Dr. Lou held the gray waxy chart in front of his eyes and squinted.
Reaching to his breast pocket, he grabbed his glasses and put them on.
"Inflammation of lower GI," he rattled off routinely to the nurse beside him. "Let's take another look at his results for the blood work when they come in."
"Oh, and Mark is here for you Doctor Lou." The nurse added before leaving.
Lou nodded and set down the chart. "Here we go," he muttered.
Mark was a new patient. Relatively fit. Limited history. He enjoyed his enthusiasm. Mark wasn't the one to complain, but had his share of keen observations. Lou knew what he was getting into with Mark. Paranoia kills, and Mark had plenty of it.
Lou walked into the exam room and saw Mark bent over in his chair looking tired. He eyeballed him, and shook his head, pointing to a diagram on the wall.
"Does anyone ever read that shit?" he said chuckling tiredly. Lou felt his eyebrows raise instinctively.
"You'd be surprised. This company comes in and pays for them to be up. You know how it is. Money talks."
Mark nodded soberly, holding his side.
"So what's going on Mark? How's the kids?"
Mark sat up in the chair, straightening his back against the lumbar rest.
"Trouble at the pool, if you know what I mean..." he grumbled. "You know, for all the stuff I do at the gym, you'd think I could take a dump more often than once a day. What's wrong with me, doc?"
Lou looked at Mark's information, scanning the blood panel, checking the ultrasound once more. Nothing. Nothing wrong. Lou sighed and set the paperwork down on the counter.
"We've got nothing here that looks too bad. Your blood work speaks for itself Mark. You're doing good. It's likely stress induced I.B.S. Wouldn't be surprising. At least 20% of Americans have it. Are you relaxing at all? Cutting back on work?"
"I try," Mark replied noncommittally. "I don't know what to do, Lou. This is all a royal cluster-fuck. How am I supposed to do my job with this... condition? I get stressed about being stressed... it's all killing me."
He paused, then, picking up his train of thought pointed back to Lou. "And don't get me started on that medication. I've been dipping in an out like nothing else."
"Well," Lou replied, "I don't know what to say..."
Silence passed between the two. Until Lou sat down across from Mark.
"Take some time off, man. It'll help."
Mark hesitated. He looked nervous, folding his hands. After some time, he nodded, then leaned back.
"I'll try," Mark finally spoke in a low voice. "I gotta' get it together."
"You will," Lou affirmed. "It just takes time."
"Yeah," Mark agreed weakly. "Yeah I guess it does..."