It was the end of March and Cassie and I were driving to the hospital in Lindsay. Again. It’s was only the end of March but it seems this year has been dragging on forever. I’ll be really glad when I don’t have to come here anymore. Hospitals give me the creeps. I escorted Cassie to treatment room five even though she knows the way. We didn’t talk much during the ride in. I really didn’t feel like talking. I was in a foul mood. I left Cassie outside the treatment room. I kissed her goodbye then walked back to the elevator. Next stop was the second floor, Dr. Willowbys office and his damn guard dog Delores.
“Morning Peter. How are you?” asked Delores.
I wanted to reply but when I opened my briefcase I discovered I didn’t have my iPad with me. Damn! Must have left it in the car. So all I could do was grunt at her then I sat down. It hurt too damn much to say anything. Didn’t have my water bottle either. Looking for something to do I pulled the list of revisions that Random House wanted from my pocket. Looking at it the requests it all seemed pretty petty. I’ll get to work on those when I get home. They want more “specifics.” What the hell is the difference between details and specifics? Maybe Cassie has something in that journal of hers I can use.
“Okay, Peter. Your turn. You know the way. Go right in” said Delores.
I started going into the examination room. God, I sure won’t miss this place. If he puts that damn scope down my throat again I think I’ll spit! Those student doctors are the worst. They have absolutely no bedside manner. They treat you more like a hunk of meat in a butchers shop. I’m a person but they always call me by a number, a god damn number! Here he comes and I see part of that infernal scope sticking out of his lab coat pocket.
“Morning Peter. Normally I’d say “Good Morning” but from what my spy’s tell me you’re in a bad mood. So I’m going to ask you what’s the matter?”
I wrote a small note.
“I forgot my iPad” Dr. Willowby wore an expression of frustration. He rubbed he face, looked at the ceiling and muttered.
“Look, I don’t want the abridged version. And I certainly don’t want the super polite, sanitized, version either. I thought we were friends. I want to tell me what’s going on?”
He caught me by surprise.
“What makes you think I’m in a bad mood” I croaked. God, what a horrible sound.
“Cassie phoned Delores before you arrived. And Delores let me know via IOM. That’s inter-office messaging to you. Anyone in the hospital can send me a message about you. The message is then displayed on a small display board that’s on my desk. So cut the crap and tell me what’s going on.”
I was about to start croaking away when a chime came from the direction of the desk.
“Hold on a second. Here’s another message about you. It’s from Cassie. Why don’t you reply? All you have to do is type on my keyboard. Just type the word reply first.”
I went behind Dr. Willowbys desk, found the keyboard amid a lot of clutter, and typed “Dr. Willowby is letting me use this crazy thing. Let’s talk tonight when I take you to dinner. PJC.”
Dr. Willowby stood beside me shaking his head and holding the bridge of his nose. “Nice going Mr. Technology. You forgot to type the word “reply”. Now everybody in the hospital is expecting you to take them to dinner.”
Oh crap. Dr. Willowby pushed me aside and started typing on his infernal contraption.
“Forks down everyone. Message sent was meant for one person. She got it.”
Just then Cassie chimed in. Again.
“She got it alright. And she wants Chinese! CC”.
Dr. Willowby looked at me shaking his head at the same time.
“Now that we know she wants Chinese what the heck is the matter? You know something? When you clam up you’re just like Kenny. Worse actually because you know better.”
I thought about what he said and even though he was right I didn’t give a good god damn.
“I’m glad you’re a doctor because as a diplomat you are really bad. What do you think is bugging me? My damn throats killing me and I hate the sound of my voice. Every time I say something I’m reminded of what I’ve lost. I’m afraid of using the phone because half of the people I have to talk to can’t understand me. And what’s really got me pissed is that Cassie can’t understand me when she’s standing only four feet away! I want to marry her. I want to have children with her. But she’s not going to want to marry someone who sounds like me much less have children with the monster from the Black Lagoon!”
Dr. Willowby sat back in his chair, sighed and digested what I said. All of it. After a short while, he leaned forward. He rubbed his eyes. I had the feeling he had heard this all before.
“Peter, I’m going to talk to you as your friend and as your doctor. But first I’m going to get comfy so you can hear every single word and maybe something will sink into that thick skull of yours.”
He got up from his desk and walked to the front of it. Then he leaned against against its front. For added emphasis, he crossed his arms. Then he let me have it. He didn’t hold back.
“You, my friend, have an incredible talent for selling yourself short. Cassie knows what you’ve gone through, and are about to go through. I keep her updated on what’s to come because at least she wants to know. And you should thank your lucky stars she’s still with you, wants to marry you, and wants to have your children. I was lucky. Lucky I had Wilma to pull me through. She put up with more grief than you could muster in a lifetime. So don’t you dare forget for one second I went through the same crud as you twenty years ago. The only reason I haven’t slapped you silly is that I know what you’re going through. My bout with throat cancer is just beginning to become an unpleasant memory for me.”
He looked down at the floor, put his fingers by the bridge of his nose and cursed. I’ve never heard him do that before. Then he raised his head and looked right at me. He took in a deep breathe then started talking at me again.
