Sydney Lewis

I was carjacked

TW: Assault with a deadly weapon

On Saturday morning at about 8:15 am, I pulled up to the Garden of Gethsemane parking lot, which is located steps from W Congress St near downtown Tucson. I’ve parked here dozens of times to go running on the Santa Cruz River Park Trail, and it’s a well-trafficked area, both with cars passing by and with people running or riding their bikes.

As I parked, I noticed a man and a woman walking on the sidewalk on Bonita Ave (which runs perpendicular to Congress) about a block north of me. I can’t tell if I’m projecting my experience on to my memories, but I remember thinking they looked weird. They were both wearing surgical masks, hats, and sunglasses, the woman had extremely long, jet-black hair, and they were walking close together, shoulder-to-shoulder, but not holding hands. People in the area don’t usually wear covid masks for open-air exercise—for what it’s worth, the “trail” is actually a twelve-foot wide sidewalk—so I figured they were being ultra-considerate.

I got out of the car, locked it, put my keys into my leggings pocket, and walked to the trunk. I set my phone and headphones on the car and used it like a ballet barre to do leg swings, ten per side, forward and sideways. The first set of 10 I was facing Bonita Ave. The second set of 10 I had my back to Bonita Ave. And on the third set of 10, I was facing Bonita Ave again—and I noticed out of my peripheral vision that the couple had silently split up. The woman was walking towards the front right bumper of my car, and the man had circled behind me.

I don’t remember deciding to run, and I don’t remember grabbing my phone, but all of a sudden I was sprinting across Congress St to the sidewalk on the south side of the road. My goal was to put as much distance as I could between me and two people whose behavior I had correctly interpreted as HELLA SUS. I didn’t expect him to chase me—really I had no idea what they wanted—but he did. And he was carrying a knife.

I tried to scream but I was running pretty fast. He was yelling at me, but it took several seconds to transition from my reptilian fight-or-flight brain to my I-can-understand-language brain. “DROP THE KEYS” he yelled. “DROP THEM.” I kept running because FUCK THAT and also LEGGINGS ARE TIGHT. My keys were wedged into my pocket, and I was fighting to pull them out and keep distance between us.

He was getting closer, so I yanked the keys loose and threw them into Congress St. Unfortunately, no cars were around to SQUISH HIM LIKE A BUG. As soon as I saw that he was running away from me, I called 911 and was speaking with an operator before he even got back to my car.

He got in the car, peeled out of the parking lot, and picked up the woman, who was waiting on Bonita Ave LIKE A PATHETIC, COMPLICIT CRIMINAL. That’s the last time I saw my car, and I have low expectations about getting it back. I really liked it. It was a 2013 Kia Optima that I got for an amazing deal back in July, and having it was what made Tucson start to feel like home. RIP, car—I miss you. I hope you know that I liked you a lot.

Over the past day, I’ve been careful not to engage in magical thinking about what I could’ve done differently. I made no mistakes and I regret nothing. If two huge fucking losers decide to carjack you, that’s on them.

I’ve also had to be careful about checking my ego because that diva wants to be a hero.

“Wouldn’t it have been cool if we had thrown the keys forward, made it back to Bonita Ave, and kicked that woman’s ass before the guy got back to the car,” my ego asks me.

“Wouldn’t it have been awesome if we’d had a gun and held HIM up at gunpoint and forced HIM into the trunk of the car before pushing it into a ditch?”


“You were faster than him and totally could’ve made it to the intersection and flagged down a driver for help!!!”

I have to remind myself that it’s over because part of me wants to go back and win.

I’m proud of my flight instinct for kicking in, but I’m also reminding myself that no response to assault is good or bad. It just is. I’ve had traumatic experiences in the past where I froze completely, and I don't blame myself for that. You can't prepare yourself for this shit.

Freezing during a past traumatic experience caused me to develop PTSD, which manifests as hypervigilance; I'm always on guard. I was recently watching the Flight Attendant on HBO, and there’s a scene at the end where something is amiss in a bathtub and the protagonist decides to stick around and investigate. FUCK THAT. If something’s off, get away, get in public, run towards people or cars. I don’t like that I live this way, but on Saturday it probably helped me avoid being face-to-face with a knife.

I’m grateful that this happened at my car and not while I was running. Getting attacked because someone wants your car is very, very different than getting attacked randomly or because someone just wants to hurt you. It would suck worse to be afraid of running than it is to be afraid of men wearing covid masks, sunglasses, and hats, which is where I'm at right now.

