Dance With Me

I stand waiting.
The palms of my hands face my chest.
Water drips from my elbows to the ground.
I feel like a beggar in the rain.

The resident in front of me
looks over his back to warn me
to Stand Back.
He has a stern look on his face.

Finally, the scrub nurse hands me a towel.
I dry my fingers meticulously,
wondering who invented this procedure.
Did he suffer from OCD?

she screams
(I realize that I am too close)
she screams.

Now it is the attending’s turn.
He is a tall black man,
Distinguished — probably about 50 years old.
He will also take part in this communal ablution.

He puts on his gown,
and in a booming baritone
tells the other nurse to put on some music.

She turns on the radio.
We hear a plaintive love song.
“Not that.” He says, “I need some rhythm in here.”
He winks at me for approval.

I can’t help but smile.
The nurse offers to turn the attending.
“Oh!  Are we going to dance together now?”
he asks.

She grabs hold of the tag on his gown
and he does a graceful turn
without overstepping the boundaries
of his masculinity.

I smile again.
I wonder if the resident is smiling.
Out of the corner of my eye,
I look at him.
His eyes seem sharp, narrow, focused.
No.  I do not think he is smiling.

We rest our hands on the patient’s limp body.
“Begin cutting,” says the attending.
The resident makesthe first incision.
“You’re not cutting a cake, doctor!”
The resident puts more pressure on the knife.
“This is an O.R., not the culinary institute!”
More pressure
“There, THERE!”

The peel away layers of fat and fascia together.
At times, I retract the skin
so they can reach a particular blood vessel or organ.

They locate the organ to be removed:
A humongous uterus filled
with growths called fibroids.
Drenched in blood.
It looks like a red monster
with five noses.

“It’s been a hard day’s night,
And I’ve been workin’ like a dog…”
The atttending serenades the monster
before giving it to the nurse.

The monster peers out at us from a jar
as we put the body back together.
I staple the two flaps of skin,
making sure they are aligned properly.
I am happy to have contributed something, finally.
The monster winks at me too.

Pooja Khungar, Chicago, Class of 2003