An initiation into the world of surgery
Second summer of med school,
working for Dick the surgery head,
I wander the cool dark hospital
and interview patients.
Dry data, facts, about what they eat.
I am a natural at extracting secrets,
beyond what’s in the questionnaire,
a super sleuth.
One woman pulls a smuggled lobster taco
from her bedside table.
A toothless old man jokes.
His teeth are fine.
“Here they are,” and whips out dentures from the drawer.
As a treat – or at least that’s how I thought of it –
my boss, my mentor, Dick asks me
to scrub in to
my first surgery, to watch him.
in the operating theater.
It’s an extra, a bennie, a perk, a lagniappe
for helping with his research.
I feel like a five year old invited to the circus.
I stand at the deep sink in my green scrubs
beside Dick and his surgeon pal.
A ten-minute scrub.
Turn on the water,
Hands up so the soap and invisible dirt drains down my elbows,
I wet my hands and forearms
with a bristly plastic brush and scrub on
a mahogany, liquid soap,
pungent with iodine.
I scrub and count --
four scrubs on each
of four sides of each
backs of hands,
Over and over, my eyes on the stainless steel
Westclox on the tile wall.
I watch the clock
and Dick’s bird-beady brown eyes watch me.
I follow the two men’s lead
like a waltzing deb
or a kimonoed women in a Kyoto tea ceremony.
Each step is choreographed,
each step necessary,
consuming my attention.
I am rapt.
In the flow state.
Hands up, like Frankenstein,
an acolyte, his duckling,
I follow Dick into the OR.
A smiling nurse holds up the cotton surgical gown.
I thrust my arms into the sleeves.
This is fun.
Then, before anyone can stop me,
I reach behind myself to tie my own gown
and contaminate my hands
and am sent out to the sinks to perform the tea ceremony.
Till I get it right.