I guess the last thing I want to bring up is guns. At no moment in this experience did I wish I owned a gun (fantasies don't count). It wouldn’t have helped. There’s just no way I would’ve had it in my hand at that exact moment. But, I was so, so, so grateful that he didn’t have one. I don’t think he was expecting me to run, and he definitely could’ve shot me out of surprise or anger.

Talking about this experience has been massively helpful for me, and I appreciate everyone who’s reached out and shared the burden. If you’ve gone through something similar and have any hot tips for being a survivor, feel free to contact me.

#WSDQ Episode 2: Registering to vote in Arizona

Weird Shit During Quarantine is me trying to document how weird everything feels during quarantine.

I arrived in Tucson on Memorial Day weekend, and voting in the August primary wasn’t top of mind. I’d just culled my belongings, shoved everything into a UHAUL van, and driven 13 hours, leaving my friends, baby sister, and a city I loved behind. I felt grief, and I was focused on that.

By mid-June, I got my shit together and hopped on the internet expecting to knock out voter registration in a few clicks. In California, registering had been so simple that I didn’t even remember doing it, so I thought it would be similar in Arizona.

It started out fine. I checked the boxes confirming I was a US citizen, at least 18 years old, and a resident. Next.

“Enter your state ID number,” I read. I didn’t have one yet. I clicked Continue. “STATE ID NUMBER.” I clicked Next. “STATE !!! ID !!! NUMBER !!!” I clicked Quit and got a snack.

I gave up hoping the problem would solve itself. Like, maybe if I do nothing … Arizona will … change its laws? :) It didn’t. So then it was like, I need to get a driver’s license … extremely quickly … during a pandemic. :( I ate another snack and dove back in.

“Out-of-state applicants must go to a department of transportation office in-person,” I read. “No walk-ins accepted due to COVID-19.” Fair. “Click here to schedule an appointment.” Easy. “Online appointment scheduling is closed due to COVID-19.” WUT. “Call us to schedule an appointment.” Fine. “Wait times will exceed 2 hours.”

After a 90 minute hold, I told the operator that I needed to make an appointment for a driver’s license.

“What office?” he asked.

“Ummm,” I said, stalling for time and worried he would hang up. “Sorry, I just moved here.” I used my left hand to search “DMV” in Google Maps, forgetting that it’s “DOT” in Arizona, and nothing came up. “Can you tell me which office is closest to downtown?”

“No,” he said. “I have no idea.”

I told him I’d take whichever office had the earliest appointment available, and we confirmed July 2, which was three weeks away and only four days before the voter registration deadline.

On July 1, I realized that I’d never received a confirmation, so I sat through another hold and was connected to a different operator.

“I have an appointment tomorrow, and I haven’t received any confirmation,” I told her. “So I wanted to check that I’m on the schedule.”

“Sure,” she said. “What’s your state ID number?”

My vision swam. “I don’t have one,” I said.

“Let me check with my supervisor,” she replied. She was gone for ten minutes.

“We only have confirmation information for people who have a state ID number,” she told me. “But my supervisor said it’ll probably be okay if you just show up.”

The next afternoon, I woke my boyfriend up—he was working nights—and told him it was time to go to the DOT. He asked for the address.

“Uh, babe,” he said. “I think it’s closed.”

“Did it burn down or something?” I asked. There was a fire in the foothills, and some homes and businesses had been evacuated.

“No,” he said. “I think it’s because of covid.” It was also peak pandemic in Arizona.

“EVERYONE DIED?” I asked. “Like, every single person who works there?”

“They’re all sick or something,” he said. “So they don’t have anyone left to work.”

We decided to drive over anyways, just in case. Thirty minutes later, we pulled up to an empty parking lot in front of a squat brick building. I got out of the car and walked to the door, where a large man was holding a clipboard.

“We’re closed because of the virus,” he told me. “Did you have an appointment?”

I told him my name and he looked it up.

“Yeah, you’re on here,” he said. “You can come in and reschedule your appointment.” He paused. “But try not to touch any surfaces.”

I went inside, rebooked my appointment via the one employee who was working, and received a printed confirmation—but the earliest appointment was more than a week away.

Opening the door of my boyfriend’s truck, I felt sick. “I’m not going to be able to vote in the primary,” I told him. As we drove to pick up a late lunch, I berated myself for not figuring this out while I was still living in San Francisco. Single-handedly packing my apartment, coordinating a move, and working full time was no excuse. Who the fuck doesn’t register to vote? I was such a lazy idiot.

