01 Mar 2022

Bone Black, 28

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…I like to watch the nurses. To me they are beautiful, intelligent, capable- everything the doctors are not. I think this because the doctors are men and the nurses women.

It is the nurses who combine \ medicine with the recognition that they are treating human beings, with human needs. It is the nurse who sympathizes with me because of the asthma attacks that keep me awake at night sitting in a dining room chair alone in the dark, unable to breathe. It is the nurse who understands that the dark hides the fear of death that is on my face, hides the fear in my chest that takes my breath away. The doctor touches me like I once touched a frog I was dissecting with sharp, pointed instruments in biology class. All the while I tried to ignore that the object I was dissecting was once living and breathing frog life, in water, making sounds. I shut down the part of me that under- stands that the frog has a soul that has not escaped even though the frog has died, a soul that needs care.

I cannot speak to the soul of the frog in the biology class so I deny its existence all together. Like the doctor denies mine when he is touching me, when he is asking me to breathe in and out over and over again, when he presses his cold hands on my chest. His hands are cold because he is afraid. He wants to hide from this living person. He does not want to know what really hurts me. He must see me quickly and move on to other patients. It is the only way he can make a good living, more money. Many people will not pay him. He will see them anyway. He will work long, long hours. The tiredness and desperation will show in his face. Seeing this we forgive him for shutting down that part of himself that feels for and with us. We are relieved when he takes a day off.

Whenever we can we try to avoid seeing doctors. We try to heal ourselves at home. For my asthma, my grand. mother says, I need to chew the waxy part, the honeycomb from bees. Bits of honey in the honeycomb sweeten the pain that I am feeling. For our acne she tells us to wash our face in pee. We do not want to try this remedy even though she tells us it will work. When no remedy makes the asthma better I must go to the doctor’s office. In more ways than one I am a problem child, always trouble, always sick. The doctor wants to give me a shot in my hand, I do not want it. I do not want him to touch my piano-playing hands, my long, loving fingers. I hide them in my pockets, behind my back, hold them tightly so that he can see I do not want him touching them. He smiles at me and says he will let the nurse give the shots this time. I offer her the hands, knowing she will take time to smooth the fear out of them before the needle enters.

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