Time in Willow Creek: 1 year, 4 months, 6 days
Kevin’s government friend had come through just as he promised. Juliana’s immigration process was progressing in record time. With the initial application and Harriett’s affidavit of support already submitted, and the interview already completed, the last piece of the puzzle was the medical exam. It was a multi-part ordeal and usually required two or three appointments, but Kevin’s friend arranged for everything to happen in one epically long day. Everyone on #TeamJuliana broke out their t-shirts and waved their flags for they alleged this was the easiest part. Just go down there, give them some blood and spit, and call it a day, they said. Juliana wished it was that simple.
Doctors and hospitals weren’t familiar to her. At home, they had the village doctor who made house calls. No one ever went to a hospital unless it was urgent or someone was dying. The hospitals were nothing like Willow Creek General. She had only ever seen large, beautiful edifices like that on TV. However, she had accompanied Hillary to a handful of pre-natal appointments and had been there before, so she wasn’t completely nervous.
She was lead to another part of the hospital than she was used to. The room she was told to enter was smaller than the exam rooms she had seen. It was private. It even had its own bathroom. She was told to change into a gown that felt more like a t-shirt for someone the size of an elephant. It was frustrating to wear and she kept tugging at the shoulders, trying to make it fit better so she wouldn’t flash the nurses.
At home, check-ups consisted of simple checks of eyes, ears, listening to the lungs and heart, and testing reflexes. What she experienced that day was terrifying. She was ok with surrendering bodily fluids, receiving vaccinations, and even getting an x-ray. All of that was easy and she was only a little nervous. It was all the other touching, poking, and prodding that made her wonder if it was worth all of that. Every hospital seemed to have that one nurse who didn’t care. Poor Juliana got that guy. He probably couldn’t even spell bedside manner if you paid him. He didn’t introduce himself or explain what he was going to do. He came in and ordered her to spread her legs. She was afraid to ask why and didn’t want to do it. He was very impatient. Luckily, another nurse came in, a female, to supervise the situation. She tried to help Juliana relax, but it was futile. There was no universe where she could have ever been prepared for that exam. He wasn’t gentle at all. Poor Juliana covered her mouth and screamed into her hand. She felt so violated. If there was ever a time she wanted her mother, it was definitely then.
When they finally left her alone, she allowed herself to shed a few tears. There was a knock on the door, and Juliana quickly wiped her face with the oversized gown. A suited woman with a kind face walked in and introduced herself.
“Good afternoon. I’m Dr. Pruett.” She extended her hand to her.
Juliana flashed a painful smile as she concentrated on keeping her gown on.
“I know,” the doctor said. “This hospital has the worst gowns! I mean, look at me! I’m as wide as a pencil! If you think you struggle to keep it on, I drown in those things!”
Juliana wanted to laugh, but she was still upset about the examination.
“Can I get you some water or something? You look shook. I can wait if you want to get dressed first,” she extended her hand toward the bathroom just steps away.
Juliana shook her head. “I’m ok,” she said sheepishly. She was glad this new person treated her like a human.
Dr. Pruett took a seat in front of her. “I’m a doctor of psychology, if you’re wondering why I’m not dressed like everyone else. I’m here to make sure you’re not a psycho!”
A tiny smile stretched across Juliana’s face.
“So…are you crazy? We can end this in two minutes!”
“Ahhh! I knew you had some teeth in there.”
She relaxed just a bit.
“But, seriously. I’m going to evaluate your intelligence, comprehension, thought process, judgement, behavior…stuff like that. Ok? We’re just gonna talk, and I’m gonna ask you questions you’ve probably answered a thousand times before. Some of them may appear to be tricky, but I promise I’m not trying to trip you up. I only want to see how you respond. Ok? Are you ready?”
“I guess so.”
“Alrighty! Let’s start with your medical history. Has anyone in your family had any major health problems or diseases?”
She looked to the side to think about it. “Not that I know of.”
“Ok, good. And you’re fairly healthy?”
Dr. Pruett got up and took Juliana’s file from the tray on the wall. She flipped through a few pages. “You don’t happen to have any of your medical records from home, do you?”
Juliana felt like she did something wrong. “No.”
The doctor put the file back and took her seat. “That’s fine. All the stuff they did to you today, if there’s something wrong, we’ll know! Have you ever been hospitalized or put in a mental institution?”
“Ok. No proof of that,” she said under breath as she wrote something down. “All right… Drugs… Do you use ’em? Any kind…even prescription or over-the-counter.”
She shook her head. “Well…”
Dr. Pruett’s eyebrow raised.
“I took Tylenol once for headache.”
