The Doctor’s Extremes

Jon Jacobs,MD

Obsession with Poison

I am not a cruel man, but I like to cut people. I enjoy that almost as much as putting them back together. Insanity is not my vice, nor my virtue, and there is no hidden-self lurking in the shadows. It is peculiar that I have this special affinity, as much as it is frightening that I should not try and avoid it. Nor do I deceive myself in thinking I am particularly worthy of admiration. I am not a noble man. I am genuine in most things, but flawed in one strategic arena. Nevertheless, My patients love me. Perhaps because they sense my caring for them. And that is precisely what wrought my present dilemma.

I have a friend, a psychiatrist. She is not my friend because she is a psychiatrist, but perhaps she is a psychiatrist because she is my friend. We were born on the same day, in different cities, and into different worlds. If I were a stargazer I would bank on the matter that our signs were both Capricorn. It could be that our souls were somehow linked on the Mountain of Zeus before time began. But I doubt it. We were not lovers. Oh, no. I could never like her in that way. But she had the uncanny ability to see into my being, beneath the skull and fuzzy hair. It was she who first gave illumination as to my discordant self and posture. You see, Carol was right. Her psychiatric instincts carved my necrotic unconscious from the viable soul.

She had known for years that I was not the “standard issue” surgeon. I was too caring, too human, and too open-ended. The Myers-Briggs testing was painfully accurate: INFP. Only one percent of all people are inoculated with that peculiar make-up. And a smaller percentage than that are surgeons. Introverted, intuitive, feeling, projecting. I was aptly placed into one of the sixteen cubicles defining man in relationship to his surroundings. Defined, diagnosed, and pinned to the board like a plain brown moth in a butterfly collection, with the damning label artfully displayed beneath. I understood the introversion, though mine was almost off the scale. A wallflower at parties, the last to arrive and the first to slide away, I prefer to listen than talk. I can spend hours listening, and hours being comfortably mute. Most people are drawn to this as I offer them willing and attentive audience to who they are and where their dreams are tugging them.

Introversion is my catalyst for voracious reading, and I commonly read forty or so books concurrently. These are my magic-carpet transportation into foreign worlds begging to be explored in reality.

Then there is the intuitive aspect. I suppose that is the sense that flows down my arms to my hands when I am feeling someone’s abdomen for appendicitis. This third sense is a window into the unknown, and it is so natural to peek through it that I don’t notice the strangeness of it all. It is a gift and has saved countless patients needless operations. I suppose I should be grateful, but it is like centipede grass and tends to overrun other gardens and budding relationships. I can see too far, beyond the skin, beyond the makeup and ties and patent leather shoes. He is darkly troubled, but not about what he expresses. She is anxious and defensive, but it is due to guilt years old. That nurse’s eyes glint subtle intimacy. I am chided by my colleagues because the data speaks this about the problem, or the lab tests clearly indicate there is no problem. But the patient is always right. And these fingers ferret out the truth. I look down, trying not to smile, not because I was right, but because the answer comes once again.

And most dreaded of all, the blasted Feeling Function. This is death to a surgeon who is called to be as cold as his 440 surgical stainless blade. To hold a hand that is soon to be asleep, ready for surgical extirpation, and to feel the person who has used it to throw baseballs and change diapers, to know it as more than a hand, but as the very lives it has touched, this is pain. The young girl, so full with her first pregnancy, looks at me with eyes of anticipation as she awaits her appendectomy. I must console her, and reassure her, and make her feel certain that everything will be ok. All these things her husband should do, but he is too frightened and has to be macho to hide his terror that he may soon be all alone. Then I must cut her, and she will heal.

The sixteen year old boy is hurled through the ER doors, covered in blood and motorcycle parts, by four panting paramedics. One recounts the horror of the accident, the fading vital signs, the rushed intubation, and I see dismal hopelessness in his face. IV’s and lines, oxygen tubing, piercing chest tubes and blood pressure cuffs crisscross like a spaghetti factory explosion. Chest compressions alternate with prayers and curses. Slowly the EKG pattern softens, then becomes a gentle rolling hill pattern, and finally rests as flat as the Great Plains. This surgeon nods, turns, and leaves the room quietly. I feel the tears and look through the steam to see his mother and brothers. My heart heaves a sigh from its depths, and I must tell them that his young life has ended. This feeling is overwhelming as I hold his mother in my arms. I am no substitute for the baby she suckled and dressed and drove to Boy Scouts and church. I walk into the night air still feeling her loss, and the tears come again and stay for some days.

