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The Test Taker

A Poem by Dr. Barry Lubetkin / New York City

The family huddled around the table like a football scrum

Fingers entwined, all staring down

Gazing at a CVS purchase

Cost five bucks, could change our lives.

We each voted silently. Ten minutes to wait. Anxiety.

“There is no line,” she says.

“Wait,” he says, “I think it’s there but vague.”

Hearts quicken, fingers tighten.

“You’re wrong,” another offers.

“Staring so long at the control line

caused a visual echo in your brain,” she says.

“You’re safe.”

“My throat is sore, not there yesterday.”

He demands another test.

Repeat. Next day repeat. Next day repeat.

Finally, positive. Line is dark.

Dark means isolate. Not scared.

Again repeat. Next day repeat.

Line does not show. We all vote again.

Negative. Relief.

Repeated millions of times around the world.

Is mine the only family where the test caused more fear

than the disease?


Barry Lubetkin, Ph.D. is the co-director and co-founder of the Institute for Behavior Therapy in New York City. The Institute for Behavior Therapy is the oldest private cognitive behavior center in the United States.



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