the oceans and reads them outlaid to us although we, for the most part have our own problems to deal with.
The woman with no name looks away from the wrestling on her tablet, and Vincente, trembling with rage gets out of his seat and approaches Marge.
I take my headphones off and hear Vincente say to Marge, “You are a piece of shit!”
“That’s right, you hate the blacks and the hispanics ,” and turning to me he says, “I know her 20 years. She’s a racist piece of crap!”
I ask him, how he can know her that long? This place hasn’t been around 20 years.
“Not from here. She used to come down to the barrio. I know her!”
I can’t picture Marge in the barrio but anything is possible.
She turns to me, with this friendly face mostly painted on and says, “He accuses me of being anti Puerto Rican. I’m hispanic myself.”
If she’s hispanic I’m oriental.
Then she escalates the conflict and says to Vincente: You’re the piece of shit!
I hear a lot of cussing from both of them.
And so it goes. Neither will let the other have the last word. I get off the bike and sit down next to Vincente and tap him on the shoulder.
“Do I need to get my referee jacket out?” I say. “You know, like in football. I have a whistle too.”
Everyone else in the room, if they are following this, laughs. Vincente laughs as well and gives me a thumbs up.
“You’re okay,” he says. “But I hate that lady.”
She hears that and repeats it back to him in the form, he’s a damned trouble maker.
So now I take stab at Marge and tell her, why do you keep answering him. Just everyone calm down. You’re making me nervous. I have a heart condition! (Which may be the one thing I don’t have.) And I grab my heart, stand between Vincente and Marge and do my best Fred Sanford routine: this is the big one.
Okay. That works and then Marge gets called for her meds.
The woman with no name, turns to me and says, “She is not Spanish. But they did know each other before coming here.”
It’s the first thing I’ve heard her say in 5 weeks.
Then she turns and says, laughing: It’s as if they had some job they were late for. What is the rush? I just ignore them and watch wrestling. I know it’s fake but it helps keep me sane in this place.
You did a good job. I’ve seen it come to fisticuffs a few times. Everyone is afraid of Vincente after he hit someone with his cane.
The only people I’m afraid of here, are the people that run the place.
You’ve got that right, she says, and now it’s Vincente’s turn an soon he’s sitting with Marge in the dispensary and the woman with no name turns to me and whispers: it’s over now.
Come back tomorrow around the same time. We exchange names, but I still like thinking of her as the woman or man with no name traveling over the southwest, silhouetted against the sky in her walker, and able to bring peace or destruction to this scene from a Spaghetti Western.