Op Note XXI
I remembered the patient from clinic. When I came into the room the first thing she said was can you please wash your hands. I’m like whatever. I always use that foamy stuff in the hall but it isn’t a big deal. So I start washing them, soap and water, a good old scouring. The other side please, she says. Huh? I look at her. The OTHER side, she pleads. Oh the back of my hands I realize. So I do the full enchilada, churning the flesh of my hands into a froth of disinfecting soap. I rinse them off. Praying that she finds the tongue of paper towel peeking down from its dispenser acceptable. Show me your nails, she says. Ugh. They’re due for a trim, I recall. Horrifyingly, I notice a couple of them have some sort of black crud packed under the tips in tiny black crescents. This morning, before leaving the house, I'd noticed a few weeds in the front flower bed. Dug them up and must have forgotten. Goddam. Found some sterile fine tipped scissors and scooped out the crud. Washed my hands again. OK? I said. She said ok. Just please don't touch me. She was up for surgery regardless of anything I said. It needed to come out. But with her prepped belly glistening there all sterile and germless I paused. I had scrubbed and gloved and gowned. I had done this a thousand times. Her skin quivered when I brought the scalpel closer, as if squirming to escape. I aborted the procedure on the spot. We broke scrub. Whisked her back to the recovery room. What happened, she asked. I told her I didn’t feel clean. Not clean enough. Show me your hands, she said. I shoved them in my pockets. Show me yours first, I said.