Thin white paper crackled beneath my thighs and bottom as young, restless legs bounced off the side of the oak examination table. I was making a lot of noise, but was excessively bored. After she decided she’d had enough, my mother grabbed one of my knees and feigned some ridiculous threat. I knew she wouldn’t follow through.
She was leafing through a magazine and talking to my sister. I was there to get some kind of shot that would keep me from getting sick. I didn’t believe it would work, but I was a skeptic, even at four. After an eternity of kicking and getting yelled at, an old man finally walked through the door. He had something in his hand and a couple of cotton balls. He grabbed my right arm, rubbed it with the acrid-smelling material and explained that he was cleaning my arm. Next, he pulled the cap off the other thing he had carried in, drew it close to my arm and- OH MY GOSH, WHAT THE CRAP ARE YOU DOING?!
Months later, I had to return for a vaccination. It was supposed to be similar to what happened last time. I was on edge, which is saying a lot for a human who can express his his age to friends and relatives using only one hand. This time, I noticed a cup full of popsicle sticks. I asked my mother if I could have some. Negative. Whatever, I decided I’d just sit there and try not to go crazy. I noticed homeless men hanging out on a bench outside the window. They held my attention until the doctor arrived. He had more cotton and another terrifying item of pain. I tensed up but thought I’d give him another chance.
More tears. I think my mother was embarrassed.
Months later, I was five. They told me I had to go again. I fought it all week. I begged not to go. I grabbed the door frame on the way out of the house. I refused to get in the car and once we had arrived at the office, I protested from the back seat. I vacated the vehicle, but only after my mother exerted some force. I went limp in the parking lot and insisted that if I was going to get another bloody shot, my mother was going to have to drag me up the stairs to the awful office. She explained that I was about to get spanked. I had to think for a minute about which was worse, getting swatted, or stabbed with another vaccine. I took the hit and then marched up the stairs, a hostage to my own parent.
White paper crackled under my thighs and bottom. I searched the room for something to arm myself. I came back to the popsicle sticks. What if I stabbed him with one? Maybe I could double-fist and really get him good. Then he’d never give me another shot, ever again. I reached for the metal cup that held the only visible weapons in the room, but my mother swooped in and pulled it away. What was her problem? She was as bad as the doctor, because she apparently wanted me to suffer.
The old man came in with more cotton balls but this time, he had two needles. Inside, I started to fall to pieces. He asked for my arm, I declined to share it with him. He laughed and reached for it. My mother glared at me from over his shoulder. I knew that she’d get my father involved if I made too much of a fuss. I searched the room for something I could use to knock him unconscious. I caught sight of his stethoscope and considered choking him…
Repeated exposure to extremely negative behavior led to distrust. A five-year-old doesn’t care if the doctor is actually up to any good. My little mind couldn’t understand what was going on. I hated that man for years because all he seemed to do was bring pain. I eventually learned to trust him, but that’s not the point. Trust is a difficult thing to obtain and it may be more challenging to maintain. Of course, we have to place our confidence in somebody, otherwise we’d all be conspiracy theorists, vigilantly looking for rogue government agencies, UFOs and the chupacabra. Or we just wouldn’t have any friends.
Every now and again, somebody keeps doing the same stupid thing, and that five-year-old inside of me starts looking for weapons…
Trust isn’t easy. We have to fight to develop it and we must work to help others sustain the trust they have placed in us.