Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Masks, A Youtube novel; Chapter 5

Chapter 5

            The doctor is the new cliché of young (too young), dark and handsome running hospitals and dictating lives.  He has a sexy accent and looks good in his scrubs.  I’d rather my mom had an older, greying expert but seemingly they’ve all retired out of the emergency room.
            So I make the best of it, horrible though that might sound.  But I’ve been having such a bad day I need a distraction, if only a fleetingly and improbable one.  After all, I’m likely to be single soon and, truth be told, was getting bored with Brad anyway.  Some men are so convinced that they’re a catch that they forget they’re still courting and their fish isn’t hooked yet.  Women get bored, or just plain angry, too.  And a woman’s attention is fully capable of wandering; just ask any shoe salesperson.  So I can listen to a sexy doctor speak, notice he has no wedding ring and fully enjoy the reality that, as Beyoncé said, “If you liked it, then you should have put a ring on it.”
            “We got her here quickly and administered the right drugs,” the handsome young doctor tells me.  “Most likely she’ll be okay,” he states, his brown eyes deep and meaningful as he tells me that my mother will probably be fine, though it’s too soon to know for sure.  She’s recovering now but still asleep so they can’t tell how her memory might have suffered. 
Seriously, is anything sexier than a man who might have saved your mother’s life?  I want to hug him and, really, nothing stops me short of my own inhibitions.  I sort of have a boyfriend but what does that mean?  And where will Brad really be this evening when not having sushi with me?  I suspect I’ll be at Cedars with mom.  And Ron texted that he’s on a flight now so most likely we’ll be having a hospital-based family reunion. 
I need caffeine.
            So I interrupt.  “Do you have time to discuss this over coffee?” I start, tentatively, “I’m about to collapse and need the jolt.”  He nods and we head to the cafeteria as I listen to him explaining strokes.  “A stroke is a cerebrovascular accident in which a disturbance of blood to the brain leads to a loss of brain function.” he begins.  “This blockage or hemorrhage causes the disruption, and the affected area of the brain loses its ability to function.  Sometimes that loss can be corrected.  We have a drug which, if administered in time, can prevent many of the worst repercussions and your mother got it.  We hope she got it in time.”
            So do I.
            “Did she?” I ask, pressing him, desperately seeking reassurance, and I hear my voice breaking.  He shifts slightly in his thin aluminum chair and I study his face, trying to read for any hint of dishonesty, even if only protective.  I want the truth. 
            “We think so,” he responds.  “But we might not know for a day or two.  She’s still very fragile and in older patients a second follow-on stroke is more common.”
            I watch Dr. Esses as he talks about slurred speech and physical disability on one side or both.  He looks tired, with deep circles under both round eyes, offset by long lashes, and I notice how delicately tapered his hands are.  But he also looks worried as he sips his milky coffee and I wonder, only briefly I promise, what it must be like to hold lives in those fingers and not be deciding between one shade of kohl grey versus another.  This man deals in life and death and he just saved my mother’s life.
            “She’s old,” I begin.  “Thank you,” I finish, and feel my second set of tears of the day begin.  And in this light, fluorescent and glaring, I know that my pain will be magnified, unlike in my office where all is muted and covered up.  Here people die. 
            “How did you end up at Cedars?” I ask lamely, then swallow a slug of my coffee, wincing as the acid lukewarm fluid goes down.  It tastes terrible, old, bitter and even perhaps rancid.  I’ve become spoiled with choosing smoother blends for my office machine.  Well, this one has enough caffeine for me feel its effect immediately so I guess it serves its purpose.
            He tells me about growing up in London.  Both his immigrant parents are doctors and worked long hours while he spent time alone studying, his two brothers doing the same.  He’d been lonely, missing his grandparents and what he still thought of as home, deep in the neighborhoods of Tunis.  How the cold chills and never-ending rain of England depressed him and how he’d made up stories of warm lands and deserts.  So when time came for medical school he followed his wanderlust and dreams, heading to the United States and eventually this emergency room.
            “It’s warm in Los Angeles and was originally a desert,” he says with a half smile and I’m glad to see a little humor in his eyes.  “As you know,” he finishes.  I need this levity now, or even just a hint that laughter will be possible again, maybe soon. 
            “Your stories come alive?” I ask, clutching my coffee cup still.  I feel pressure in my forehead and my whole body is tight, no taut.  Poised and waiting for the next blow to strike.  I’m going mad.
            The doctor just gives me a half smile and stands up, my knight for only an instant and now off to charge his next windmill.  I’ll see him again as my mother won’t be discharged for days.  So I grab my Styrofoam cup of coffee and follow him, good soldier that I am, to finally see what’s left of my mother.  His shoulders are broad though he clearly should eat more and I can’t help but think that I’d prefer a romantic interlude or stack of shimmery powders to what will come next.  Yes, I love her.  But do I want to see her like this?
            “She’s from London, too,” I tell his back.  He turns and with another half smile, as if the full effort would be too much, answers, “I know.”  But what else is left to say?
            Dutifully, I follow him down the long white sterile hallway, which he navigates with such ease and familiarity.  The path is mostly empty though we do run into an occasional nurse or patient. 
            “This is your daily life?” I ask.  “Does it frighten you?  To be responsible for the lives of others?”  He’s ahead of me but I see him slow his stride before he turns back again, and looking very serious, responds, “Never.  Someone needs to do this job and I can do it better than most.  But I can’t do it perfectly and accept that.”
            “People die?” I push, probably not fairly.
            “Yes,” is all he says as he points to a half shut door.  “This is your mother’s room.”  And he walks away as I push my way into the unknown.  The room is dark, with closed curtains and no lights shining inside.  Like a fucking crypt.
            I hesitate before crossing the threshold.  While I might sound weepy and even pitiful, you must admit that I’m having a pretty awful day so far.  Any bets on whether it will get better or worse?  I step into the darkness and make out a bed amidst the shadows.  A shape moves and I brace myself, knowing that I can never step back into childhood now.  My mother has gotten old and I’ll increasingly need to be the strong one, whether or not I’m ready for that burden.  Race fearless into the unknown?  What choice do I have?

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