Playing Doctor

Initial Visit?

Monday, December 19

Games People Play

The Doctors’ Lounge is not different in appearance from the rest of the run-down hospital. But there is a difference when we walk in. Amongst ourselves, we don’t worry about being overheard. Some, if not most, are still assholes, talking about investment opportunities and streamlining the business of being a doctor. But a near majority talk about their weekend, their dogs or kids, movies or music.

I make small talk with the doctors at the buffet, getting my pulled pork, baked beans, cornbread muffin, and a side-plate overflowing with banana pudding. I grab a bottle of coca-cola, put a straw in it and look around for someone to sit with.

I see the surgeon who will be operating on my pancreatic cancer man this afternoon, Dr Merteuil, sitting alone and I join her.

‘I left you with your nose bleeding and your toes creeping round,’ I tell her, gliding past her onto a chair.

‘Sometimes I wish that I could stop you from talking,’ she says, ‘when I hear the stupid things that you say.’

I look at her, eyebrows up.

‘This conversation is going to exhaust me really quickly if we have to recite lyrics to one another,’ she says. ‘You’re cool already. I get it.’

Dr Merteuil is a fairly brilliant surgeon. She is smart, no-nonsense and with common sense. Her hands are good, by reputation and from what I’ve seen during codes. We’re also each other’s confidant at work, exchanging information on both the politics of the hospital and our personal lives.

She’s married—happily, she says. She’s also sleeping with an OR Tech. A six-foot-two, muscle-bound blondie.

She takes home-call, meaning she only comes into the hospital if she’s needed. For a while now, the Tech would page her at pre-arranged times and she would leave the house and have a rendezvous and head back home: A perfect situation, really.

While we have the table to ourselves, she gives me an update. Recently he’s been calling at times that were not prearranged. Taking the call in front of her husband, she couldn’t really argue.

‘He has me by the balls,’ she said. ‘I’m about over this shit.’

‘You gonna break it off?’ I ask.

‘Hell no. I like making the bitch say my name,’ she says, getting a laugh from me. ‘I just don’t like not being in the driver’s seat.’

I fill her in on my weekend. I tell her about Chicago, Stockholm, and Birmingham.

‘You have—like—a dream situation,’ she says. ‘God I wish I were you.’

‘I don’t follow.’

‘Whenever I go out, I have to figure out where I am not going to run into anyone my husband knows. If we ran into anyone from the hospital things would get complicated. With you, if Stockholm sees you with Chicago or Birmingham you can be like “I’m not allowed to hang out with my buddies?” and if either of them sees you with her they are unlikely to ask questions.’

‘Take a good look at my face,’ I say, laughing and taking a bite of my cornbread muffin. ‘You'll see my smile looks out of place,’

‘No more tear-stained makeup,’ she says, getting up as her pager goes off, ‘Motherfucker.’

I laugh and take another bite of my muffin.

I do love a good cornbread.


Blogger dan writes:

Er, I recognize the Linda Ronstadt and the "No More Tear Stained Make-up" line, but what's all this business about bleeding noses and creeping toeses?


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