Lump (4)

She is sipping her morning coffee and answering her e-mail and I am standing in the doorway to her office, just watching her.  She’s wearing a blue shirt that she got recently.  I think the color and the cut really suit her.  Even though she just got up, I like the way she looks there, drinking her coffee and typing away.  Today we are going to work on getting Medi-Cal.

There’s a voice.

She’s talking to Medi-Cal.  I’m listening from the bedroom.  I think about going into her office, but decide not to.  The very nice, very upbeat person on the other end of the line is telling her that the best thing she can do is go into a nearby office and apply in person.  She asks what sort of things she needs to bring for ID and verification.  The very nice, very upbeat person on the other end of the line doesn’t seem to know.

There’s a voice.

We’re sitting in the San Mateo Human Services office.  There are forms.  She is filling them out in her neat, attractive handwriting.  Our number is called, but she isn’t finished yet.  The very nice, very upbeat intake person tells us that it’s OK, that we should just let her know when the forms are done and we’ll be called.

There’s a voice.  And…

We’re still sitting in the San Mateo Human Services Office.  The forms are long filled out.  Our number has not been called again.  It’s been an hour.  People come.  People go.  People who got there long after us have been helped and departed.  I’m looking over the forms and eligibility requirements.  There right on the list is “Proof of residence” which requires some form of mail with your address on it.  I feel momentarily pleased – I told her to grab a piece of mail as we were leaving the house, and I was right.

There’s a sound.

We’re still sitting in the San Mateo Human Services Office.  Our number has been called.  The very nice, very upbeat social worker is telling us that the office is short staffed today and that it will be 1 1/2 – 2 hours before we can be seen if we want to wait.  I know that she’s going to be all polite about it and that she hates waiting anyway and is preparing to get up and leave so I look at the very positive, very upbeat social worker and say that this is an emergency and we will wait.  The very positive, very upbeat social worker goes back to consult with a supervisor.

There’s a sound.

We’re still sitting in the San Mateo Human Services Office.  The very positive, very upbeat social worker supervisor is explaining to us that in fact we cannot be seen today – the office is too short-staffed.  The very nice, very upbeat social worker supervisor mentions that it will actually be faster if we just put in our application online.  The very nice, very upbeat supervisor gives us a website to go to and tells us in a very nice, very upbeat way that this is really what we should do because applications for Medi-Cal don’t actually require an in-person interview.

There’s a sound behind the voice.

We’re still sitting in the San Mateo Human Services Office.  The very nice, very upbeat social worker supervisor is preparing to depart, having given us our paperwork back and has given us a business card with the website helpfully highlighted with yellow marker.  I ask the very positive, very upbeat social worker supervisor how long the process takes and the very positive, very upbeat supervisor tells me in a very positive, very upbeat way that it takes 45 days give or take.  And I can’t help myself because I am frightened and adrift totally lost, and thinking to myself “It will have extra days to grow because someone didn’t show up for work today.”  So I explain the situation to the very positive, very upbeat social worker supervisor.

There’s a sound behind the voice.

And the very positive, very upbeat social worker supervisor puts on her “concerned” face and looks at me and says “Unfortunately medical emergencies are not grounds for expediting an application.”

There’s a voice and a sound together.  Over and over.

The very positive, very upbeat, concerned looking social worker supervisor must pick up something in my face or my posture to indicate that this answer doesn’t sit well with me, so the very positive, very upbeat, concerned looking social worker supervisor continues.  “I don’t want you to think I am not compassionate.  That’s just how the system works.”

Over and over.  And over and over again.

And at that moment I want to lose it.  I want to explain to the very positive, very upbeat, concerned looking social worker supervisor and everyone else within earshot that at this present moment I don’t give a flying fuck about  compassion or lack thereof.  It does nothing for me one way or the other, that we have friends who are giving us oodles. bucket loads, warehouses full of compassion and we don’t need it from the San Mateo Human Services Agency.  What we DO need from the San Mateo Human Services Agency, I want to explain, is aid and assistance covering the GODDAMNED SURGERY AND TREATMENT and we have just spent hours getting the run around and apparently cannot be helped because someone is out sick today.

The sound is rhythmic, like a drum beating cadence.  It is the sound of a clock, or the beating of a heart, or slow breaths in and out.  It’s with me every minute now, sometimes louder and sometimes softer but always present, providing a background for the voice that reminds me in perpetuity.

Your wife has cancer.

Your wife.  Has cancer.

Your.  Wife. Has.  Cancer.

Your wife…  has…  

cancer.

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