Playing Doctor

Initial Visit?

Thursday, April 27

What’s the Frequency, Kenneth?

I’ve returned home and am searching through CD’s that I don’t play much. I see Leonard Cohen, Me’Shell NdegéOcello, Neil Young, and The Jody Grind. I pull out covers with images of the Union Jack, half-manikins, and 1960’s pin-up boys. I pop in Suicidal Tendencies and start it up while thumbing through other discs.

I reach underneath my bed, pulling out shoeboxes, small bags, and stacks of papers. Wisps of dust—too large to be called wisps, really—waft out and cling to my scrubs. Post-call mornings residents usually suffer from the triad of halitosis, narcosis, and priapism. Today, mine is marked by rhinorrhea, nausea, and palpitations.

The boxes I’m opening only have shoes in them. The bags have screws, electrical wires and used paint brushes. I begin going through the papers, but they’re just old undergraduate essays.

I move to the living room and begin pulling books from the shelves. Ionesco Beckett and Sheppard fall to the floor as I search behind their group. I thumb briefly through Miller. I see Ellis, but don’t pick him up. I move down and flip through the pages of Amis and Camus, letting loose sheets and notes fall out. I’m remembering bits and pieces from them. Sketches of ideas are scribbled on the backs of receipts for coffee and beer, airplane tickets, and grocery lists. (‘When did I need phosphorus-free detergent and a pizza stone?’ I wonder, before moving on.)

I remove the cushions from the couch and check the crevices. A dollar forty-seven in loose change and two pens. I search again. My hand singles in on a small rectangular shape—my fingers feeling its openable rim—and I grow excited. I try to grasp around it, but it’s deep. I use my other hand to force open the springs so I can reach further inside. I tease out a corner, clasp onto it and try to pull it from the couch, but it falls from my grasp and deeper inside. I can no longer touch it. I’m sweating and the dust from under the bed has caused some lachrymosis.

I’m inturrupted by a knock on the door. Looking out the window, I see Merteuil standing on my back porch. She sees me and lifts her hands, dangling a six-pack in one hand and a McDonald’s bag in the other, saying ‘Ready for some beer and McMuffins?’

I open the door for her and walk into the living room, turning on the television. Merteuil steps over the CD’s, books, and videotape strewn around the room.

‘What the fuck happened in here?’ she asks, returning some of the cushions to the couch. I grab a beer and sort though some of the stuff on the floor. I tell her about the Gosling’s death.

‘Fuck me,’ she says when I’ve finished. It’s an expletive, not a request. There’s a moment before she says, ‘You know what your problem is?’

‘Christ,’ I say, biting into a McMuffin and flipping channels. ‘If I say yes will that stop you from telling me? You’re a surgeon, not a psychiatrist.’

I hold the channel on The Mary Tyler Moore Show.

‘You really pissed Pasteur off the other night, Erik.’ she says. ‘He’s supposed to be your friend. Have you noticed you get along with strangers: Nurses, clerks, techs, even docs from other specialties?’

‘Are you trying,’ I ask her, ‘to do the routine where you talk a lot of obvious shit to get my guard down?’

She doesn’t say anything for a while.

‘When I die,’ Betty White—as Sue Ann Nevins—is saying. ‘I want to be cremated and have my ashes thrown on Robert Redford.’

I laugh and Merteuil looks from the screen to me

‘You love her, don’t you?’ she says.

‘Stockholm?’ I say, shrugging, ‘sure.’

‘I mean Sue Ann.’ she says. She knows my drunken confessions; she knows the answer to this question. I’m trying to ignore her. I finish my second beer and grab a third.

‘If you want to shame someone, Erik, shame yourself. You love her,’ she says, motioning to Sue Ann, ‘but you’re the complete opposite. Let’s face it, you aren’t half the badass you think you are.’

I change the channel: Columbo.

‘Your lucky day,’ Merteuil says, ‘two heroes in two minutes time.’

‘If you think,’ I say, ‘that’s why I like her, you’ve missed the point.’

‘No, I haven’t. I get the whole Columbo thing,’ she says, then leans in and practically whispers, ‘but you’re the opposite of what you want to be.’

I grunt.

‘Patients,’ I say, ‘want shamans and gods.’

‘Just one thing I can’t quite figure out,’ Columbo says, turning around, after talking to the suspect.

We watch the rest of the show in silence.

‘You’re a pretty smart cookie,’ Merteuil says, standing up to leave as the credits start. She kisses my forehead, saying, ‘you’ll figure it out.’

I blink at her for a moment. She grabs her keys and walks out. I sit on the couch for a while, looking at the mess I’ve made—books, papers, and cushions still on the floor—before going to sleep.

A few weeks later I’ll get the shit beat out of me. A few days after that, I stop shaving my upper lip.


Blogger dan writes:

Even Columbo never had a cliffhanger.

I suppose it is sweeps week after all.


Post a Comment


Medical Records

Season Three

Season Two

Season One