Koffing and Weezing

(About the title) I was nuts about Pokemon for a long time. Red/Blue/Yellow, then Gold/Silver before I lost track of the other 16490 new monsters they added in, and gave up on the whole thing. Other, infinitely more appealing and less childish interests helped. Also, I never really liked Poison; preferrred Electric and Psychic types.

So my cough grew worse over the weekend.

I’m blaming the Indonesians on that one — Dad said “they burn out of necessity.” I said, “stupidity.” He also added, “they’re also really poor.” And I replied “so that makes them ignorant and stupid!” I don’t really take kindly to things that make me feel ill, physically or otherwise — and this definitely qualified as one. It’s the real, full-blown cough-for-five-to-eight-times-in-a-row lung-bursting chest-caving coughs that make you feel like you’re having TB, or consumption, as they used to call it.

Monday night was awful. The side-effects from Roaccutane includes the occasional sore throat aside from chapped lips, dry skin etc. Having that combine with the cough was just painful. So I dragged myself out of bed this morning at 10 to pay a visit to Dr Ting, my family doc. Brought Crime and Punishment to read on the train, and dryly wondered what was mine.

It’s been a couple of months since my last visit. The place still looks the same; inconspicuous brown building, a bank; the sick, passing by, would never realise there’s a clinic on the fifth floor. Last month I made the mistake of walking around the HSBC building instead of cutting through the car park on the left after coming out of Masjid Jamek’s Exit B. This time I stop in my tracks and walk through automobiles of various makes; Indian workers gesture to cars, take payment from men and women in office attire.

Up the coffee-coloured rickety lift. It’s not that I’m not familiar with KL; it’s just that I used to go to her clinic when I was little with my parents, in a car; not alone, with public transport. But I can do this part without assistance, at the very least. Door on the left, and then in.

A familiar scent greets me. Not that disinfectant smell you read about being described to death in stories, books, articles — it’s more gradual, sweeter, more personal than the stark wards and impersonal corridors of a hospital. The same posters on the walls, a few more yellowed than others. A framed one that states the repercussions, in English, how faking an MC is against the law. I give my name and open Crime again.

When her door opens and I’m called in, there are two doctors beside her. Apprentices. Interns. Whatever the term is. “UKM” on the badge of one. Both are female, and stare half-disinterestedly at me. I mumble a greeting to Auntie Siew Ging, not Dr Ting, with the M.B.B.S (MAL) M.C.G.P (MAL) F.R.A.C.G.P (AUST) D.R.M (MAL) D.P.D (UK) on her door outside making her colleagues pale in comparison. It’s hard to address her formally — the weight of a decade or so of treatments lie heavy on my mouth.

I remember crying in this room over my Hepatitis jab; numerous “Ahhhhs” while a stick pressed on my tongue; drawing blood with a wince while I sat on my father’s lap; looking at a sample of my urine through a microscope. The cross-section diagrams on the walls, detailing nerves, skin layers, ear nose throat, kidneys, vital organs. She’s treating me like how she always did; with patience, smiles and a gentle voice. I tell her what’s wrong, and she’s sending me out in 10 minutes, writing in that intelligible doctor’s scrawl a letter for GH and more Roaccutane (they didn’t give me enough), for cough syrup (which I later dropped and broke opening the gate at home) and red-yellow antibiotic capsules.

I mumble my thanks on the way out — the sore throat was acting up again, so I manage to deliver it with a bowed head and a smile. Later on the brown steps outside, I wonder if I’ll ever find another doctor like her the day she retires. No, I think, and cross over to the LRT, small milky plastic bag in hand.

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