Don’t worry, I’m a doctor. Or at least, I’m becoming a doctor. Though it’s dark in the underground storage of the Ronald Aesthetic Clinic, the starchy fabric of my scrubs and the cold weight of my stethoscope around my neck all remind me that in the light, I look the part. My supervisor, Dr. Ronald, tells me this is half the battle.
Speak of the devil. A small rectangle of green glow bleeds through my pocket. That’s my cue. I stand from the metal folding chair that had been warming under my ass for two hours. Stacks of moldy documents and towering rusted filing cabinets populate the dingy room as I maneuver out to the adjoining stairwell.
“Don’t worry, I’m a doctor” is the mantra I recite to myself on the first day of my unique residency training. Nerves stimulate sweat and jitters I try to shake out as I go up the six stairs to the clinic’s main floor. Before and after pictures line the long hallway to the double doors of the operating room. Faces transform into my professors from med school, my parents, and the patients I will see once I receive my degree. Disdain pulls at their features as they tell me I’m not good enough when I pass by. I stop at the end of the hall and turn back to face them.
“Don’t worry,” I say. “I’m a doctor.” I smile.
The faces transform back to the unrecognizable celluloid compendium of Dr. Ronald’s past patients. Through the OR doors, a newfound confidence floods over me.
“There you are,” Dr. Ronald says. He’s already pulling off his gloves.
The heart monitor beeps steadily and looms over the patient on the table. White, female, late twenties. She is restrained and inert, placid as a sleeping princess. Retractors rest on her cheeks and hold open the skin of her nose, exposing her cartilage and nasal bone like thin strips of fatty steak. I marvel at the red and white of her anatomy.
“Basic rhinoplasty,” Ronald says. He gestures to an instrument stand with a sterile blue covering draped over it like a tablecloth. “Anesthesiologist is down the hall prepping the case for this afternoon. Try not to ask for him. Nurse will be with me for a quick consultation in the office, but I’ll be back to see your progress in twenty minutes.” He leaves.
“Alone at last,” I tell the patient.
My hands run over the tools and I choose a scalpel and forceps. When I speak, I mimic Dr. Ronald’s voice.
“Your file tells me that you opted for the special offer during our consultation,” I say. “Before I begin, I’d like to point out that this operating room has no cameras. This means that no CCTV footage will be taken of your surgery.”
I slice along the lower cartilage on the left side of the patient’s nose and discard the excess tissue into the emesis basin.
“What is the significance of CCTV footage, you ask? It’s a surveillance video that you have a right to access following your surgery should you suffer from any complications post-op. Sometimes, it even is used in legal cases when a deceased patient’s family or loved ones claim the surgeon of negligence.”
Her heartbeat quickens as my scalpel breaks through the upper cartilage into the nasal bone. The hard tissue is too solid to break easily. I trade the knife for a mallet and chisel.
“We’re doing each other a favor.” I sound just like Dr. Ronald. If I look hard enough in my blurry reflection on the stainless steel of my tools, I’d see Dr. Ronald’s face mirrored back at me.
“I get to be in two places at once.” My chisel is lined up with a tough part of her nasal bone. “While I perform your little nose job, I can see a new prospective client at the same time.”
Three leveling pre-strikes of the mallet to the end of the chisel mark the impending fracture. I pull back a little farther the fourth time. Just as the chisel breaks the delicate bone that forms the bridge of her nose, the patient’s eyes open. Wide. She screams, but the respirator down her throat dampens the sound. I don’t worry that she sees me, because I’m no longer an insignificant, unpaid med student who isn’t supposed to be there in the first place. I’m Dr. Ronald.
“Don’t worry,” I tell her. “I’m a doctor.”
Isabel Grey is a writer of speculative fiction, essays, and poetry. Her work has contributed to Ample Remains, The Gay & Lesbian Review, and the upcoming WordCrafter Press anthology, Midnight Roost.
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