From The Woods

Don’t have a crush on your doctor. That’s their job. There’s no magic. No. Meet cute when they ask about bloody stool. She’s going to stab you. She’s going to smile while stabbing you. It’s her job to make the stabbing comfortable. It’s my job not to have a crush on her. She’s brilliant, though? I could get her off track and make her smile; I couldn’t see her face. There was a smile. There was a moment of clarity that we were two human beings talking about bloody stool and how it segued to animated characters. Who knows?

“I like your voice.”

“I hate my voice.”

“It’s pretty good, to me.”

“Stop flexing.”

Her hand pushed my arm and just stayed. It felt personal. It must be hard to look at people and not feel something. Deeper. It felt natural, like when someone rocks you awake to leave in the morning. She didn’t look like she had many regrets from past mornings. She checks my arm carefully, inserting the needle between my vein. I am a job—just a to-do list, not a memorable encounter.

I’m too old and too banged up to be charming.

“People, tell me they hate my voice. They always think I’m faking it.”

“I get that. I’ve always liked the breathy voices.”

She leaned on me. Life. Stood still, next to us in the tiny exam room I came to because she called—a minute-long reminder before her shift ended. I replayed it because it’s not a crush. Why do we listen to terrible pop songs if only to think they might be singing to us. Just once. It ends, then we replay it. She’s tiny; she touched the scars and examined them.

“Your skin is like steel. Your veins are so tough.”

“I did a lot of diving when I was younger.”

She read my body—the scars and tattoos. It was, like that weird part of a good date where you want to kind of, you know? But. Just, sort of. So. You both stare at each other and wish they looked away first. They didn’t come home with you. They knew you like this without a history. You didn’t have to tell them your life story. They’d rock you in the morning after looking at your body for a half hour. That was your calling to come back to reality and feel ashamed. For being, you know.