The doctor giggled quietly. “You’re too cute. Ok…so, you’re not crazy, but do you have any crazy uncles? Well, not those kind of crazy uncles, but for real crazy. Any history of mental illness in your family?”
“Have you ever thought about harming yourself?”
“No,” she said confidently. She made sure not to act weird like she did the first time.
“What about anyone else? Ever wanted to hurt someone you didn’t like?”
“Have you ever been a bad girl? Gotten arrested…went to jail?”
“No.” She made sure not to laugh on that one.
“Have you ever been in the military?”
She shook her head.
“How about your parents?”
“Let’s take a quick rabbit trail. How do your parents feel about you being here?”
“My father was killed, and my mother sent me here.”
“Oh? Did you not want to come?”
Juliana felt herself getting nervous about the potential trick question. “I…I didn’t know.”
Dr. Pruett looked confused. “You didn’t know you were being sent here.”
“No. Mamá…I mean, my mother didn’t tell me because she knew I wouldn’t want to come. She told me on the way to the boat.”
“Wow! How did that make you feel?”
“I was scared. And angry. But more scared.” She hoped the doctor didn’t take that the wrong way.
“And when you got here…”
“The same.” Her breaths increased in frequency and depth.
“That’s a very interesting story! Ok…let’s get back to the other questions. Do you consume alcohol?”
The panic rose up again. Another alleged trick question. Although she remembered Dr. Pruett saying she wasn’t trying to trip her up, she couldn’t help feeling like she would be in trouble if she answered honestly. But if she didn’t, she couldn’t live with herself.
The doctor giggled again. “Ok…let me help you out… Do you drink on a regular basis?”
Juliana let the air out of her lungs. “No.”
“Ok. See? Next question…have you ever consumed alcohol before?”
She hung her head like a dog that made a mess. “Yes.”
With a more serious look, Dr. Pruett said, “Are you aware that it is illegal for people under the age of 21 to consume alcohol?”
“Yes.” She felt like she had gotten slapped on the wrist.
“Ok.” She got up and looked through Juliana’s files once more. “Do you have any records you can give us? School records? After school job? Anything?”
“My mother only sent a birth certificate.”
The doctor groaned. “Ok. Well, we’ll work with what we have.”
There was the panic again. “I’m sorry.”
“Oh, don’t worry about it. We’ve had less to work with. Ok, so you’re free to go, but stick around. The lab rats are going to analyze everything and generate a report. It should be in a sealed envelope. Don’t open it. Take it to the immigration office, and they’ll add it to the rest of your files to be reviewed.” She extended her hand again. “It was great talking to you. Have a great afternoon, and good luck!”
Juliana forced a smile. “Thank you.”
When the door closed, she sat there and let out a heavy sigh.
She wasn’t sure what to think, but the one thing she definitely knew was she wanted to get out of that room. She took her clothes into the bathroom to change in case anyone else barged in. When she was dressed, she went back downstairs to the lobby where she waited two hours for the sacred envelope. Kevin came to collect her and take her downtown to deliver the envelope.
“Everything went well?” he asked.
All day, she distracted herself from thinking about the examination. She read magazines, watched whatever was on TV, and even made faces at whatever babies were near her. Anything not to think about that man’s fingers inside of her. She could still feel them. But, dear Kevin… Dear, concerned, and caring Kevin had to go dig it all up again. She tried to ignore him, but he was always so tuned into her.
“Did something happen?”
Did something happen. That was an interesting question. It got the crazy train going again. All the thoughts she had been trying to suppress came back at once. She cursed the rogue tear that escaped down the cheek that was visible to Kevin.
“What’s wrong? What happened?”
She wished he kept his eyes on the road. However, she knew she couldn’t escape him.
“I was a good student,” she said.
He looked confused.
“I never missed school. I was always healthy. I was the first of my brothers and sisters to make it past 10 years old.” More tears escaped, and she wiped them away. “But…they can’t know this. I don’t have proof! I’m like a ghost here!”
She sobbed. He sighed.
“Juliana…it’s ok. I’m sure they have enough good information. It’ll be fine.”
He sounded more like he was trying to convince himself, and she was tired of everyone saying that to her. Believing and having faith was exhausting, and she wanted it to be over already.
“You don’t know that!” There was a bit more force behind that than intended.
“I know…but…trust me. It’ll be fine.”
His words were choppy and unsure. She chewed them up and spit them out.
“Stop saying that! You don’t know! You can’t stop them when they come for me!” Her sobs were uncontrollable.
She didn’t mean to yell, but it just came out that way. Kevin made his frustration known with a punch to the steering wheel. He turned on the radio and cranked it up louder than usual. They didn’t speak for the rest of the afternoon.