The actual appointment that followed was fine. We were in and out quickly and received our voter registration confirmation a few weeks later—they actually send you a plastic card that says, “YOU’RE REGISTERED: BRING THIS SO NOBODY SUPPRESSES YOU ON ELECTION DAY”; it’s wild. But overall, I’d make the conservative estimate that I spent 5.5 hours registering to vote, which included:

  • 1 hour doing research and printing/gathering documents for the travel ID

  • 2.5 hours on hold to schedule and confirm an appointment

  • 1 hour driving to and from the first failed appointment

  • 30 minutes driving to and from the second successful appointment

  • 30 minutes at the DOT
We love to tell stories about voter turnout, about how tragically and horribly low it is. What’s implicit in these stories is the idea that people are too apathetic to participate and because of them, our democracy is in turmoil.

Another part of this story is that if people don't register to vote, it's because they didn't know about a deadline or they forgot or they're just lazy. “It's so easy!” we tell people over and over again. “Just click here!”

I bought into these stories and felt smug about what a competent little voter I was—truly a beacon of democratic participation! Why couldn't everyone be like me?

So when I wasn’t able to register, I blamed myself.

But like … should it take almost six hours to register to vote in a state that took five seconds to start taxing my income—no state ID number required??!?

Fuck that. When the government decides to make voter registration as difficult as possible, no amount of reminders is going to solve the problem—they just reinforce the idea that people are to blame for low participation. And can you really blame someone who isn't willing or able to miss more than half a workday to figure it out?

In the end, I was able to register to vote in November, but it’s not because someone’s Instagram Story reminded me to. It’s because I have a job that doesn’t punish me for being gone in the middle of the day.

Would I recommend registering to vote in Arizona as a quarantine activity? Fuck no. It was stressful and boring. Avoid if you can, but endure if you must.

#WSDQ Episode 1: Parasite cleanse with snake oil

Weird Shit During Quarantine is me trying to document how weird everything feels during quarantine.

In the dead heat of Tucson August, I decided to do a parasite cleanse because it seemed like an interesting indoor activity, and I was trying to clear up a lingering case of perioral dermatitis.

PD is a rash that affects the skin around the eyes, nose, and mouth. After dealing with acne for half my life, I know that skin issues take a TOLL on my mental health. So, I scheduled a telehealth appointment with a dermatologist, who prescribed a topical cream and oral antibiotics—which I’d have to take for up to six months.

The cream wasn’t working on its own, and nuking my gut in the middle of a pandemic seemed like a poor choice, especially for aesthetic reasons. So, I did some googles and found an article that captured my desperate, willing-to-try-anything energy. The first recommendation was a $70 herbal parasite cleanse.

“Parasite cleanse” was a compelling option because PD wasn’t my only concern. I visited Mexico City in late 2018 and ate a lot of street food. Dorilocos overflowing with raw-dog red onions and handfuls of pork rinds. Raspados full of fresh fruit. Tlacoyos with nopales and cheese. It was delicious and perfectly safe for locals and folks with a healthy gut. But my gut is a sad, stark place, and my digestion hasn’t been the same since that trip.

Before we get deeper into my literal shit, I want to stress that I have an English degree from a state college in Texas! My idea of research is following a gut influencer on Instagram, scrolling Amazon reviews, and seeing what content vibes with my intentions. However, I do understand that correlation does not equal causation, meaning my entire experience can be explained by placebo effect or just related to something other than parasite cleansing. I’m not a rigorous person, and I didn’t think very hard about any of this.

That’s why, after minutes of looking at pictures of shit-covered worms splayed across squares of toilet paper, I was ready to dive in. On Thursday morning, I ordered 20 days of herbs for $25. And on Thursday evening, I learned that the kitten I was planning to adopt that weekend needed to stay with her foster mom for an extra week because ... she had worms.

This was a divine reminder that parasites are common: We accept without judgement that pets get them, and pets lick people—sometimes on the mouth. Many cultures participate in deworming or cleansing regularly using castor oil, herbs, or other tinctures. So it’s not insane to think that Americans can get them too, especially while traveling and by consuming food like sushi, rare meat, and raw fruits and veggies.