The mother of two looks inquisitively at me. She still has questions, though I have discussed her breast lump in detail. I weed through the questions and answer her unconscious inquiry, “Am I going to lose my breast?” The biopsy is routine but the suspicion is high. Her sister died from breast cancer three years ago. I help her find the lump with her own fingers, and show her that it is very small. She nervously smiles and says, “I trust you. Do whatever you have to.”

That afternoon she returns to my office, buxom-chested with bandages. I can’t conceal my smile. “It was benign. You only have a one-inch incision with a plastic surgery closure. It’s bikini summer for you!” Joy is a curious thing. She is weeping and I am laughing. The cold-hearted surgeon is laughing.

Projection, that is my true downfall. Carol explained this enigma with the clarity of astrophysics. I understand that it is my “building-castles-in-the-sky” function. This is my flying, my magic shows, my exhilaration in traveling to France, and my love for Lamborghinis. On the back-side, it is my disgust at closure, at locking in a time or deadline; it is my distaste for schedules and my ignition for spontaneity.

The last is seen by most to be a “lack of forethought.” I prefer it to be seen as the spark that drives the moment. Whatever. It is my “dreamer” function. Without it I would be a bird in a cage. My very being would be threatened. I would cease to exist.

I reminisce about these insights because of my present situation. This uncommon conglomeration of personality preferences combines to make a most delectable ambrosia. It drives romance to the outer limits. I am Don Quixote, the surgeon, the lover, the ultimate romantic. Woe be unto she who becomes the object of my desire. I am the Straw Man without a brain. I am the Lion without courage. But I am the Tin Man with a heart the size of Oklahoma.

It was Spring, the lusty month of May. Camelot arias indeed played through my head, and all was well with the world. Elegantly tall and blonde, she appeared at the office window. I poignantly recall the exact moment because I was both startled and pleased. Her form was pure art, and her movements liquid. She wasn’t a new face. I had worked with her before. It came to me that the palpitations I had on those few occasions were not extra-systoles, but other tugs on the heartstrings, which I was experiencing now. Her eyes met mine and sparkled clear blue, and lingered the extra split-second beyond comfort range. Deliciously disturbing. “Kelly, come on back. Second room on your right”.

The door to room 2 was cracked, but I knocked anyway. I was nervous. There on the table she sat, poised and sure. She was uncommonly good-looking with the innate air of refinement mixed with a hint of magic. I momentarily recognized that I had stopped breathing which resulted in a short gasp. “Dr. Evans, I guess you never expected to see me here.” She had an unusual ability for the understatement. Gathering confidence I rolled the exam stool under me, careful not to sit too quickly. I was still a bit wobbly. “Kelly. Kelly, what on earth brings a healthy specimen like you into the doctor’s office?” I mentally kicked myself for referring to her as a “specimen,” and flashes of urine cups and blood tubes brought a sudden jaw movement that resulted in a bitten lip. I could barely taste the iron-flavored drop. “Are you still jogging?” I added quickly. She replied, “Yes, Frank and I try to jog three miles a day.” Where did that sudden pang of jealousy spring from? I nodded it away. “So, What sort of surgical expertise can I interest you in?”, I quipped. “I have horrible looking legs. What can you do for me?”, she queried. I must have hesitated, considering these as two separate and elusive problems. First, I thought, you have the most gorgeous drop-dead legs I have ever witnessed; and secondly, I can think of a gigaplex of things I can do for you. But probably not terribly medically related. This is not good. This is most definitely not good. She was 5 feet six and weighed an estimated 105 pounds. Her designer skirt fit perfectly except it was cut to fit a five-foot-four female, which was very apparent at eye level as she sat directly in front of me. My mind raced. I wondered if there was any market for tongue-reels because I desperately needed one.

Skin. One thin layer separating us from who we are and who people perceive us to be. Variegated and contoured and delicately textured, it sensualizes the being in its wrappings. Hers was silky, creamy, fine, like white velvet, if that were not an oxymoron. My lightly tanned hand contrasted her creamy texture as it slid along barely perceptible and truly scant telangiectasiae. Latin is so kind to doctors. It couches stupidity and ignorance in rhetoric and unintelligible phrases. These spider veins were minute, but if one looked, searched, for them, one could say they marred the otherwise seamless beauty of these graceful limbs. I lingered a moment beyond the professional touch, and drew back regretfully. “Well, Kelly, they are fairly imperceptible. Are you sure you want to do something about them?” She laughed lightheartedly. “They are like roadmaps! Won’t they get worse?” I responded to her laugh. “They may, but at your 30 year mile-marker you have a way to go! I can treat them with injections if you like.” She decided she did like.

