The door opened and the ponytailed man dressed in what could best be described as pajamas looked in. We made eye contact. I lay motionless as the needles in my skin bobbed to the beat of my heartbeat.
“Oh. I didn’t know someone was in here,” he said to me.
In response, I blinked.
Wordlessly, I looked at the several other empty recliner chairs covered in blankets. Obviously, this room was meant for more than one patient. Unless he thought I was expecting friends. For a party.
“It’s community acupuncture,” the voice of the acupuncturist floated in from the hallway. “Take a seat wherever you’re comfortable.”
Still making eye contact with me, he chose a recliner across the way. I broke eye contact and looked at the clock radio next to me. 12:06. I started calculating how much more time I had to go. 30 minutes? 45 minutes? I had come to this place to treat my shitty knee, my shitty ankle and my shitty anxiety.
Needles were imbedded on my arms and a few on my shins. There was even one on my hairline. That was my favorite one.
I felt both lighter and heavier. I experienced both calmness and absolute panic. I was both hot and cold.
Every once in awhile, my right arm would twitch. I was both intrigued and fascinated.
I would almost nod off. Then would be wide awake.
I looked at the clock radio again. 12:09. Fuck this. Fuckfuckfuckfuckfuck!
Finally, the therapist came in (at 12:47) and asked if I was ready to have the needles removed. I was. My knee and ankle felt better for a couple of weeks. And my anxiety more or less abated. From that point forward whenever I felt anxious, I calmed myself by thinking, “At least you aren’t in a room full of needles with a hippie.”