If I sound defensive, it’s because I am! Here’s why: I received my pills on Saturday morning and was scheduled to go to the pool with my boyfriend’s coworkers later that day. Despite having no clue how they’d affect me, I popped the first one. “Let’s fucking go,” I told my intestines.

When I got to the pool, I felt kinda weird but chalked it up to hunger and slammed two beers, a burger, and half of a family-sized bag of chips. I felt bad lol—like super bloated but not gassy—and decided to skip dose #2. I took dose #3 before dinner and felt nothing.

For the next four days, I didn’t notice any changes. But on day 5, I had a nice smooth elimination and glanced into the bowl on the way to flush. There, sticking straight out of my turd, was something that looked vaguely worm-like. “Hm,” I thought.

Before starting this project, I promised myself that I would preserve my humanity by not digging through my own shit. Instead of doing that, I grabbed a pair of pastel purple Tweezermans from the medicine cabinet and extracted it in one swift gesture. Disgusting!!!!

The corpse was about 1.5 inches long and clearly a female whipworm. I snapped a few photos and sent one to my sisters and boyfriend without their consent. “Look at that sucker,” I said proudly. With my coworkers, I was more considerate. “DM me if you want to see a photo,” I typed into Slack. Only one person took me up.

From day 5 through day 20, it wasn’t #WormWatch—it was #WormCity babyyyyy. I passed more whipworms, bright red things that looked like liver flukes, and some meaty chunks that looked like segments of something bigger. Horrifying!!!

I skipped taking the herbs on three non-consecutive days because I was constipated, and the idea of dead worms rotting inside me with no way out was panic-inducing. I ended up taking “lower bowel support” herbs and magnesium gummies to help get things moving—magnesium citrate is proven to pull water into the guts, but I’m 99% sure the herbs were snake oil.

The experience was interesting, but I felt pretty depressed and anxious throughout. I dreamed of snakes and woke up sweaty. I spent hours online and discovered MLMs that exploit female anxiety about being unclean by peddling five figure herbal protocols. “Maybe I should heal myself by spending $1,000 on mushroom coffee,” I thought more than once.

I pulled myself out of the slump by remembering that I’m totally fine, with or without worms. My PD healed before I even started the parasite cleanse by switching to a toothpaste without sodium lauryl sulfate. And I’ve chosen not to go to a Worm Doctor for the same reason: I don’t have any symptoms, and my testimonial is more likely to get me a pscyh eval than anything else.

Would I recommend doing a parasite cleanse as a quarantine activity? Fuck no. I was anxious, depressed, obsessive, and shitting worms. Do literally anything else.

We're all in this together

Originally posted on April 19, 2020

Over the past week, I’ve used my free time to read poems, finish a book about our planet dying, and watch a TV show about adults competing as a group to not have sex with each other.

I take breaks to scroll Instagram and click on ads: soft fabric, bright cookware, pretzels that are made in small batches in Boston and delivered directly to your door.

I click and click and click. “Our shipping may be delayed,” I read on temporary banners at the top of every page. Next to the words, there’s an illustration of a heart cradled by a set of hands. Inside the heart it says “COVID-19.” Under the heart it says “We’re all in this together.”

When I’m not clicking on ads, I’m searching the names of celebrities who I unfollowed but am still compelled to watch. Their pages have rebranded from luxury to relatable: sourdough, a glass of wine at 2pm, a roll of toilet paper on its last sheet. A clay mask, a messy bun, a homemade cinnamon bun, a video from TikTok. The captions are different versions of the same message: We’re all in this together.

“NO WE’RE NOT,” I think.

For example, yesterday morning I tied on my sneakers and a quick-dry face mask I bought on I placed a second mask into my backpack along with my wallet, inhaler, a lightweight pullover, and a small bottle of hand sanitizer. I ran along the Embarcadero and ended up at the Ferry Building, where I changed into the clean mask, pulled on the pullover, sanitized my hands, and picked up a box of organic produce I’d pre-ordered online. When I got home, I opened my fridge and realized that I’d stuffed it so full that I’d blocked the vent and caused it to overcool, freezing most of my food.

“WHAT THE ACTUAL FUCK,” I wailed, shaking an icy jar of capers, flexing a solid tortilla, and palming a stone cold egg.

“JESUS FUCKING CHRIST,” I flicked ice crystals from a glass container of leftover pasta, manhandled a solid Icelandic-style yogurt, and peered inside a half-eaten can of beans.