I drew up the injection carefully, metering the dose on the light side, and grabbed the smallest needle in the office, some cotton swabs, alcohol, and my magnifying loupes. “You will feel a pinch. Less pain than having a baby, but you wouldn’t know about that yet.” She said, “I can’t look.” I quipped, “Neither can I.”

As she smiled I proceeded with the meticulous cannulations and injections, watching the tiny purple tracks vanish like a magic act. They then dutifully turned angry red as expected, and I apologized for the success. She understood the apology and the lack of the need for it. She looked at her legs, then at me, and broke into a warm grin. “Dr Evans, I have never had a doctor as gentle as you. I never felt a thing.” I exhaled long and low, and muttered an embarrassed thank-you. I was relieved. It was at that moment that reason escaped unabashedly. In a moment she would be leaving, the treatment completed. It was now or never. “Can you come back to my private office for a few minutes? I wanted to talk about something with you.” This was a first. I led the way to the rear office. The back of my neck glowed with the intensity of a solar storm from the stares of the office staff. The door closed before them and behind me.

This was my cocoon. This room was a land of mystery and the subject of rampant rumors around the hospital campus. There were rumors of an entire glassed-in room housing a Jacuzzi, with Bass speakers, mood-lighting, telephone, and a step-down stairway into a private shower. There were rumors of hand-made desks and furniture replete with carvings and pearl inlay, with marquetry in dark mahogany. Rumors of leather couches and chairs, of columns, of woven tapestries from Italy. And rumors of secret rooms within the room, of a nested haven furnished only by the imagination. This was my office. I glanced around at the columns, and couches, and massive desk as I passed the Jacuzzi room, its glass steamy from its vapors. The wall-hanging Venetian scene cast a rose shadow on the side-walls of its private niche. I was home in this room. I practically lived here when I was on call.

We sat down on the long leather couch and sank into its opulence. We sat side-by-side separated by just enough distance to be demure. I stretched out my arm on the back of the couch, not quite near her neck, and crossed my leg in a forced position of composure. I was suddenly like a foreigner who had been away from his country so long that his native language was meaningless gibberish.

Backgammon- the game of paupers and kings. The game that savants can champion and idiots can win. The game that is guided by skill and governed by chance. A game of riveting intrigue and ceaseless boredom. This game has drawn me for years, fascinated by the endless variations, piqued by its doubling cube bluffs, and mesmerized by each of its twenty four points. My brother introduced me to backgammon when he was a professional tournament player on the circuit. In self defense I absorbed a book with the unlikely title of “Playing for Blood”, or something close. I memorized tables of probability with various dice rolls and all the permutations of points coverage. I was drugged more than a Bobby Fischer addicted to chess. In my office resides a hand-crafted coffee table with a built-in backgammon board of marquetry. Kelly admired the table, and our conversation began. She was aglow with the love of backgammon and I had found my soul-mate at last.

Our thirty minutes was saturated with stories of trips to far-off places, of hitchhiking escapades in our younger years, of books and dreams and all manner of stories that could be told around a May-pole. We could never finish such a conversation, and only the tyranny of the urgent could serve to squeeze us out of our fantasies back into the real world. My nurse knocked at the door alerting that patients had arrived.

She stood to her full height, tall and slender, her mini-skirt mimicking the modern American worker: doing its job only well enough to justify its being, covering only the most important parts. As I watched her walk away I felt a sudden loss. Just then she shot a shy glance over her shoulder. “Thanks, Dr Evans, Mike, I’ve had a lovely day.” Scrambled eggs for brains, I answered, “So did I.”

LIGHTLY

Lightly did she stand before me

Lightly come, and lightly gone

Her presence like a wisp of willow

A faint breeze brushing my mind

So fleeting I couldn’t catch her

So pure I dared not touch her –

A scent and laughter

A breath of gaiety, hinting jubilee

A summer’s cloud given form

Only by thought caresses

I yearned for her to stay.

Other places beckoned her

And she was lightly come

And lightly gone.

