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Out of Place This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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   AsI plod through the parking lot, I'm thinking of excuses. I'm better now, really.I'm okay. But I know it's not true, and I can never really bring myself to say itout loud. Time seems to go in slow motion as I watch an exasperated mother drivein circles trying to find a parking space, and I see a family in front of mefiling into the building. As soon as I walk through the door, there's that smell,the over-powering smell of germs trying to be covered up by cheap, mass-producedcleaning products. Then come the sounds, the hacking coughs, the constantsniffling, the wailing of babies and mindless drone of names beingcalled.

I take my cold, hard seat on the "sick side" andcontemplate how so-called medical experts would think that separate sides of aroom would keep germs from spreading. I look around only to see myself surroundedby toddlers and infants, the walls covered with smiling cartoon characters andstorybook settings. I begin to feel painfully out of place and wonder when I willgraduate to the next level. I consider the magazines as an outlet for mywandering mind as the endless wait continues. Parenting, Sesame Street and BetterHomes and Gardens are my choices. Giving up on that option, I lean back in myseat with my head against the wall listening to the ticking of the clock.

How much longer will I have to wait? I try to listen to the banter of thenurses. I can hear them discussing the doctors over the loud tapping of theirfingers on the keyboard. I learn that Billy Stevens didn't show up for hisappointment, and there's a new virus going around the elementaryschool.

The loud cry of a baby jolts me back to reality. As I watch ayoung girl walk through the door with her thumb in her mouth and a big sticker onher shirt, it's my turn. An overweight, obviously unhappy nurse dressed inrainbow scrubs screaming to be washed is calling my name. "MeghanCoughlin," she says again before I get up the nerve to stand.

I walkdown the blank corridor in complete silence, except for the squeaking of thenurse's orthopedic, colorless shoes on the tile floor. I scrutinize every part ofthe hallway, from the charts hanging outside the office doors to the scratchesand black smudges on the walls. We reach the door and a red sign is flipped out.We enter the small room filled with cabinets and instruments that make me want toturn and run. Then I hear that noise as the nurse drags a new sheet of paper overthe examining table. The sound of her tearing it at the end and crumpling up theused sheet makes me cringe, as if someone is dragging their fingers down achalkboard. But nothing can compare to the terror I feel when she places thethin, paper gown on the table. There's no going back now. "The doctor willbe with you shortly."

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.





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