He’s nothing if not punctual. Jolting me awake in the early hours of the morning, reminding me of my doctor’s appointment that afternoon. You should get ready, he tells me, and I obey, because there’s no point going back to sleep without his permission. I make breakfast, avoiding anything with sugar, caffeine, or lactose, all of which he hates. I wear a loose dress. He doesn’t like when my clothes are too tight on my body.
I’m worried about the appointment, I tell him. Worried, worried, worried. My results are coming in today, ones that will reveal everything I need to know about my blood, my piss, my internal organs. They’ve invaded every inch of me, it seems, in search of answers. He doesn’t like that. He doesn’t trust them, and he lets me know it.
He comes along with me, though. It’s not like I can go anywhere without him. I feel him, clawing against my skin, his nails stabbing and serrated as the doctor repeats his findings.
“I told you, Cara,” Dr. Tone says. “Everything’s normal.”
“That can’t be,” I reply. That can’t be. He reminds me of it, sending another spasm of pain through my body. I want to double over, but I’m aware of Tone’s eyes on us, staring, watching. Judging. I keep a scarf in my lap for moments like these, and I press the warm fabric against me, trying to distract myself from everything he makes me feel.
“Everything came back clear,” Tone says. “We checked your vitamin D levels, your thyroid…” His voice trails off. “You’re not pregnant, either.”
“I told you I wasn’t pregnant,” I say. I’m irritated. He doesn’t like that, not at all, and I pay for it dearly. His tiny claws rip across my insides, tearing into my organs, stabbing at my veins. I wince. Please, I whisper to him. Now’s not the time. I need to focus on the doctor. I imagine him tipping back his head, roiling with laughter, from his throne deep inside me.
Dr. Tone doesn’t seem to notice him, though. He doesn’t notice much. Usually, he focuses on the lab reports in his hands, or he pages through something on his computer screen. “Well, now we know for sure,” he mumbles, avoiding my gaze. Turning to me, he frowns. “This is good news, Cara. What’s wrong?”
I’m crying. I can’t believe it. I can’t believe he made me cry. My eyes are hot and the tears are boundless, dripping down my cheeks without a sound. “I don’t get it,” I whisper. “Something’s wrong with me. You know that, Doc.”
Tone raises a suspicious brow. “The demon?” He asks. I hear the condescension in his voice.
“I told you, that’s what it feels like. There’s a demon inside me. A demon with really sharp claws, and they’re tearing away at my—”
“Cara,” Tone cuts me off before I can finish. He does that a lot. “Listen, it’s been a rough year for you, hasn’t it? Grad school, coming out to your parents— you’re stressed out, aren’t you? A lot of young women struggle with these things. I think it might be time to refer you to a psychiatrist.”
I can’t believe what the doctor’s saying. Neither can he. He’s angry for me, and he’s squeezing one of my ovaries, so hard, so tight, and I wonder if it might burst. They found a cyst there when I was a teenager, one of the weird ones with hair and teeth and bone inside. I used to draw cartoons of it to ease my anxieties. Mrs. Cee, I called her.
“Shouldn’t I see a gynecologist? A gastroenterologist? A urologist, even?”
Tone chortles, shaking his head in disbelief. “You’ve been on WebMD again, haven’t you?”
“Yes,” I admit. He doesn’t like that, and I can’t disagree. It was a dumb idea to say that to Tone. He hates when I research things online. Both of them do. I don’t understand why. I want answers. I want to get rid of him so I can feel better again. Tone said he wanted that for me, too.
“Please,” I plead. “It’s not in my head. I can’t eat. I can’t sleep. I’m just laying on the floor in pain all day. Why would I make that up?”
“Of course you’re not making it up, honey,” Tone says, patting me on the shoulder. “Remember, I’m here to help.”
We leave the doctor’s office with a referral to the campus psychiatrist. All night, he laughs and laughs at my pain. I cry out, but no one answers.