Here I wait on her tomorrow…

I was never interested in automobiles beyond their intended function. I could not tell a Ford Truck from a Toyota, and didn’t care to. But something began stirring in my loins awakening the midget macho and I had a distinct craving to own a Porsche. Suddenly they were ubiquitous jumping into the foreground of any traffic jam or pre-owned car sales lot. The world was alive with Porsches. On one afternoon trek home from the hospital I was jarred from my reverie by the sight of a small, red Porsche 914 sports-coupe. The yellow sign on the windshield notified passersby that the owner wanted to be relieved of it for a small sum of $3500. My checkbook found its way into my hand simultaneously with my car veering to follow its right turn signal, and I was resting expectantly in front of my new purchase. The owner just happened along fortuitously and the deal was consummated. I developed a friendship with the auto parts dealer over the ensuing weeks. His large smile windowed his oversized tobacco-stained teeth as he rubbed his hands together on my frequent arrivals. Wax and leather treatments, tire foam, engine additives, ignition parts, and unimaginable unnecessaries were carted out bag by bag. The Mary Kay makeover of the horseless carriage had begun. Red paint became brilliant. Black tires became shiny as moonstone. The leather smelled of a Texas rack room, and my Porsche became a living creature. With a turn of the key it roared to life, willing to serve and befriend, to absorb my emotion and soul. We went everywhere together.

It began with a nervous call. I found her number in her chart and carried it with me for days. I had the curious phenomenon of profuse perspiration and palpitations each time I passed a telephone. Finally my desire outstripped my fear. I no longer needed the piece of paper. The number had long been branded

Into my memory. A predilection for tonality allowed me even the presumption of the sounds as the digitized number sang out. The ringing was deafening and the wait eternal. “Hello, this is Kelly,” the voice confidently projected. I was in. “How ‘bout a picnic? Would you like to go?”, I delicately asked. “I would love to go.” I detected guarded excitement. After a few minutes of light chit-chat and some careful planning the plan was in motion like an orchestrated FBI plot.

The picnic basket was on its maiden voyage carrying its cargo of Cabernet Sauvignon wine, pate de Campagne, camembert cheese, French bread and various pastries. The ballast was well-placed and it handled as easily as a light sailboat in a good breeze, swaying to and fro all the way to the little red Porsche.

It sat comfortably between the seats on the old blue blanket. I was like a warrior guiding a chariot through a raging battle, alert to every move of every vehicle before and aft as I picked my way through noon-time traffic across town to her apartment. Just to be sure I stopped to brim the tank. I spied a cute rose-bud on the station counter and pleasantly discovered it was a pair of panties in disguise. On impulse I bought it. The rest of the short trip was a song. I pulled into her driveway where she was waiting on me, wearing her sunglasses and a smile. Her blonde hair was pulled back into a French braid, a clairvoyant gesture. I leaned over and kissed her cheek, then presented her with the “rose”. She sniffed, then guessed immediately and dismantled it displaying the frilly fabric, and laughed the laugh of a woman who knows.

I chose an old monastery, the Abbey of St. Francis, for our picnic. It was quiet, discreet, beautiful, and far away from friends and neighbors. We were greeted by Brother Michael who motioned to the farthest garden, situated by the river, where we could share our time in privacy. The blanket was our table and the basket was delivered and dismantled for a feast of lovers. She took her hair down and shook her blonde curls. We ate and thought about everything but eating.

GREEN GRASS

I remember the green grass that year. Ah, yes, the grass. Ahh, y e s ‑­That bountiful, luscious green grass powdering the hillock that fell gently to the broad, quiet river below ‑‑ and that breeze that pushed it’s fingers gently though her hair, brushing her face with it’s tendrils.

The smell of lilacs dizzying my heady gaze as we contemplated a dog changing into a duck in the clouds billowing above, carrying my thoughts with them.

Spring. Lusty spring.

She rolled over lithely beside me almost capsizing the cup of wine between us. We both sipped and giggled, each holding the other in a spellbinding gaze, a moment all too short. Her long flowing light and flowery spring dress was pulled demurely to her knees. The contrast of the pastel colors was breathtaking against her soft, blondest of blond skin. And I told her so. Her only response was a shake of her beautiful head of hair accentuated by a brilliant blush framing that delicate face. Poison. Poison, I thought, as I leaned towards the nape of her neck. I loved that perfume. I knew I would grow to love it more. Somehow I knew. An afternoon filled with laughter, and Eros, and meaning—­

How could she be so frank and transparent, so fresh, simple, and as complex as a Rubik’s cube? Her puzzle I would never solve, only enjoy. You have to sneak up on a bird. You have to stalk, and stalk, and…balk; and gawk! And squawk, and…stalk. Sooner or later ‑‑ no, never. I would fly with her, never capture her. Beauty is in the freedom of flight‑‑ watching the carefree, thrilling flight of so predictably unpredictable a creature.

