My body is a canvas, a blank piece of paper. No. That's a lie; a cliché. It is a scoreboard, a history, a collection of moments. Times when the floods rose too high and I lost control; instants when I needed something to hone in on.
Focus is essential in my line of work. It's a race; a controlled dash from symptoms to diagnosis. Be too eager, draw simplified conclusions, and your diagnoses become a joke.
The voice draws my attention. "Yes?" I look up from the arm I was stitching to come face to face with Dr. Cameron.
Her eyes drift to my hip. "You're bleeding."
My eyes follow hers to find blood blossoming across my scrubs. Shit. "Oh…I…" I search my mind for an explanation as her green eyes examine me subtly from under her lashes. I pull a tense smile from somewhere and shrug. "I have no idea where that came from. I'll check it out when I'm done here." I gesture with my head towards the patient.
Cameron eyes me for a moment longer, sceptical, and then nods, turning away. I keep the smile plastered on my face as I finish the last few stitches and tape a piece of gauze over my eighteen year-old patient's arm "All done". I proceed to clean up.
"Thanks." The boy winks and hops off the bed.
"No problem" I strip off my gloves and exit the ER, aiming for something a little more private.
I peel off my scrubs and the gauze beneath to reveal still-bleeding lines.
When I was younger, my tools were scissors, exacto knives. In Bio 101, first year of university, I discovered scalpels. Their entire purpose of being is to cut through layers of skin – the epidermis, the dermis, subcutaneous tissue – and beyond. My ultimate tool.
Physical pain heightens the senses. It dulls extraneous emotions, keeping you focussed on the here and now. It keeps you in the game.
In my case, it also tends to make you bleed.
Sighing, I fold the piece of gauze in two and re-tape it securely, hoping this will keep more blood from showing through.
Grabbing a cup of coffee at the vending machine, I have the luck to run into Cameron again. "All's well?" she questions politely, sliding to the floor with a sigh and sipping her coffee.
I nod silently, inserting coins into the machine. I watch as the coffee pours into my Styrofoam cup. People like Dr. Cameron are dangerous. They care too much, pick up on too much. You find words spilling out of you before you can stop them or even realise that you are speaking.
"If…" her words hang and I turn, watching as she regains her courage. "If you need someone to talk to…" her eyes hold mine for an instant before sliding away.
I tense for a moment before realising she means my Huntington's diagnosis. My brain prepares a scathing response but my mouth doesn't cooperate. "Thanks" I murmur. It's hard to be callous with someone who can't help but care for hurting creatures, to try and fix the unfixable. I thought once that I pitied her.
She is as surprised as I am by my response. Her green eyes examine me again as I pick up my coffee and blow on it gently, leaning against the vending machine. The silence is comfortable as the world shuffles by our little enclave. I finish my coffee and she stands, stretching. We walk back to the ER together.
I escape the ER hours later. My eyes find Dr. Cameron bent over a patient, blood smeared across her forehead where she swept her hair out of the way with gloves on. She watches the time attentively, a small frown creasing her eyebrows as she takes a patient's pulse. She cares too much to be tired now. There's still a steady trickle of patients through the ER – people in need of her attention.
Outside, the hospital is quiet. Morning rounds will be starting soon, just as I drift into unconsciousness and I sleep my morning away. House wants me in this afternoon; to do his clinic hours, no doubt.
I wake at noon to grey rain.
House is grumpy; demanding. I choose clinic hours over spending more time with him. Lines of patients with snotty noses await me.
Focus. Paying attention allows me to push my own problems to the back of my mind.
Two hours later, a patient awaits us in Diagnostics.
By 9 pm I am exhausted. I leave the others to their work in favour of home. I run into Cameron as I am changing. "Night shift again?" she nods quietly. I remove my pants, too tired to think.
Her hiss of sympathy reminds me. "What happened?" My gauze only covers a small section of my hips.
I slip into my jeans quickly. "It's nothing." I chuck my scrubs into the hamper, turning back for my bag.
Cameron glares. "Bullshit."
I sigh. "Fine, it's something. Something that doesn't involve you." I grab my bag from the bench nearby.
"I know now." She informs me, grabbing my wrist.
"So?" my voice is hard.
"So, who else does? Your family that you never talk about? All of your friends? That girl you brought into the ER in the middle of the night?" Green eyes meet mine from below. "You have no-one. No-one but me."
Her honesty surprises me. I have no response.
She lets go of my hand. "Think about it." Cameron turns and walks out of the room, leaving me standing, confused by what just happened.
Eventually my brain kicks back in and steers me home.