Sensible English tips
provided by Maeve Vella
The patient enters the doctor’s office and closes the door behind him.
“Good afternoon”, he extends his hand. “How are you?”
“Fine”, assures the doctor, but he shakes the patient’s hand with a sweating hand, his voice revealing a cultivated anxiety.
“Please forgive my delay”, the patient says, making himself comfortable in the available armchair. “I was seeing the doctor in the room next to this one”.
“Dr. Renato? Is he OK?”
For answer the patient shakes his head in a pendular movement, a gesture that the doctor interprets as meaning “so-so”, or perhaps “none of your business”.
“What about you?” The patient wants to change the direction of the conversation. “Are you alright?”
“I was hoping you’d tell me”, the doctor nervously discloses, reclining a bit in his black leather chair, his very hairy hands crossed on the table.
“We’ll see to that presently” the patient says, lowering his eyes and starting to examine the stack of magazines on the nearby coffee table. ” You may take off your clothes, please, and sit on that examination table over there.”
The doctor gets up and, without a word, starts to take off his clothes: white jacket, streaked tie, linen shirt, t-shirt, German leather shoes, English stockings, Italian pants, black underwear – placing the folded pieces methodically on the table’s glass cover, next to the plaque which witnesses his name and specialty.
When the doctor is completely naked, sitting embarrassedly on the edge of the examination table, the patient raises himself from the armchair, flashes a sympathetic smile and starts.
The examination itself lasts no more than ten minutes. Displaying the disengaged skill of someone who has done this innumerable times, the patient studies the doctor’s surface, his elasticity, his echoes, his reactions. He blinks uncertainly at his orifices, feels gently but without passion his mucosae, investigates the spaces between his toes. The patient spends two entire minutes looking without blinking into the doctor’s weary eyes. He presses the cartilage of the ears, feels the veins of the neck, touches the forearms as if in search of something. He massages the hands of sweating palms, examines the texture of the knees, the folds of the penis. He taps gently the very white back, rubs the soles of the feet.
Then, wielding an entirely dispassionate, austere expression on his face, as if he had been busy auditing stock, not examining a human being, the patient declares himself finished.
“You may put on your clothes again now, please”, he announces, and then he quickly adds: “May I sit on your chair for a minute?”
“Sure”, says the doctor, both alarmed and displeased. He removes the stack of clothes from the table top and starts to dress himself quickly, as if to erase from the atmosphere of the room any vestige of his nakedness, while the patient pauses with his pen in his mouth before the open notebook he has just produced from his coat pocket.
The doctor is already lacing his shoes, and the patient hasn’t written anything as his prescription.
“So?”, the doctor finally asks, sitting again on the examination table. “Is everything OK?”
The patient presses his lips and looks deep into the doctor’s eyes.
“See, doctor, externally everything is fine”.
“But…” the doctor crosses his arms, as to receive the impact of any bad news. “You can tell me”.
The patient reclines on the chair, crossing his arms behind his head.
“But when I pressed my ear against your chest I heard something that worries me.”
Without uncrossing his arms, the doctor reclines himself and lies quietly on the examination table.
“I know what it is”, he says. “I can tell you myself”.
“Tell me, then,” asks the patient, gently, laying his forearms on the table and then resting his chin on them.
Still lying down, his eyes looking nervously at the ceiling as if looking for an answer, the doctor confesses in a trembling voice:
“It is the heart.”
The patient moves his eyes away and smiles bitterly to his own fingers, but he doesn’t refute.
After a long pause, during which he did not move a muscle, the doctor risks:
“Is there a cure?”
“Ah, doctor”, the patient smiles, waving his head in a slow movement, “there is no cure for anything and you know it”. And in the next moment, raising himself from the chair: “But I can give you a prescription. If you want it.”
The doctor rises immediately from the examination table and uncrosses his arms.
“A prescription is almost as good a thing as a cure”, he isn’t ashamed to rejoice.
“Specially for the heart”, it occurs the patient to say, raising his pen high, like a beer stein.
The patient writes in his prescription book, pulls out the page, folds it quickly and presses it with his two hands into one of the doctor’s hands.
“Now, doctor, pay attention. Life has charged you a heavy and, in great measure, unjust price. Each cured person cost a piece of your heart; the ones that haven’t been cured, God help us, cost something still more precious, we both know what”. The patient breathed deep, his eyes fixed on the doctor’s, demanding all his concentration. “Now about what remains: on this piece of paper I wrote a word, only one word. I want you to read it as soon I leave the room. If you smile and understand, and if everything works out, and for us both I feverishly pray it does, this one word will supply you for many days with what is necessary for you to change the dressings on your heart. Don’t forget that the good news, maybe the only good news, is the thing we have known from the beginning: even where there’s no cure, the dressings can always be changed. Good luck.”
And he left the room.
The doctor gave a deep sigh and sat down in his own chair, alone in his own office. He unfolded the paper with wet eyes and trembling hands, moaned a deep moan, full of all distress, and read the word.
It surprised him immediately, and it made him bring a hand to his mouth, and made him feel a way he hadn’t felt for many, many years. The word made him smile.