I could tell she didn’t believe me. No matter. She enjoyed being with me‑‑ She enjoyed the laughter, and the hugging, and the hushed moments of secret understanding. She liked my embarrassed honesty. She enjoyed what I enjoyed. I suppose the next step is trust. Or abandonment. Or backgammon. Or maybe the next step is not to step but to crawl.

But we have all the time in the world to crawl. As long as one can admire and love, then one is young forever.

I lingered over her, watching her wave to the fishermen just off shore.

How I…

How I love green grass in the springtime. I grabbed a handful and smelled it’s freshness. She pulled a piece away and taught me how to make a whistle, blowing the blade between her thumbs.

How I love green grass‑‑­

BOTTLED LOVE

A bottle of green love

Lay docile on my dresser

While shafts of languid light

Pushed through its smoky sides.

It must have thought, as bottles think

That days are giv’n solely to drink

Nostalgic moments in sips

Of impassioned memories.

It never travels far

This timeless dust-covered jar

Ne’er far save in spirited light-years

Voyaged with past lovers’ eyes and ears

Hearts endeared and lives enshrined

In lead crystal, clear as now

Opalescent past then, and future, too

But you, you the clarity constrained

Until one day it dropped and drained

The decanter emptied slow

Its bright green gave way

To sweet air clear

The jar still sits, quite happily, queer

Like a Mona Lisa smile it winks,

Pondering you wonderment.

I ran my hand over the sleek, smooth hull, freshly waxed to increase its glide through clinging air-molecules during flight. Man, I loved this bird. How many hours had I spent building it? It was my ticket to freedom. It was freedom itself. The two-seater helicopter rolled easily out of the hanger onto the steaming tarmac. My pulse was faster now than when I finished running this morning. The checklist served to slow me down, to become rational and responsible as I threw the blade tie-down off, pulled away the airspeed cover, and checked the switches. Oh, the gas. I almost forgot the gas. The tank had been topped, and Avgas wafted into my nostrils with its sweet pungency. I looked out of the cockpit to see the windsock hanging at forty-five degrees. Good, not much wind, and a blue sky to boot. Switches: all on, harness strapped, altitude indicator adjusted, GPS system on, and now the moment of truth. The key clicked into position and the motor rumbled, then purred. Alive at last. I rolled in the throttle and lifted the collective. The copter became weightless, then lifted off the pad like a spider suspended by an invisible silk thread. I was airborne.

I nudged the joystick forward and the chopper dutifully eased across the grassy field to the runway. The warm summer breeze rushed by the open doors and the machine and I became one, melting into the azure sky over eddies of creeks and marshlands of the Low country. Freedom had unfettered me once again. My hand gently leaned the stick to the east. Fields and forest flowed beneath me, liquid green. I spotted her house from a mile away. I gazed intently for any traces of blonde activity and saw only an overturned tricycle in the empty driveway. Still, I was somehow a part of her world. I hovered for moments above her house, then quietly slipped away. Another day. Another day.

RADAR LOVE

Does love have radar?

Does it fly “IFR”?

Can it weather storms?

How brief? How fierce?

What about clouds that block its vision?

What about deepest night –

When the strongest beacon

Is smothered in blackness?

How about flying in ice-storms

When one lover is feeling a bit cool?

Or seeing ahead,

Avoiding thunderstorms In its path?

As long as I have a small radio,

A means of communication,

I can fly in any kind of weather,

Anytime

To any destination –

Talk to me

Tell me where you are…

Drugged in stuporous love I drove once again to her address. I sat in front of her house looking out over the early evening marshes. I watched that golden ball of fire darken to fiery red as the marsh grass slowly lifted to meet it, and finally swallowed it whole. Reflected light showered the clouds with rose, tinting their periphery and leaving their central white purity intact. Glory was in the air and stars sought peepholes to view my wonderment. In agony I was in ecstasy.

