It must have been around 6 am when the young nurse appeared in the doctors’ office with apologetic eyes and speaking with a slight lilt in her voice. “Excuse me? Doctor? Do you have a moment?” She was obviously shaken, for their small town was not used to having this much commotion this early in the morning…or at all, for that matter. Buried in a small town deep inside the valley, most of the days were routine but for the strangely odd shooting or OD’ing – which, for the most part, were out of towners. But this morning had brought something entirely different through the big, blue revolving doors of the town hospital – screaming and screeching incoherencies that the likes of this small town burrowed in between two unnamed mountains would probably never hear outside of a movie or perhaps a ‘new-age’ or ‘modern’ play. The Good Doctor – a serene-looking man in his mid-40s with the air of a person who has definitive answers, who had been sitting at his desk fumbling through documents – calmly raised his eyes over his silver-rimmed glasses and responded with a reassuring tone: “A moment? What’s the question?”
“More of a situation,” replied the nurse with a nervous smile. “A gentleman in exam [room] three.”
The Good Doctor sat up straight and placed his elbows on the desk, cupping his left fist with his right palm and resting his chin on top. He studied the nurse intensely and finally asked her, “What’s the problem?”
She looked uneasy for a moment as she frantically searched inside her head for a rational, coherent or, at the very least, professional answer, but could find none. “That is the problem,” she finally said, sounding almost defeated as she let out a small sigh. “We’re not sure.”
Despite being a small hospital – or perhaps because of it – they were used to running a pretty tight ship, and this nurse in particular had always proven herself more than responsible and diligent. So it came as a surprise and a bit of a concern to the Good Doctor to hear her uttering those words.
“You got the chart?” he calmly asked, extending his left arm as he stood up.
“Right here,” she replied, and handed him the wooden clipboard.
As he looked through it he let out the same type of sigh the nurse had, and with a small shrug of the shoulders and his eyebrows faintly raised, bottom lip curving downwards, he muttered half-loudly, “Not much here to say…”
“No Doctor,” chimed in the nurse, now sounding more alarmed. “No obvious physical trauma; vitals are stable!”
“Name?” he asked.
He sat back down on his black leather chair and thought for a moment. His elbows were on the desk again but this time he had the tip of his fingers touching, forming a pyramid against which his lips rested. “Did someone drop him off?” he finally asked. “Maybe we could speak to them. Let’s get some background on this fella.”
“No ID. Nothing!” she answered, losing more and more calm with every word. She was beginning to breathe harder, almost scared to utter the next words, her eyes widening slightly. “And he won’t speak to anybody…”
With a resolute look and aura surrounding him, the Good Doctor stood back up one more time and put on the white coat that was resting on the back of his black leather chair. “Well, let’s say hello,” he said, and signaled the nurse to lead him to the young man’s room. They walked down the hall silently until they arrived at room 008. When they opened the door, they found the shoe-less young man sitting on the bed wearing dirty and torn black-jeans and a black t-shirt with the word “TOOL” written in block letters in the front and an eye with two pupils emerging from fire in the back; his gaze was fixed on the wall and his lips were moving almost imperceptibly as he muttered inaudibly to himself.
“Good morning,” the Good Doctor began. “I’m Dr. Lawson. How are you today?”
There was no response, just a blank stare.
“How – are – you – today?!” he asked again, slowly and loudly as he shone his small flashlight in each eye.
The Good Doctor took a step back and a deep sigh. “Look son, you’re in a safe place,” he said, sounding genuinely friendly. “We want to help in whatever way we can. But you need to talk to us. We can’t help you otherwise. What’s happened? Tell me everything.”
The young man showed his first signs of life as he shot his eyes from the wall to the Doctor, then to the nurse and then back to the Doctor again. He began breathing harder and appearing exasperated and confused. Then he shut his eyes tightly for just a second and re-opened them just as he let out a big breath, as if about to unload a great pain from within…
“Alrighty, then,” he said, tilting his head sideways and raising one eyebrow. “Picture this if you will…”