“Are you sure you’re okay?” My therapist asked. She knows I’m not but she’s more interested in how I answer.
“I have been a bit ‘off,’ at work lately. Nothing too serious,” I tacked on so she didn’t overreact. “I think I’m just over-tired. I’ve just been distracted, is all.”
She jotted something in her notepad. “Just at work? Or have these difficulties extended to other aspects of your life?”
“Just at work, I don’t want to point fingers but most of this is Julia’s fault.”
“Who’s Julia?” She wondered at the name she didn’t recognize.
“I meant to say Jenny, she’s my secretary, and if she wasn’t so ditzy this whole thing wouldn’t have happened. I mean, 90% of her job is to keep patient files organized so that they are given the proper health-care. Two patients received the wrong diagnosis and prescriptions because Janelle can’t think straight.”
“I thought her name was Jenny?”
“Her name is Janelle and she’s not great at her job. Terrible focus, no attention-span whatsoever, but she means well. Last week two patient files got shuffled together and as a result I told a young man who came in for an STD test that his x-ray results were consistent with a broken arm. We gave him an arm full of plaster right before his big football game instead of a prescription for antibiotics which he definitely needed, colleges are cesspools. I has to rush down there-”
“Thank God you did! There could have been a major local outbreak!” She interrupted.
I was just about to tell her how I saved the day. How I had to catch taxis, hop trains, jump turnstiles. How I “borrowed” a wandering child’s bike that is now smashed to pieces due to a near-death bus accident. How I didn’t even wait for my Uber to fully stop before I rolled out of the moving car (even though it was my third strike, and Uber said they’d ban me if I kept doing it). I was going to tell her how I made it just in time for the big game and sprinted alongside the field as fast as special teams at kickoff. How I grabbed the landscaper’s gardening shears as I passed his cart and how I wielded them above my head like a knight’s sword. How I dipped and dodged security guards because some girl yelled “active shooter?” unconfident in her assessment of the situation. I was going to tell my therapist how I yelled my patients name as I approached the bench, and how he cowered under it screaming for help. How we cleared up the misunderstanding and everyone laughed about it. How I freed my patient from his plaster prison just in time for him to continue sitting on the bench waiting for the star quarter-back to possibly get injured. How, because of all that, the team played their best game of the preseason. And how I was so worried about his football game I didn’t even think to let him know he tested positive.
“Yes, I caught him just in time…” I said unconvincingly.
“And what happened to the patient with the broken arm? I’m sure they were relieved to find out they didn’t have an STD?”
“Her parents were definitely relieved”, I confirmed.
“Ah yes, teenagers can be tricky, that’s for sure!” She chuckled lightly.
“She’s a second grader.” Her chuckle halted followed by a scarcely audible gulp.
“Is this the first time Ja-…” she hesitated, “…your secretary, has made a mistake at work?” She asked as she continued to jot in her note pad.
“Well, no, she’s been on a roll recently, the other day she gave me a middle aged man’s file and I ended up telling a 14-year-old he had high cholesterol probably due to a combination of his past drug use and affinity for red meats. Now this kid is taking baby aspirin every morning and night, and a middle aged man is in surgery with a blood clot the size of grape fruit in his arteries. Of course the surgeons all point fingers at me saying ‘I should have caught it sooner’ and ‘this is medical malfeasance’. I told them about Janet and how she’s always so forgetful. I had to give her a formal warning after last week’s escapade. This one was a tad more serious, it involved a young girl an elderly man. Something must have gotten mixed up; paper work, blood work, urine samples, something happened. I doubt anyone’s ever seen anything like it before in medical history but this young girl’s blood work came back and she had menopause. And before you jump to any conclusions the migraine that was affecting Mr. Henson resembled the migraines one has during a period. Of course Mr. Henson wasn’t too pleased when I told him, going on about how ‘he didn’t fight in WW2 to get told he was a Nancy that was on his period’ but short temperament and mood swings are expected, especially during ones first period.”
“What do you think about when you see Mr. Henson in that mood?” Still jotting down in her notebook.
“Well, I started to wonder if he was going to name his period, like the kids do now. Personally, I think it’s a little morbid to name your period child but that’s just me. Then again, poor Suzy will never know what it’s like to name a child. No 12-year-old girl should have to go through that pain. But maybe when Suzy grows up she’ll find a man that doesn’t care about having kids and just loves her for her. And when the doctors tell her she’s got five months left to live, he’ll spend every waking minute comforting her after telling insurance companies to fuck-off and that Suzy wasn’t just a pile of money, Suzy was his life, and that nothing meant anything without her and that everything means something with her and if they don’t think he’s going to spend every dime he has getting a second, and third, and fourth opinion till he hears the opinion that he wants then there the ones who are crazy, not him. And then Suzy comforts him. Tells him it’s alright and that pretty soon everything’s going to be better. Tells him she wouldn’t trade the time they spent together for the world. Tells him it’s okay to move on, just not to forget. Reminds him of how they met, a medical student who was flustered by a beautiful girl, telling Suzy she had yellow fever when she had a sore lower back. How she laughed and thought he was cute, and how he mustard up the courage to ask her out. And now Suzy’s dead. And he doesn’t know how to live without her.”
She stops jotting. “I know it’s been a couple years since your wife passed away but, have you tried to meet anyone new?”
“Well there is one of my patient’s, Miss Patterson, she seems nice. She had an appointment with me last week. When I walked in the room she was already in tears and I hadn’t even told her that she had testicular cancer. To make matters worse it was all happening to her while she was pregnant. She wiped the tears from her cheek with a crumpled up tissue. I could tell she knew something was ‘off’ with me by the way she looked at me, then she reached over and wiped the tear from my cheek. I thanked her and told her, ‘Unfortunately I have some bad news. You’re pregnant and you have testicular cancer.’ She took the news well, laughed and asked if I was free for dinner that night. When Miss Patterson left, Julia told me the files got mixed up, and Miss Patterson was not pregnant nor did she have testicular cancer.”
“Well you must be excited?” She asked, looking confused at my troubled face. “What are you worried about?”
“Well, Mr. Henson will not be pleased when he finds out he’s pregnant. I hope he picked a name out.”