Poetry stirred in my loins for the first time since eleventh grade. It awoke me from sound sleep, driving me to grope for pen and paper in the quiet darkness. It would sputter out while driving silently to work, or suddenly bubble over in the middle of some menial task. The words tumbled over each other arranging themselves in a surprisingly orderly fashion on the white pages. I could not write fast enough. “Too flowery.” “You haven’t found your ‘voice’.” “Sensual”. Comments trickled from the few allowed to peek at the private productions. No matter. The most profound ones were for your eyes only. Theses were molded and coddled, caressed, read and pondered and folded a hundred times before being delivered. Something in my soul rubbed off on them. I was bared for examination and felt embarrassed as a teenage girl naked for her first GYN exam. My eyes absorbed you as you read the poems. For a few I was not there, and dreams suffered to show me your face as “who I am” was revealed to you.

ROSES

A thousand roses would I give you

Or buy the whole red fragrant field in some fair glen

To seal your heart, set it afire and amend

The hurts, the wounds and tears I’ve served

Sweet melody, and golden lass

Hues of cream and primrose mingled

And draped in ivory silk for skin

It’s you I smell and feel and talk to in my dreams

You I dance with my whole life through –

Come dance with me…

My arm cradled her head of blond, wavy hair and I could feel the softness against my chest. Her delicate scent wafted across my face and I breathed deeply. I watched her slow, methodical breathing as her chest rose and fell, two small, firm mounds pushing upward into the sheets rendering rhapsodic contour, triumphant tribute to her feminine frame. The silent moments were ethereal as I pondered who she was, and where we were going. The night had been long and luscious, and once again I prayed the sunrise would stay somewhere over Australia for eternity, leaving us in peace in the quiet darkness. “To have and to hold.” I ruminated over this phrase as the reality of it sank in. I longed for the next line, “till death do us part,” and wondered at its joyous and dark possibilities. There in the deep night I was born anew, profoundly in love, alongside the only one that supremely mattered. I wept.

A sudden sound jarred me to consciousness. I groped for the alarm that spewed forth its obedient message: 6:45 AM. I wiped my eyes and looked at the empty pillow beside me. She had done it again. She had stolen into my dreams only to vaporize in the sunlight. I never felt so tired.

DREAMS

How sweet are dreams that dress the night

That fire one’s heart with brief delight

Undispelled by morn’s first light

And breathed throughout the day.

Sonnets poured from poet’s tongue

Heart miseries and joys are sung

On which my hopes and fears are hung

My soul bared on display.

And you, the Golden Haunt of dreams,

The Mystery lure of scented steams

Vapors formed to contoured schemes

Morosely held at bay.

How long before my self awakes…

An empty room, save bleared opaques

You, lost again as dream forsakes

Beseeched: return to stay.

It was days like these that drove me nearly to madness. Too tired to be awake, too awake to revel, and too alone to care. The mechanics of daily routine operated as marionetteer, moving my arms and legs to do their bidding. Shave, shower, dress, coffee, vitamins…for what? I mused. Some things are done expectantly, for the pure possibility that I might be surprised by joy, by some shift in paradigm. So, like the runner that has not yet won the race, I pushed on, towards the indeterminate prize.

I strolled lazily along the beach. My shadow now grew to fifteen feet tall, in graceful opposition to my real foreshortened height of five-feet-seven. It was wavy in the sand, disfigured by a determined sand crab on its sideways march to the sea. I was momentarily transformed into a serial killer as seven sand gnats met sudden death with the deft flick of my wrist. The evening sun was warm on my back, but cool enough not o oppress two co-ed joggers on their way to the pier. In ethereal juxtaposition the moon appeared faintly over the sea while the glowing orb of sun hung over the island behind me. I wondered at these dueling heavenly bodies momentarily co-existing, the visibility of one fully dependent on the other. As the more powerful succumbs to tenebrous shadows, its rival comes alive in the night-shift hours of the sun.

As a string of pelicans dove for their evening meal, the distant ships sank one by one beneath the horizon, falling off the edge of the world to the nether sea. The island was a mesmerizing magician, full of majesty and quiet beauty. It was moments like these that I missed her most. I began to write.

FAIR LADY (A wandering prose)

Fair lady of heart’s summer drought

Slakes my thirst like Spring rain

Soft and delicate her fabric,

Her covering lines every gently contour-

Her skin catching evening’s sun

Turning hues prism-like

Into a palette of pastels

Few sights have drawn such yearning…

Few moments given such pull

To simply reach and touch

So rich and velvet skin-

Just to touch, and nothing more.