I spotted the strawberries I’d intended to eat that morning. “THIS IS THE LAST FUCKING STRAW,” I thought. “YOU CAN’T JUST FREEZE AND UNFREEZE THESE THINGS.” I sniffed back actual tears. “THEY GET … TOO … WATERY!!!!”

This is the this that I’m in. I’m spoiled, alone and sometimes lonely, sensitive, irritable, irrational. I think about food all day, alternating between worrying about running out and about having too much — will it go to waste? Or will I gobble it all up this exact second? One minute I’m crying over a bowl of frozen noodles and the next I’m pulling my shirt over my ribs to look at my stomach in the mirror.

Some people may be in this with me, but “we” aren’t. Like, imagine me renting a car and driving 70 miles south to Watsonville. I get out of the car and walk through the field where my strawberries were grown and find the person who plucked them from the ground. I stand six feet away, show them my flat stomach, show them a picture of a refrigerator, and ask which one they’d choose if they were me. “We’re all in this together,” I say. I would rather die.

I work in marketing and I’ve spent hours wringing words into sentences that “resonate” and are “authentic,” not too “salesy.” Sometimes I fail: I wrote an email in March that a customer forwarded to my boss with a reply. “THIS IS BOTH CRASS AND BAD BUSINESS,” it screamed. “I’LL REMEMBER IT.”

It wasn’t my job to reply, but I wanted to write “Dearest customer, we’re all in this together” on a rag, dunk it in gasoline, stuff it in a bottle, light it on fire, and hurtle it back — not because those words are true, but because they’re an effective way to say “HOW DARE YOU CRITICIZE ME DURING A PANDEMIC.” We can’t all be heroes.

So when I see this phrase now, I don’t read it as a statement of unity through collective suffering, I read it as an apology delivered proactively. Some of us just have crass jobs selling silly things. Could you please not be such a dick about it?

A one-way ticket to crazytown

Originally posted on March 14, 2020

When people started talking about a new pneumonia virus in China, I was dismissive. “Thousands of people here die of the flu every year,” I was quick to point out. “This is nothing compared that.”

In early February, a coworker chose not to take a domestic flight for an event at our office in San Francisco. “That's weird,” I responded to people privately when it came up. “This is nothing.”

I had a small set of facts, mostly based on seasonal flu comparisons, and I clung to them. I also had a small, specific set of worries: I'm moving out of California this year, I work at a startup that has its challenges, and I've been struggling with allergies and respiratory issues, more than usual. There wasn't room in my facts or my worries for a scary new virus, and I refused to make space.

I flew to San Diego in mid-February. I had horrible allergy symptoms while I was there, and I came back with a light cough that cleared up after a few days. But everything else was normal.

A week later, I went to the ballet. It was beautiful and very normal except when an elderly man lost his shit - like REALLY lost it - when an elderly woman coughed without covering her mouth. “PLEASE use THIS,” he announced mid-ballet, whipping a clean tissue out of his suit pocket and shoving it into the offender's hand. “What a psycho,” I thought, sad when she didn't return to her seat after second intermission.

I flew to Miami at the end of February, and there were small signs that things were different. I wiped down my airplane seat, and several other people did too. A few elderly people were wearing surgical masks. I got buzzed and ate some communal bar snacks and deeply regretted it. But everything else was normal.

Two days after I got back from Miami, I went to urgent care and had an albuterol breathing treatment done - my first one in almost seven years. Everyone started washing their hands obsessively, and I also started a five day course of steroids to help manage my asthma. I was checking my temperature twice a day, and because I didn't have a cough or a fever I kept going to work.

Because at this point in my journey, I was very concerned about the economy. I recently heard Pete Buttigieg described as Capitalist Mr. Peanut -which I love - and I leaned into being Capitalist MRS. Peanut. When San Francisco Ballet cancelled all performances of A Midsummer Night's Dream, I was personally offended. When people started tentatively practicing social distancing, I was appalled. “Support local businesses,” I lectured, peering over my monocle. “If you stop being a bunch of filthy booze hounds you'll stay healthy!!!” I was smug and self-righteous. I ran eight miles in the cold rain so I could eat a biscuit sandwich. I got brunch. I saw a movie. I refused to stock up on groceries and was irritated when my coworker bought eight cans of chicken noodle soup.

