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

then slowed.


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.

Ashley Romberg

Ashley was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease in 2021. She is a health coach specializing in women in midlife and a ...more