Such gentle face and laughing lines

Parenthesized by dimples,

Calls forth my own joyful laugh.

If I had her for one starry night

All to myself-

What a wonder to see those tiny sequins

Of canopied light sprinkle light-shafts

Down on her golden hair.

It would take only one such breathless moment

To assure me

I would lack nothing by spending

The rest of my life just so-

A captive of that very time capsule

To laugh, to love, to live

You are the substance from which dreams are made

It is you…yes, it is you…it is you.

If she would turn to me and look for one brief instant

I think I would melt.

And if not, I would remain some clear substance

For her to grab and hold.

At once she can see clear through me-

Would that it be for who I want to be…

And not who I am………….

Peace washed over me at the sound of the breaking waves. I understood that if all else stops, the sea will not. The very saline that is in each drop flows in my every vein; its minerals are my minerals; its water nourishes my desiccation. Its depths offer me a womb for my soul. Le Mer, La Mere: from whence I came and to whom all return.

Saturday. I dialed her number. It had been at least twenty minutes since I called the fifth time. A week of calling ten times a day was dragging into another and I was frustrated, anxious, disconcerted. Third ring. Fourth ring. “We’re not able to come to the phone right now, but if you’ll leave your name and number, I will call you right back.” I had memorized the words, the meter, the inflection. “Beep.” I cleared my throat into the receiver and hung up. I drove by the operating room parking lot. Her white Saab was missing from its usual birth. I never realized just how many white Saabs there were in Watertown. I guessed three-thousand-five-hundred-forty-eight. I had counted three-thousand-five-hundred and forty-seven of them and my neck was tired from turning and straining at all but non-white cars. During these long afternoons I developed a litany of excuses for her. She lost my beeper number. She was at a soccer game. Probably shopping for a friend’s gift. Maybe a vacation. None of theme included the more painful options. To fuel the faint candle of hope I fantasized. She was standing in my arms, looking up and smiling, beautiful white teeth parenthesized by dimples, and I held her slender body close to mine feeling every nuance of gentle pressure she willfully exerted against me. I am faintly aware of something vibrating. It’s my beeper. It’s her.

Relationships themselves are not complicated. Relationships around relationships are more complex. Much more complex. There are certain rituals of constraint, certain rules that we must follow. Then there is the problem of the heart, of the soul. Some would say “Destiny”, but that seems melodramatic and all too simple. Choice, in the face of a runaway charging train, this is the complexity of simplicity. The choice is between two simple possibilities. The answer straightforward, a “no-brainer.” Easy for one without passion, one without dreams. It really should be easy. Do I steal, or not? No. That’s easy. Do I murder or not? Of course not. Simple. Do I fall in love, or not? No. Well, better not to. Blurred vision results from this complicated optical collection of disparaging lenses. One lens, of marriage, of fidelity. Another lens, of attraction, of adventure. More lenses pile on top: of conscience, of self-worth, of fulfillment, of mutuality, of the Siamese Twins of souls. Blurred vision. There are four rings involved, not simply mine. What does it matter that two have taken up separate lives, separate schedules, separate dreams, separate bedrooms? How can that matter?

I could hear her going on,” I have three children, and a life built around them. And you, you are still half-married.” I am not sure that is entirely accurate. Rather an impossibility. “As long as you both shall live,” I winced. Kelly was right. Kelly was always so damned right.

HEARTSTRINGS

I’ve got a problem.

I’ve got hold of someone’s heartstrings.

It’s not a very big string, just a small strand.

I’m holding on for all it’s worth.

It’s a silver strand.

If I don’t pull at all

The heart turns in other directions

And looks away, daydreaming

Seemingly forgetting about this hand

holding the string.

If I pull too often

It irritates the delicate heart,

Makes it terribly uncomfortable.

I’ve tried pushing the string.

You simply can’t push a string

And make any effective headway.

So I end up pulling on it.

Trying to pull ever so gently…

Too hard, it will rip right out of the heart.

Too lightly, I sit holding a handful

of beautiful string.

But I can’t quite make heads nor tails

Of what I should do with it.

Heartstrings are delicate things, you know…

I looked apologetically at the crashing, foaming waves, silvered by a crescent moon. Had I not presumed to comprehend them with my mere thirty-nine years? Yet it was they who molded this coast for a thousand times a thousand years, thundering with endless applause. The sea. The glorious sea. The thought came again: The mother of all- Le Mer, La Mere, the birthwater from whom all life sprang. I gazed with mesmeric addiction to the eternal movement and let my entire being be drawn in, caressed by its beauty. It was during these enigmatic moments that I was one with He who spoke all things into being. I was at infinite peace.

