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“You’ve been away for awhile,” he told me as I closed the door and sat down in the hard plastic chair that always faced directly across from him.
“...I saw you last night…” I averted my gaze and folded my hands in my lap.
“You know the rules…” He forced his voice at me. I pushed my gaze to meet his deathly cold brown eyes and placed my hands on the table palms down. He smirked. Then it began.
“Do you really think that will work?” He asked sternly for the tenth time.
“Why not? It’s a good idea…” I replied back with as much power in my voice as I could.
We had been going back and forth like this for over an hour. It always felt very cold within those four taupe windowless walls. The fact that the floor was carpet never seemed to make it any warmer, nor did the lack of light. One large fluorescent light bulb hung above us, adding still to the bleak and eerie atmosphere. If it was up to him, the light would be off. I had told him once that I wouldn’t come anymore if he didn’t leave the light on. The light was kept off, yet here I was. The dim light from the single door’s cracks were all that illuminated the cage.
“Don’t you remember what happened when someone else tried it?” He spoke clearly at me, his eyes firm and dark.
“…yes…and?” I questioned lowly.
Before we would have our discussions, we’d come in, sit directly across from each other and put our hands palms down on the table; heads straight, eyes connected, his back to the door; all his demands of course.
“And it’s failed before. Trying something once is enough. Why would you even think about that as a possibility?” His voice was filled with distaste but his face remained still.
“Why not? It can’t hurt to try again… besides, it was just the one time that went wrong…” My eyebrows furrowed and my voice thickened.
“The one time that you know of.” His voice was cool and even, almost snarky.
“...the book said it works 99.9% of the time…” my voice wavered a bit through my gritted teeth but my body remained still.
“You don’t have your degree. You’re stupid enough to read things in books and actually believe that there’s no risk. Do you really think they would put a failure in the book? You have no qualifications and certainly no experience in the field. What time was it when the hospital called you? 3 am? It is now 5 am. You’re overtired, and considering it’s your father lying in that hospital bed, your emotions once again cloud your judgment. When the nurse told you about his car accident, you broke down. You sobbed. You were weak. You’re not thinking clearly. You never think clearly, which is why you’re going to kill the only person who ever bothered to love you when you didn’t deserve it.” He spoke to me again in an objective tone, but I knew him too well to overlook the twinge in the corner of his mouth when he was having fun.
My fingers tremored. My voice caught in my throat. “...it’s...it’s not my fault I can’t think clearly, you know that… just like it’s not my fault my brain doesn’t focus or I need more time to process or the fact that I actually listen to you…”
“Which is why you can’t make that suggestion. You’re always going to be too scatterbrained, too shaky, too irresponsible, too disorganized. You can’t help it.” He said his last sentence as if he was accusing me of a crime.
I hesitated with my response. I thought about the phone call. I thought about my dad. I thought about my options.
“.....McBride?....” The doctor’s voice was faded and barely audible, but I knew what it was and so did he.
“Time’s up. Choose. Now.” His gaze intensified and he leaned in ever so slightly that anyone else but me wouldn’t have noticed.
“...I don’t know, I just need…..” I hesitated, still unsure of my decision.
“....McBride?....” The doctor’s voice became clearer and louder.
“Choose. NOW.” He raised his voice an octave but did not move or yell. I took my hands off the table and stood up.
“SIT DOWN AND PUT YOUR HANDS BACK ON THIS TABLE NOW!!” His head snapped to meet mine. His eyes glowed red. His voice sounded like all of Hell’s angels yelling in unison.
“JUST LET ME THINK!” I shouted back at him, complying with his demand almost immediately out of fear.
“Oh, Peyton. You’ve been thinking this whole time.” He smiled a crooked smile, fire burning in his irises.
“Peyton McBride?” I registered the touch on my arm and the soft voice of the doctor who waited so patiently for me to put my attention on him. I turned my head to look at him.
“My name is Dr. Khol. I will be the doctor caring for your father. Now, considering you are the only one who seems to have shown up thus far, all dealings and decisions concerning your father’s care will fall to you. Are you alright with that?”
“Your father’s current condition is not as good as we had hoped. He has trauma to the front of his skull where he hit the steering wheel which is causing some issues. Unfortunately, the damage to the skull has resulted in a brain hemorrhage and it began to swell. He slipped into a coma shortly after that….” He hesitated the next part.
“......and we don’t know if he’ll wake up.”
“I’m….I’m a medical student at the college down the road…..may I make a small suggestion? If you haven’t already tried it?”
Dr. Khol looked at me with pity, but he still said, “Sure. I’m open to anything right now. What’d you have in mind?”
I knew what I wanted to do. “Have you...well..from what you’re describing, it sounds like an epidural hematoma. Considering the intense trauma of the accident and the fact that you saw hemorrhaging on the brain scans, the rapid swelling in his brain from the blood probably caused the coma. Maybe try drilling a hole into the skull to relieve pressure and for the remaining clots...well I’m sure you know what to do from there…”
Dr. Khol just looked at me; stared at me even. I kept eye contact with him until he spoke a minute later.
“What are you studying for? In college?”
“Diagnostics.” He smiled at me.
“You’re going to be a fine diagnostician.”
His teeth were still visible when he didn’t say anything else and turned on his heels. He walked with a purpose toward the consulting room.
I smiled when he was gone. That quickly faded when His all too familiar voice crept back into my head.
“You’ve won this time. You’ll fail the next time. And you know it…”
“Y’know, sometimes I can’t believe we’re the same person…” I said out loud.
His string of words continued but I didn’t reply after that. The string of words that always told me to doubt myself; to stay inside where no one can hurt me; to keep my mouth shut.
The string of lies that would always keep me and my Anxiety separate but together.