She told the assistant to bring the medication she wanted, and then demonstrated what she wanted me to do. I asked her a few more questions, and thanked her for seeing me on short notice. Then she put both her hands on the sides of my face and pressed warmly: "Don't worry," she said, looking in my eyes. "Go see him when he gets back, for sure, but nothing bad will happen if it's a week or two."
Back in the waiting room, the Romanian family was gathered around the reception desk, the woman who'd been the patient now wearing a long fur coat and leaning familiarly on the counter. (Later, at home, I would realize why I had heard Italian in their voices: the Romanians are the only remaining decendents of the eastern Romans who expanded their empire to the Danube in the first century B.C., their name and language still as closely linked to its Latin origin as French, Italian, and Spanish. How ignorant I am.)
The morose man still stared straight ahead as he sat on the metal chair, pulled well out in front out of the row; now he was massaging his shoulder, holding the joint in his hand and slowly rotating his arm, grimacing. I glanced at him and stood, uncertain what to do next, in front of the reception desk
"Un moment, prenez un place,s'il vous plait," the receptionist said when she saw me, and I went with J., who had just come back in, his cheeks red from the cold, to the now-vacant couch and sat down.
"Ours was the only car left there," J. told me. "It's rush hour and that place in front of the building turns into a no-parking zone."
My eyes widened in alarm: "Did we have a ticket?"
"No, but I got there just in time. I don't know this neighborhood..."
"Did you have to move it far?"
He shook his head. "A little ways. Down one of the side streets. What's going on, why are we sitting down?"
"I'm not sure - waiting for them, I think. Then I think I can pay."
He nodded. When the family had finished whatever they were doing and left, I got up again, excused myself when I passed unavoidably close to the morose man and his unhappy shoulder, and presented myself at the desk.
"C'est dix dollars pour la bouteille d'antibiotique et trente dollars pour la consultation dentaire aujourd'hui," ("It's ten dollars for the bottle of antibiotic and thirty for the dental consultation today") she told me in rapid French, and I handed her my debit card. "Merci." She gave me the receipt and I walked behind her and took my coat out of the closet; the man in the brown sweater reappeared and would have helped me put it on if I'd been any slower. Thanks were exchanged, and then we passed through the door and went out onto the street and a sudden blast of cold air. I felt completely different than when we had come in.
We drove back on Cote-St-Catherine as l'heure de pointe (rush hour) was beginning, past the huge old seminary buildings of grey stone, the mansions on top of the ridge, the Ecole de Musique, the home of the Soeurs de l’Immaculée Conception. It was snowing lightly. We drove down St.-Joseph back into the Plateau. As we entered our building after parking the car, we ran into a neighbor, Mme. P. She was in a fleece jacket and navy-blue tights, putting something away in the basement, and her always-sparkly eyes glittered when she spotted us...
(to be continued)