I followed him down the long hallway,
curiosity winning out over any possible future regret.
We entered the small room and he told me to take my time.
He threw up a fleeting emotional partition then,
busied himself with something in the name of decency,
as if the act of my lying down would be the most intimate thing
that happened in the room that day.
He stood over me,
his eyes earnest and searching.
He covered me with a blanket
held my head
brushed a stray hair from my face
asked if I was ok
turned off the light
but left the door open
called me by my name.
We didn’t speak.
I wished for music
then forgot to wish for anything at all.
My breath sped up
After it was over
he walked me to the door.
I believe he would have walked me to my car,
buckled me in and told me to call when I’d arrived safely home
had this been a parallel world.
Professionalism in a chivalrous cloak.
Radioactive material ran through my blood
but when I looked in the rearview mirror, I saw no superhero.
Just a young old woman
who permitted strangers to peer into her brain.
I waited to leave until I was sure
he’d washed his hands of me;
had pulled up the next chart
had held someone else’s brain in his hairless hands;
had moved beyond my story
to what his wife was making for dinner
and whether he would get lucky that night,
or instead spend his darkest hours
dreaming of brains and
tissue and cells
and all the ways they can go wrong.
Used by permission of the author.