I don’t like the way this man is touching my leg. I don’t like the fact that this man is a male. Did no one notice I specifically requested a female orthopedist? Even under the influence of Percocet I noticed what I wanted.
“You’re tensing up again,” he says.
Of course, I’m tense, Einstein. You’ve got the heel of my foot balanced on a metal tongue that’s balanced on a post, that’s balanced on some kind of stool, and you’re sitting in front of it all like an OBGYN. When will my mother get here? You have very white teeth.
“Ms. Scott. It’s Ms. That sock is too tight.”
“Let’s see.” He pokes his finger into the sock and tugs. “Plenty of give. Nope—it’s good.”
“Look, I have very developed muscles. They need room to flex.” To demonstrate my point, I flex my bicep.
He presses his lips together—I’m surprised they make it over the entirety of his choppers. There’s a lot of hair sprouting from the back of his hand which is now moving toward me.
“What do you think you’re doing?” I say, jerking my arm in.
“Cutting your toes free from the sock.” He picks the scissors up from the tray.
“I’m sure many weak and feeble-minded women swoon when they meet, you, Doctor. But it takes more than a lab jacket and a good set of horse teeth to impress me.” I’m momentarily confused. Did I say that out loud?
“Swooning women are a cross I must bear,” he says. “And I’ll let my parents know the orthodontia was not in vain.”
I make a zipping motion across my mouth and lean back on my arms, concentrating on the ceiling panels. They remind me of slices of farmer’s cheese, little craters all over.
He’s working his way around my ankle with a roll of gauze bandage when I feel it coming on. I haven’t cried since, Neil Carlson punched me in the stomach in the second grade. Yet, almost twenty years later, I can still remember the prickles that rose up behind my cheekbones before tears squirted unceremoniously onto the four-square court. After school, I found my mother at home, grumbling about preparing another meal. She listened to me for five seconds, maybe. Her face, strong, hard, quelled the rise of any further prickles. Why didn’t you punch him back?
I give serious thought to quelling these tears. Quelling is actually a lovely word. Fortitude seems to be lacking, though. Fortitude is a powerful word. Alas, I have no fortitude to quell anything. So I go with it. I am the tears.
“Ms. Scott!—oh, goodness—it’s going to be all right. You’ll see—but you must remain still.”
I sit up, waving both hands at him. “Don’t mind me,” I sniff several times. “Just because I may never run again. Or walk again.”
“Let’s not be overly dramatic.” He hands me a length of gauze. Before I accept on behalf of my snotty nose, I give the hair on his index finger an “accidental” tousle.
Then I resume crying. “Noooo, I’m never coming back here again.”
“And why is that?” He’s wetting down the white tape I chose for the cast.
“I want pink,” I say, dabbing my face, watching mucus strands stretch. “And if you ever mention this to my mother, I’ll sue.”
He has the nerve to laugh. “Ms. Scott,” he says, “there’s nothing wrong with a little softness.” He pulls down the bubblegum-pink spool and makes his way back to his perch. “Have you ever wondered at the mechanics of the human body? The amazing way God fashioned muscles?”
“You graduated from a real medical school, right?” I like the way he caresses the pretty tape in the water before he wraps it around my foot.
“Think about the humerus.”
“You’ve got the bicep on the top, the tricep on the bottom.”
I flex my arm, again.
“And they work in tandem. When the bicep constricts, the tricep lenghthens. One becomes hard, while the other softens, or vice-versa. Neither action alone would be effective in moving the bone.”
I push the sleeve of my t-shirt up to my shoulder and tuck the end under my bra strap. What an arm! It really is gorgeous.
“Are you married?”
“I’m afraid I can’t answer that,” he says, winding a final strip around my upper calf. “I don’t even know your first name.”
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