I desperately, desperately wanted things to be the same. When I made the decision to leave San Francisco later this year, I had a clear vision of what my last months would look like. Long runs! Bakeries! Friends! Ballet season! Museums! The library! I wanted closure, and I wanted it on my terms - not dictated by a pandemic. Because this past week, that's what it became. A PAN-FREAKING-DEMIC. And everything changed. On Monday, I fainted at the cash register at Safeway, stark white, sweaty, and most likely because of the steroids I was taking for asthma - I still haven't had “bad symptoms.” On Tuesday, a coworker went home with a fever and cough. On Wednesday, my office closed. On Thursday morning, I made the gut-wrenching decision not to travel to Houston to celebrate my brother's engagement. On Friday, Trump declared a national emergency, and on Saturday, San Francisco closed bars with capacity of over 100 people. I don't know why this last one is the most scary, but it is.

This experience has changed me already, and it's just starting.

I've realized how hard it is to accept that things are becoming wildly unlike anything I've experienced before. I dragged my feet EVERY. STEP. OF. THE. WAY. ON. THIS. I thought I could out-rationalize or out-humor it. Yet here I am, hiding away at home to prevent the spread of a virus that doesn't even make your eyes bleed.

I've also realized how difficult it is to make decisions when you're under stress. I already knew that this was true, but I hadn't really felt it because I'm a decisive and privileged person. Lately, I've needed to make decisions that have financial implications- mostly around travel to see my loved ones - and my brain has been truly incapable of doing so. It's been an eye-opening experience that I hate!

And finally, it's been interesting to see how hard it is for people to relate to this situation when they're not directly affected by it. When there's a natural disaster, everyone sees it together, and it horrifies us. Nobody questions tying yourself to a barn during a tornado! But with a pandemic like this one, there's nothing to see, so we feel confused and disgusted by people's responses. Disgusted by people who stay home. Disgusted by people who wear masks. Disgusted by people who buy supplies. And even disgusted by people who get sick.

The way I wish I'd prepared for this is not by buying more stuff, but by accepting earlier that it would change my life. And if you haven't been affected yet, buckle up: You'll be here soon.

A Visit with Dr. S

Originally posted on January 18, 2020

I haven’t had great luck with doctors. From a gynecologist who asked me what church I attended, to an ophthalmologist who numbed my eye, forgot why, and told me to go home, to a surgeon who winked when he asked me to remove a piercing, I’ve never had an experience that left me thinking, “Wow, these medical professionals really know what they’re doing!”

So when it came to managing my mild asthma, I avoided finding a primary care physician and relied on same-day appointments at urgent care to refill my prescriptions. I recently realized this wasn’t the best way to treat a medical condition that could kill me, so I logged into and found a real-life MD who could help.

This is my story.

I left work on a Friday afternoon and walked a few blocks north to the doctor’s office. I’d had a cold recently and was still a little wheezy, so I figured the doctor would listen to my lungs, give me albuterol, and I’d be back at the office in about 30 minutes.

When I walked into the waiting room, the first thing I noticed was a big green sign that said “THROW AWAY YOUR TRASH!!!”. When I see a sign like this, I assume that either the area is prone to a recurring problem that causes significant distress OR a person who works there is unhinged. I kept an open mind and headed to the desk to check in.

The woman behind the desk handed me an iPad to complete the required paperwork. “We reset the password this morning and nobody can remember it,” she told me. “Have a seat and I’ll tell you the password once it comes back to me.” “Did you write it down?” I asked, trying to be helpful.

“No,” she said. “But it’s in my head somewhere.”

I sat in a chair and she sat on her desk, eyes closed and brow furrowed. Ten minutes later, she opened her eyes and logged into the iPad on the first try. “Don’t forget to take a few selfies so the doctor knows who you are.” I took two pictures without asking questions.

A different woman led me back to an examination room, and I sat down on the paper-covered table. She handed me what looked like a small strip of white paper. “The doctor only trusts temperatures taken in the armpit,” she said. “Some people think it’s weird, but that’s just him.” I placed the paper in my left armpit, waited five minutes, and then removed it and handed it back to her. “He’ll be with you soon,” she said. “It’s been a busy day.”

Minutes later, a short man with an all-black outfit, wire-rimmed glasses, and a deeply pockmarked face walked in. “I’m Dr. S,” he said. “And you’d be prettier if your face was more symmetrical.”

I didn’t disagree.

“I only say this because — ” he paused, pulled up my selfie on his iPad, and handed me a mirror. “I can tell just by looking at you that you have a sinus infection, and you’re seriously ill. Very, very ill.” He pointed to the center of my right cheek. “Look how droopy this side is,” he said, comparing it to my left cheek. “It’s full of infection.”