Monday is the steel mallet-end of a sledge-hammer week; I yielded under its incessant blows and by 7:30 packed it in. In an undirected shuffle I traversed the warm macadam to the “Green Bomb,” sitting slightly askew in its bay between two handicapped spaces. As I reached for the handle, an odd projection from the door jamb made me smile: a book of matches. In my doorjamb. How pleasantly odd. How oddly familiar. How familiarly pleasant. I worked the matchbook free and turned it over and over in my hand, teasing my mind. I mused at its secret message, became impatiently curious and opened the cover. My smile lengthened by a third, coming dangerously close to my ears. It was her. Or her phantom. A small red heart, a small message: “Remember me. Remember May.” The petite French café in Atlanta had printed thousands of these matchbooks. Two of them were now woven inextricably into our life’s tapestry, incalculably precious. I read the words again, dressing them with memories of the maiden gustatorial soiree shared by two French-lover-wannabes. My eyelids closed in tandem with the matchbook cover and past scenes of laughter and love with her played like stereographic movies on a life-sized screen. The warmth I felt in the chilly evening air was evidence that she was back. And I would get to see her. Soon.

That’s odd. Oddly abnormal. Abnormally new. An acorn-sized firm nodule in my groin. Curious. Maybe “cat-scratch fever”? I do have a new kitten. Stay calm. How about a trial on antibiotics? Reasonable. For six weeks, time spent with increasing urgency as it lay there, much more calmly than I, and no change in size or consistency. I scanned the hospital’s medical guide of staff photos. None popped out at me as reassuring. Well, I’ve been doing this surgical practice for…how many years? The mirror reflects the one I trust most, and I scurried off to my office. OK. Feel it again. Carefully and without prejudice. Pretty firm. Between the femoral artery and vein and the adjacent nerve bundle. Tricky it is. So with full composure I begin. It’s Saturday, no patients, no meetings, an empty office. With mild reticence I drew a syringe of xylocaine, arranged necessary instruments, gauze, gloves,  and sutures, and drew a penline for incision-reference. Doing this excision in the groin in a sitting position was a bit comical. I told myself, “This will only be a tiny stick, less than a second” as I had told thousands of patients over the years. Really! Do I actually say and believe that? Sticking yourself with a needle- well, really hurts. I’m sorry for all the trusting patients I’ve had to inject. Owwww!!! Just hand me a chain saw and be done with it. If I inject very slowly it hurts less. Remember that. With all the local anesthesia it looks rather like a golf ball. Wouldn’t that be SOOO much better to be putting on a golf green? Knife. Gauze. Suction. Scissors. Dissect away from the artery and c-a-r-e-f-u-l-l-y away from the vein. Ouch! More local right here. Well, it’s going pretty well but I need someone to retract the tissues so I can see the lump’s blood vessels. 
   “Hellooo?? Anyone here??”, my off-duty nurse called. Talk about Divine Intervention! As she opened the door, she muffled a scream and sat down before falling. “What on earth are you doing to yourself? Look at all this blood!!” 
I replied, “if you can’t HEAR it spurting, it’s not that bad.” She jumped into action faster than a Marine protecting his platoon. I gave her the tissue retractor and was able to see and dissect, tying off the vessels and removing the offender. Plop! Into formalin it was dropped. I closed the wound in plastic-surgery fashion. Nice job. I could still move my toes. Sterile dressings, a pathology sheet, and we’re done!

 Jon Jacobs c 2013

3 Responses

  1. Is it possible to find words remarkable enough to remark on something this creatively astonishing?…!!

    I bow to your talents, dear Sir ~

    • Yours s the only comment I have ever received on my short story. Thank you so much for sharing that with me!

      Jon jacobs

  2. I find myself astonished with this page and i am lured to read and re-read. You truly are a talented man!! I would love to see you build on this and continue adding the poetry…

    Eventually you could edit it once over and then publish it as a love story. It is amazingly-beautifully crafted!

    I am in love with this story and want to know more and more how they re-discover each other. The mystery intrigues and I, of course, want to read a happy ending.

    Hope you find time to write. Let those fingers fly!

    May these Autumn days stir your imagination ~

    Your devoted reader,

    T

Leave a Reply to bubblytee Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: