The door banged open.
Rolling in backward was an orderly in hospital scrubs towing a wheelchair filled to the brim with the most ancient black man I have ever seen.
The orderly deftly placed the wheelchair in front of the waiting room TV.
“Mr. Louis you go ahead and watch the TV there. I’ll get to your papers here. Now stay put. Watch the TV.”
Mr. Louis was having none of that.
When he knew the orderly couldn’t see him anymore, he promptly rocked himself up out of that wheelchair and walked right up to the TV and turned around blocking everyone’s view of it.
It looked like he was used to being the center of attention so I just smiled at him while drinking my contrast drink.
He was dressed pretty snappy in a black polo shirt and some sweatpants that discretely camouflaged his adult incontinence apparel underneath.
He was very dark brown with white curls cropped close to his head and furrows of wrinkles cascading down his shiny face. He clutched a zip lock bag with something like lunch in it.
While I was casually sizing him up, he was doing some sizing up of his own. His wandering gaze snapped in on me and his face crashed inward.
It became a mask of a warrior ready to fight. Mixed with terror.
In a low whispering voice, he blew out two words like smoke from a drag of a cigar.
And, oh shit, it looked like he was coiling as if to pounce. I braced…
“Mr. LOUIS! Now what are you doing? Let’s sit down ok? You’re alright man, you’re fine.”
In a low baritone stream of what I think was Creole, Mr. Louis spoke of many different things then.
Words like orisha and Chango and Santa Barbara stuck out like barbs on fishhooks. The already heavily magnetized atmosphere in the waiting room became ever so much more charged with something else.
It looked like those wavy lines you see on a hot day hovering over broiling asphalt. I smelled ozone.
He never took his eyes from mine as he sat, and he kept on talking, even while the orderly soothingly patted his back and reassured him, until his head nodded and he slept.
The peace on his face as he slept was one hundred eighty degrees from the prowling terrified electrified scene of minutes before.
After untangling myself from the indisputable crazy of the episode, I womaned up and asked the orderly what the hell was going on.
“Oh no biggie. Mr. Louis thinks you are an angel or a devil or something come to take his soul away.” He chuckled. “You’re not, are you?”
The door to the inner sanctum popped open as if on cue from some cosmic stage manager and a cheery voice said, “Mr. Louis we’re ready for you now.”
He snorted awake at the sound of his name, fixed me with a steely glare and climbed into his wheelchair so the orderly could push him in for his test.
I looked around and no one seemed to behave like anything was out of the ordinary. Stress. Must be. Putting a rope around it, I waited my turn. I’ve been known for this kind of thing and telling anyone just brought me a load of derision that I didn’t need right now.
“Mizz Linda? We’re ready for you now.”
A smiling no-nonsense nurse sat me up in the hall at a nurse’s station and ran a big line into my arm for dye injection later. She was apologetic about this, and it didn’t hurt, but I bled all over the place during the “pinch.” So, I looked like a disaster all bloodied up and sporting plastic lines running down my arm when who rounds the corner?
My favorite angry old jaguar man in his wheelchair.
His deep set terrified eyes, swivelling like metal bb's, darted from my face to my arm. I was paralyzed, locked in place, couldn't move.
So much so the nurse ran into me and bounced right off.
Something changed. The electrical jolting waned.
Slowly he crumbled. His face totally relaxed.
He hooted with genuine joy.
Issuing forth a torrent of French sounding sentences, he gestured and smiled and almost levitated out of his chair.
“What’s he saying?” I asked the orderly.
“Oh nothing much." He sucked his tooth. "Just something about how the saints don’t bleed, and you obviously do, so you are no saint. He gets to hang around another day.”
West African slaves brought to the Caribbean had to camouflage their so-called pagan religious deities from the overly-zealous Christian influences of their owners. Many Catholic saints became the alternative names for the entities they prayed to.
I was evidently mistaken for Saint Barbara or Chango, a god uniquely of two genders who is patron over lightning.