“I think my face just looks like this,” I said. “I’ve never been super photogenic.”

“We can change your face,” he said. “Just watch.”

He pulled on purple latex gloves and grabbed my head, tipping my face down and sideways so my right cheek was parallel to the floor. “I’ve been working in this city for 25 years,” he said. “I see people like you all the time — smart people — Salesforce, Google, Facebook, all of them.” He was ranting by this point, and it was hard to keep up. “But not one of you knows how to blow your nose correctly.” He pressed his thumb on the skin above my right sinus cavity. “BLOW,” he said. I paused, feeling shy. “Just do it,” he said. So I blew my nose into his gloves, and he repeated the process for the left side.

“Have you had a cough?” He asked. “A little, but not too bad,” I answered. “I’m more concerned about the wheezing— ”

He cut me off. “Do you ever see animals with four legs coughing?” he asked. “Like dogs, have you ever in your life seen a dog cough?”

I was bent at the waist and my head was still in his hands. I nodded, pretty confident that I’d seen a dog cough.

He pulled me back up to a seated position. “Dogs never cough,” he said. “It’s because their heads face down and the toilets in their skulls drain the right direction.”

“Interesting,” I said.

“Your head is a toilet,” he told me. “A toilet that drains the wrong way because you’re a human. It goes back into your throat. The mucus in your head is dirtier than the plaque on your teeth. Think about it.”

I nodded.

“Are you religious?” he asked.

“Not really,” I replied.

“That’s good,” he said. “It means you’re not being controlled. Do you think God has an anus?”

“I’m not sure,” I said.

“Me either, he replied. “But anyways, the benefit of religion is that when people pray, they put their head on the ground, like a dog.”

“And that’s good for … drainage?” I offered.

“Exactly,” he said. “You should always cough upside down, like a dog or a religious person. And, you should do it at least four times a day, even if you don’t need to.”

“I’ll try,” I said.

He moved on. “Do you ever use a Neti pot?” he asked.

“Yes!” I said, relieved. “I use one almost every day.”

“Have you ever seen a monkey use a Neti pot?” he fired back, peering at me over his glasses.

“I don’t think they’re that advanced yet,” I answered.

He ignored my joke and paused a few beats. “Would you stick a Neti pot up your ass?”

I blushed. He smiled at me kindly. “If you wouldn’t stick something in your ass, don’t stick it in your nose,” he said. “But if you really want to, you can use a vibrator on your face, to help with drainage. But it needs to be a small vibrator — really small. Okay?”

“Okay,” I said.

He walked behind me and placed his stethoscope over my sweater. “Breathe,” he instructed. I took several deep breaths. He whipped around, yanked open a notebook, and drew a simple graph with a sloped line. “This is normal people breathing,” he said. Neither axis was labeled. He pressed his pen into the page and drew a thick flat line. “This is you,” he said, staring at me gravely. “Your right lung isn’t working. You have a terrible infection and you’re extremely ill.”

“I actually feel mostly okay,” I said. “I was diagnosed with asthma as an adult, so I’m still learning how to manage it.”

“Have you ever in your life seen an old person with asthma?” he asked.

“I don’t think so,” I said, knowing by now that this was the answer he wanted. “Is that because they’re all dead?”

He laughed. “Don’t be silly,” he said. “Old people don’t have asthma because they took antibiotics all the time when they were kids. They constantly took antibiotics, and now they’re the healthiest people.”

“But I thought — ” I tried to say.

“Me, I take antibiotics six or seven times a year and I never get sick,” he said. “You have to ignore all the fake news out there.”

“Wow, how interesting,” I said.

“Fake news is a big problem,” he said. “Like in this city, you can’t even wear a red hat without people getting upset. Is that freedom of expression?”

I shook my head.

He returned to his notebook and drew a face. The left cheek was round like a clown and the right cheek was shrunken like a witch. I realized it was me. He circled the right cheek, drew an arrow, and wrote “THIS PART IS GREEN!!!” It was clear who’d written the sign in the waiting room.

“If you cut your toe would you wait for it to turn green and fall off before taking antibiotics?” he asked.

I shook my head again.

“Exactly,” he said. “You need at least ten days of antibiotics immediately, and I’ll throw in an inhaler for your fake news asthma.”

“Thanks,” I said.

“See you in six weeks,” he replied.