Friday, June 17, 2011

The Dozing Doctor

My doctor has dozed off. His breathing is disorganised and the stale scent of alcohol hangs in the air. I've noticed his patience has been waning lately. Perhaps it has with other patients, too? As I entered his consulting room ten minutes ago he looked pale, wriggled his fingers, yawned, and with a cheerless, lethargic voice enquired, 'And how are we, today? Still ill and dying, I trust?'

The Doctor is normally a rational human being with a determined face and intelligent eyes. This morning, however, he seems paralyzed by emotional trauma, sarcasm and indifference. I notice that his wedding ring is missing. His tormented face and toneless voice make me ill at ease. 

'What are you here for?' he barks, as if worn out from asking questions.

'I'm worried about the side effect of a drug you prescribed last month. While I sleep my left leg goes for walks without me.'

'How do you know it goes for walks if you are sleeping?' he asks, sighing deeply.

'Sometimes I pretend to be asleep. Then a short while later my left leg gets out of bed and leaves the house.'

'So what?' he says wearily. 'Do you think it's having an affair with another leg, perhaps? Are you frightened it will run off with some other leg and leave you after all these years? Stand up to your left leg! Demand your rights! Wear ladies tights to keep your legs together, if necessary!'

I sit in silence, stunned by his outburst.

'Patients don't understand that doctors get bored listening to them. Yes, bored. I see you are shocked by my confession. So what! The staff in this place don't even say 'good morning', a simple 'hello', 'goodbye', 'safe journey home' to me. Can you believe that? This place is a cauldron of disorder, disharmony, and accusations!'

I have an irresistible urge to scream. I feel nauseous. My stomach starts to churn.

The doctor bows his head, sighs, and in a tired voice says, 'If I were at home right now I'd be on my own. Life is a simple story. It's not the same story for everyone, but it's a story all the same. You fall in love, get married, have children, and you work. You work so goddamn hard you forget about love. You forget it's the most important thing in your life. My wife suffered a long time without me knowing about it, and I'm supposed to be a doctor. She left me a note saying she was tired of me, tired of our life, tired of being unhappy. To tell the truth, I, was unhappy, too. She took off with a rich sweet-talker who, like every other human being, has within themselves the potential for destruction, treachery, delusion and deceit.'

Another prolonged period of silence descends. The doctor's voice softens. 'I see your left leg is back. Treat it with love and respect. And don't be too tired to tell it you love it. Everything meaningful that happens in one's life has many meanings, not one. Take time to heal yourself. Take back control of your life, your body, your left leg ... '

The doctor's head drops between his knees, he begins to snore.

I lean back in the soft black chair, and think: 'How precious time, love and health are. Would the doctor take his wife back if she returned to him? Would he still love her? Is it possible to love someone more than once, or is that delusional? Could he trust her again? Perhaps his time has come and gone. Perhaps his life will now be one of immense sorrow and anger? His nights long and full of false, painful memories.'

The image of the dozing doctor's posture will remain with me. I wish I could say (with absolute confidence) the same about my left leg. 

Reflections:  It's remarkable how unperturbed some people feel about living in a hermetically sealed world. Ear phones are a definite deterrent to a meaningful conversation, unless you happen to have a XL megaphone at your disposal. On a recent visit to London I observed many people on the underground, on buses, in restaurants and at a concert (?!), sitting in isolation wired to iPods, cellphones and other technological gadgetry, totally unaware of the natural sounds and vistas or friends and lovers in their company.

Some passers-by walked swiftly along the pavement: eating, drinking, talking on cellphones, listening to music on iPods, charging through people and displaying limited understanding of good manners and etiquette. This increasing trend is not unique to London, however. The number of gadgets are increasing, and becoming smaller and cheaper. In fact, I have five: one in each ear, one in each nostril, and another in my belly button. It's a losing battle . . .