Taking another sip of his coffee, Jim could barely swallow it — it’s cold. Not the good kind of cold either. The kind when the entire flavor has evaporated and it tastes bitter. Swishing it around in his mouth for a moment, Jim could feel his face turning crimson with rage. It wasn’t just cold from the half and half, it was cold from being out too long. Picking up the pot of coffee his secretary made, he slowly tilted it to the side pouring out every last drop down the drain.
Watching the last of the coffee drain in a circular motion, he grimaced at the sink. “Rita! We’re out of coffee,” Jim shouted. His deep, booming voice echoed in the empty examination rooms and lingered in the air as Rita’s discount store heels made noise down the hall.
Jim knew he was a terrible boss. He just didn’t care. Jim didn’t hire Rita; his partner, Drew, did. If he had any say, Rita would have been gone a long time ago. Being the receptionist, she is the face of the company — the first thing people see when they walk in the door. People don’t want to see an overweight, middle-aged woman; they want a model and, frankly, so does he. Seeing her enter the employee lounge, Jim couldn’t help but wince at the orange polka-dot combination on her dress. Watching Rita bend over to pick up a new filter, Jim couldn’t help but turn away from her XL size. Jim, after all, was a perfectionist about his own looks, so other people should be as well. The whole reason he became an optometrist was because he needed contacts when he turned 16 and he hated the fact that
his eyes weren’t perfect. Perfection, as far as he is concerned, is attainable — anyone who isn’t perfect isn’t trying hard enough.
Rita turned to Jim with an empty mug in her hands and meekly made eye contact with him, “Your first client is in the waiting room.”
Opening the refrigerator to take his expensive water bottle out, Jim saw Rita’s lunch pail. Oh, God. She could afford to skip a meal.
“What? Good … I’ll meet them in the examination room.”
Turning the coffee machine on, Rita smiled at Jim. “All right then.”
The bright red light turned on as she picked up another mug. It was the mug Jim hated. When he first opened his practice, he ordered a slew of free goods to give away — the mugs were his least favorite product, looking cheap and fragile. Placing the mug down on the counter, Rita walked out of the room. Jim loathed everything about her.
As the clock ticked, the fresh coffee finally spat out into the pot. Jim couldn’t deal with people before his morning coffee. It was impossible.
Entering exam room one, he paused seeing a petite 12-year-old girl; Drew usually examined all the kids. Crap. When is his vacation over? When she realized Jim was just awkwardly standing there, she leaned back in her chair and tilted her head to the side.
Lingering in the doorway, the girl just glared at him. Finally, Jim took a step into the room saying, “I’m Dr. Spencer.”
The girl’s shoulders were hunched forward as if she were trying to make herself as small as possible.
“Hi, I don’t really need to be here. My math teacher told my mom that I couldn’t see the board, but I can.”
“You’re name is Kayla. Correct?”
Sliding back into the chair, Kayla crossed her arms. “Correct.”
Jim reached over to the adjacent table and grabbed his notepad. “Why does your teacher think that you can’t see the board?”
Kayla turned to Jim and through gritted teeth she said, “The problem will need a multiplication sign, but I’ll write a plus sign.”
“Are you trying to solve an easier problem?”
“No,” she forcefully replied.
Jim smiled to himself. “Okay. So what’s the problem?”
“I can’t see.”
Kayla narrowed her eyes at the doctor. “Well, good for you.”
Jim couldn’t help but smirk at her. For a kid she was really feisty — most kids never would have spoken to him like that. Three minutes into an exam, they usually think he’s the bogeyman.
Jim continued to conduct the exam and found that Kayla really did need glasses. Her eyesight truly was terrible; every M looked like an N and every C was an O to her.
As Jim told Kayla that she needed glasses, her cold demeanor broke. She started to cry — not just a single glistening tear from each eye, but streams of salty tears, escaping from her brown oval eyes. None of his other patients had ever cried on him before. What was he supposed to do? Jim reached over and grabbed a nearby box of tissues.
Extending them to her, he leaned backward, trying to distance himself from her. “Here you go.”
Pushing the tissue box back toward him, “I don’t want those.” Kayla used the back of her hand to wipe tears off of her now pink-colored cheeks.
As gently as he could, Jim said, “Just take the tissue.”
Kayla pushed the box away. “No.”
Kayla grabbed her jacket, opened the door, and left the exam room.
Jim didn’t know what to do. He walked out to the receptionist and handed her the prescription for Kayla. She needs the glasses — she might not want them, but she needs them.