The Doctor was pensive. Normally The Doctor never had time to think. Work was too busy, not a good place for thinking. And home was far too relaxing a place; also not a good place for thinking. So today was special, for he thought.
He was thinking particularly about what he was doing and why he was doing it. Money. Prestige. Sure, they’re involved; but the ideal is something more than that. Everyone thinks that there’s something special about doctors, something that sets doctoring on Olympus. Why did this ever enter into people’s minds? The answer would have to wait; Medical Student was presenting. Now was not a good time for thinking.
“Patient presenting with a supra clavicular four centimeter cyst. First noticed two weeks ago…” prattled Medical Student without a scrap of interest or life in the words that were flowing from his mouth, as oil dripping from a leaky pipeline. The Doctor paid attention and gave orders to the nurse to prepare to open the cyst, giving orders as a program running a subroutine.
The Doctor entered Cyst’s room. She was sitting as a patient patient, wearing the same gown as everyone who he ever saw. The Doctor thought about how the shape of the bodies changed. Some were tall, some were black, some had breasts. The problems that needed fixing changed. Some needed cutting, some needed drugging, some needed nothing. But the gown never did. It was always the threadbare material with the bland pattern. All individuality, all modesty, all humanity was stripped before the doctor’s “Hello.” As prisoners’ uniforms, the donning of the gown turned people into patients. And so thinking, The Doctor found himself with the patient. Now was not a good time for thinking.
“Hello! How are you today?” asked The Doctor with utmost politeness, spoken with the exaggerated volume and enthusiasm of a high school drama student.
“OK, except for this,” said Cyst, pointing at her cyst.
“I understand. We’ll get that taken care of right away!” said The Doctor with such a tone, one might have guessed he wore blue spandex with an ‘S’ under his white coat.
The Nurse had brought in all that would be needed for the operation. The Doctor moved swiftly, his hands moving with the efficiency of a martial artist. Anesthetize, cut, drain, pack, bill. He was a machine. A machine repairing a machine.
“Thank you, doctor,” said Cyst. But Cyst was not thankful. The pain was gone, but she did not feel better. Why not? It wasn’t coldness, for he sounded warm. It wasn’t incompetence, for he was efficient. Was it soullessness?
“You’re welcome,” replied The Doctor. But The Doctor was not gracious. He did not feel good. He did not feel bad. He did not feel. It was as if nothing at all had happened. He would have felt the same way about eating his lunch. The Doctor left the room and walked down the hallway, feeling particularly feelingless. And so he thought.
Cyst’s body was made whole. And maybe that’s all a doctor can do. But what if it wasn’t? What if he were more than a biochemical mechanic? What if medicine was more than fixing broken biological machines? What if it was ...
“BEEP!” shrieked The Doctor’s pager.
There is not time for such questions. Especially not with Chest Pain arriving. Now was not a good time for thinking.