DSS

It was a short squat building hugged by dull government issue stucco and brick. a small green signed at the entrance competed with three male country deputies for introduction rights. All losing out to the metal detector and the REMOVE YOUR BELT signage. That is what welcomed me into this little slice of hell. “Hey little lady, that’s a pretty big truck”, brought a snicker from the three men. I didn’t have a reply, so I just shuffled forward in line. The inside of this building was just as unsightly as the outside. Lines of navy industrial plastic chairs flanked the outside of the small room, and split it down the center. The fluorescents made the chairs look gun-metal grey, each worn and scrapped by hundreds of thousands that came before me. The linoleum equally scuffed and pitiful. My eyes found the floor and stayed there. Riveted, or more likely, so embarrassed they had nowhere else to look. Nobody made eye contact, nobody said a word. The just stood in the line. It was as if all life had been sucked out of them as they passed thru the metal detector. It wasn’t looking for weapons, it was stealing our souls. Minutes ticked off the clock. At the end of the room was a large plexiglass window with a counter. The plexiglas stopped inches shy of the scarred pale wood counter. Each person had to lean over, face inches from that ugly surface to hear, and to be heard. Behind dozens of strangers eyes watching, dozens of ears straining. There was nothing but the chairs and the walls, so everyone seemed to be content to listen in to the conversation unfurling at the aged window. A lady sat behind the glass asking questions and taking documents. The pleading angry voices of those ahead of me made my heart hammer in my chest. I felt the small walls closing in and was doing everything in my power to not turn around and run out the door. There was no air, no life, nothing but pain in this place. I wanted no part in this play unfolding in front of this sad audience. But with each shuffle of a step forward I knew it would soon be my turn to stand before all these strangers and yell to make myself heard. I would have to tell this woman why I was there, and it would be me. I would be that person begging for help from the plain nondescript lady in brown sitting behind the yellowed glass. I was truly thinking I might not make it, and that my anxiety would get me to flee before my feet got to the window. I somehow managed. As I stepped to the window, I knew I had a full room behind me. Over the hour it had filled. Children clamored in the chairs. Babies fussed in their car seats. Hushed conversations were going on. The deputy stuck his head in and told everyone to move in. No blocking the door he admonished the crowd. I was up, it was now or never.
I walked the last two steps and made eye contact with the lady behind the glass. There was no cheerful, hi how can I help you. It was more like silence. I raised my voice, just enough and told her what I was there for. I slide the documents across to her. She took them and made copies. She was talking and I couldn’t hear her. There I was with my nose and inch from that filthy counter, neck bent at and impossible angle so I could talk to her and attempt to maintain eye contact. It was pointless. I told her I took medication, I need this done sooner. 7 weeks? no, I can’t wait 7 weeks…she looked back at me. “We don’t do that”. I looked back at her and asked her again. She said to wait and walked away. An audible collective sigh went up from all the strangers standing behind me. I could feel all their eyes on me. Their frustrations pushing against my spine. I was shaking, keeping my hold of the counter to keep myself from sitting down. It felt like forever, but eventually she came back and told me to sit. Now I had a room full of disgruntled, tired, and frustrated people staring at me. With nothing to do I found linoleum and waited eyes never budging. I took a while but eventually I sat down with someone. Flanked by a trainee that sat silent and watching. I told her why I need the meds, and that I couldn’t be without them. As the words left my mouth, I thought to myself, when did this become my life. That I would have to beg and plead with a government worker, or that I could not fathom a day without each of these pills. I hate all of it. I am not dumb though, I know it would be a really bad plan to be without them, especially as the stress ratchets up. So there I found myself in a plain bare office with a woman writing down everything I told her. I wanted nothing more than to get out of there. I was done with that squat ugly building and all the people checking their souls at the door. When I finally walked out into the grey evening I couldn’t tell where that flat cold sky ended and where I began. I felt about as dull and as vastly empty.

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