The prompt this time was a podcast of an NPR story. It’s a pretty heavy one about a combat survivor from Iraq suffering with PTSD. Check out the podcast (or read the transcript) by clicking on this link: Some Scars Only Doctors See
What I wrote in response, is below.
The office is tiny and modern, and I catch a glimpse of her before my name is called: it’s been ten years, and she’s changed. She’s wearing magnifiers and her hair has gray streaks in it, but she’s wearing funky boots and red tights, a short skirt. She looks oddly younger and older at the same time.
When I enter the small examining room, I’m surprised by the big, cushy exam chair, and a big book on the side table titled, How to Look Younger. I consider cracking it open, but hesitate. I’m aging; there’s no way to stop that.
She was my Dermatologist ten years ago, then she retired, and I got trapped at Kaiser for a while. But now we’re both back, and when she enters the room and shakes my hand again, it really feels like a reunion.
“So good to see you again,” I say.
“So good to see you!” she says.
We talk for a while about our lives. Her daughter (who was eight the last time we spoke) is graduating from high school in a few months. I’ve started my own business. We talk about books and writing, and eventually, moles. Especially the one on my shoulder, which has recently changed in shape and size. I’m so sure it’s cancerous that I convinced the intake nurse to prepare a biopsy set-up for us.
“This is a non-melanoma abnormal growth,” she says, zapping it off with a cauterizing needle. “It doesn’t need to be biopsied. You’re fine.” The little jolts of electricity usually jar me a bit, but she’s numbed the area for me, and was so deft at administering the injection, I felt nothing when the needle slid in.
There are a few more issues, mostly skin tags: benign, flat moles that I’ve inherited from my father. Three of them are on the edge of a very round, very tender body part. I’ve learned the medical jargon for this area of the body: the gluteal fold.
“I’m impressed you know that term,” she says, covering my nakedness with a striped cotton robe. “Just in case a nurse pops in,” she jokes.
“I showered right before I came,” I say.
“Thank you,” she says. Zap. Zap. Zap. “Okay. We’re all done. I’ll pretend to be putting my instruments away,” she jokes, “while you pull your pants back on.” She turns her back.
At home, before I left for the appointment, I was doing a good job of tearing myself apart in the mirror. Round belly. Lots of grey hair. Broken blood vessels on my cheek. But here, with her, I feel young again. Charming.
“Next time, I want to address these veins on my face,” I say.
“Okay,” she says, squinting at me as I point to the thin web of red marks. She slips her special magnifying glasses down over her readers. “Those?” she asks, pointing to my left cheek. I nod. “They’re really tiny. We can get those in one shot.
Then she bids me farewell, pointing to How to Look Younger on her way out. “Ignore that,” she says. “You don’t need it.”
She’s a good doctor.