Almost midnight and pissed off at my partner
who left early again to rescue her drunk
driving husband, leaving me to work up
the O.D. who wants to leave against my orders.
Twenty hours into this shift, the patient
is the enemy, one more life-and-death
decision before the possibility of sleep.
I listen to a minute of her story,
the breakup, the drugs, and “Yes,” she feels fine,
and “No,” she will never do this again,
and “Please will you let me go home right now?”
The hours pass, her labs are normal,
the attending signs off, but somewhere
south of midnight she needs a physical
and all I want is to strangle her
with my stethoscope and smash her knees
with my reflex hammer. Oh, I try to be
professional and examine her by the book—
head and heart, breath sounds and breasts,
commanding her to sit up tall and let me
inspect their symmetry—my stare as hard
and humiliating as rage can achieve.
But she lets me look for as long as I want
, my hate and my love hanging inches apart.