a tale of two versions


Mr. F may not remember the catheter tails lying on his chest or what he had for dinner last night, but he remembers that he likes women. And he likes them young. He was sweet on another patient who dialyzed at the same time. The object of his affections was 15 years his junior and maybe 95 pounds soaking wet and fully clothed. Mr. F started bringing in food for her. They would sit together in the dialysis unit lobby waiting to start their treatment and he would watch her eat soft tacos.

It was almost cute—two mismatched souls finding love in the dialysis unit. But she did not have dementia; Mr. F did. And she was gaining weight while Mr. F was losing it. He even stopped bringing candy for the staff and other patients. His money was going towards wooing.

This had been going on for weeks and I did not approve. I suspected she was using Mr. F for food. But maybe she did have real affection for him and who was I to get in the way of two grown folks in like? Besides, she was my colleague’s patient so I stayed out of it and just encouraged the one under my charge to eat better.

The dialysis staff joked with me about how the other nephrologist and I were like parents and our children were dating and that soon we would be in-laws. But they tried to stay out of it too. Mr. F had other plans.

I hadn’t long sat down to one of the nurses’ station computers when Nurse Kathy approached me, a hint of mischief in her eyes. Something was up.

“Have I got a good one for you,” she said, almost giggling.

“What is going on?” I smiled and gave her my full attention. I’m in the unit rounding on my patients a few hours a month, but the dialysis staff are there all day every day. They see it all and hear it all. So, when they want to tell me something, I listen.

“Well,” she sat down as a couple of the other staff gathered around, all grinning in anticipation. I was the only one not in the know. This must be a very good one, I thought.

“A few minutes after I put Mr. F on [the dialysis machine], he called me back over to him and said he wanted to tell me something. So I went over to him, but he just kind of grumbled something under his breath,” Kathy said incorporating her best Mr. F impersonation. It was almost as good as mine.

She leaned in closer and asked him to repeat himself. Again a mumbled grumble. Again she told him she couldn’t hear him and leaned in closer.

“I wanna FUCK ‘er!” he had blurted out.

I gasped as my hand flew instinctively over my open mouth. My eyes bulged and jaw dropped as all expected until I could join the giggling at the outrageousness of it all.

The giggles had not fully died down when my colleague walked in. Mild-mannered and pleasant. Wouldn’t hurt a fly. And so soft-spoken one often had to lean in and ask him to repeat himself.

“So, I hear you and I are closer to being in-laws,” I said to him brightly. He smiled, but knew nothing of our patients’ relationship. I told him about the food courting and his patient finding the weight mine lost. He smiled some more.

“Tell him the latest Kathy,” I encouraged, so he too would know just how serious things were.

“Well, he’s very fond of her and wants to be close with her,” Kathy said, smiling politely and almost blushing. No giggling. No impersonation. And the others went back to their tasks of charting vital signs, silencing machine alarms, dispensing intravenous iron.

Hmm, I thought, what does me getting the director’s uncut X-rated version of the story but my colleague the G say about how the staff view me?

I smiled, liking what it said.