“In all the time I’ve known you when you came in for an exam you didn’t swear once. You were polite and pleasant as could be. God knows you’ve had plenty of reason and opportunity to swear but you didn’t say a word. Now you’re swearing like a sailor who has just realized he’s not being given shore leave” He took in another deep breath. And he looked tired. “Your throat is hurting because it’s growing new non-cancerous tissue. Plus you’re giving your muscles a hell of a workout. I told you could start to talking but I also told you to take it slowly. And when it starts to hurt to start writing notes or to use the iPad. Listen to yourself crow! You sound like some kind of berserk bison. If you’re not going to listen to your doctors orders it’s only natural your throat is going to hurt like hell, and right now you’ve only got yourself to blame for that. It’s far too early for speech modification. You won’t become a candidate for most speech pathologists until you’re at least two years of being cancer-free and that’s at least a year from now. Now, what else is bothering you? I think I know you a little too well for a sore throat to be the only cause of your anger. Come on, out with it man! Damn it, Peter, you obviously came here with more on your mind. Out with it!”
I felt like an idiot. I was sitting in a chair in front of his desk and he was standing right in front of me. I hadn’t felt this foolish since I was in grade school and wearing short pants.
“I hate that damn scope of yours,” I said rather meekly. Dr. Willowby moved beside my chair. “That’s more like it. Keep going. I know there’s more in there. Spit it out!”
“And the student doctors here treat you like a bloody piece of meat. I’m a human being not a bloody number!” That’s when I lost it. I started blubbering like a baby. Dr. Willowby moved closer and started patting my back as I cried into his lab coat. When I was finished he went behind his desk and sat down.
“Sorry about that. Got that from the Marquis de Sade school of medicine. Something tells me you’ve been bottling up your emotions. When was the last time you cried in front of Cassie?”
I breathed in deeply then let the answer out.
“Never. I was taught men don’t cry” I replied.
He lowered his head till his forehead touched his desk. Then started banging his forehead very gently on the cheap looking veneer. After a few taps on the desk, he raised his head. And he looked very, very tired.
“Damn it, Peter. You’ve got to air those emotions out every once in a while. I don’t where that cock and bull idea got started but men do cry. When Trina was born I cried. Then when that louse of a husband married her I cried. And when Kenny was born the floodgates opened again. Men cry all the time. I bet if Cassie saw you cry she just might love you a little bit more. But if you continue to bottle them up I can guarantee you you’ll do at least one of the following three things. You’ll either do something monumentally stupid, you’ll get you very own ulcer, or you’ll have a nervous breakdown. And I assure you-you really don’t want that last one.”
Just then Dr. Willowby leaned to the side and spoke into his intercom.
“Delores. I was wondering if you could join Peter and me in my office. I need a woman’s perspective. Could please step in here for a moment.”
Delores entered the office a few seconds later. When she did Dr. Willowby rose, put his hands in the pockets of his lab coat, and rocked back and forth on his feet. Delores’s eyes darted back and forth between Dr. Willowby and me.
“Delores, I was wondering if you tell us how you feel about men crying?” asked Dr. Willowby who was still looking at the floor.
“Well, my husband cries every time the Toronto Maple Leafs hockey team loses a game. Personally, I think seeing a man crying is somewhat sexy. He knows what sets me off on a teary binge. I think it’s brought us closer together.” With that, she turned around and left the office. She looked rather uncomfortable in here.
“Well, there you have it. A woman’s opinion. You won’t know about how Cassie feels until you ask her and I suggest you do. Because one of these days you’re going to fall apart in front of her. Now, I’m not going to scope you. Your throats probably as red as an apple. And your vocal cords are probably swollen far beyond their normal size. So you can relax. But I will take a look in June. And I won’t give a flying fig how you’re feeling emotionally. If I have to I’ll sedate you.”
Thank bloody god. I hate it when he pokes around in there.
“Don’t look too relieved. I belong to a health club here in the city. It’s where I go when I get madder than hell. And I want you to go there and beat the daylights out of a punching bag. But use boxing gloves. I’m going to phone the owner and tell him you ‘re coming. As a long-standing member of the health club, I’m allowed “a guest” every now and then. If I find out you didn’t go there and you’re not beating the tar out of the punching bag you and I are going to have a lot to talk about. But for now just imagine the picture of a scope on the bag and beat that bag senseless. Do the same for the student doctors. Pick one, maybe that weaselly Dr. Gupta and go to town. If you choose Dr. Gupta toss in a few punches for me. He’d make a great mortician but a lousy doctor. And if you duck the health club I’m going to tell Cassie and she’ll box your ears. I’m going to prescribe a mild relaxant for you. I want you to take it whenever you feel as stressed as you were today. And don’t be surprised if you see me in there later this afternoon. If my other patients are just as stubborn as you were today…”
I let him off the hook. Plus I don’t want Cassie finding out I went to pieces in Dr. Willowbys office.
“OK, I’ll go. And by the time I’m through Dr. Gupta won’t look his annoyingly chipper self. The little twerp won’t feel so good either.”
“Great. Just don’t go overboard. Don’t get fancy. Cassie will have my hide if you injure a wrist then finds out the whole thing was my idea. Then when I get home Wilma will ask me about my day and she’ll have my head. So quit when you feel tired. And just between you and me, I gave Dr. Gupta a failing grade because he disrespected every patient he saw, exactly like you said.”
… yes, there’s more to the story in
chapter 12B coming next week.