A Promise Is a Debt

February 12, 2009 | Print Print |
Mavis Dora Alvarez

Mavis Dora Alvarez

I am keeping my promise here to relate some more anecdotes from the doctor’s office.

Let me remind you that I’m talking about the family doctor’s office in the neighborhood where I live. I’ve already described some of the things that happen in the waiting room, but now we’ll go on to the office visits.

In the office there are almost always two doctors working at the same time. Each one has their own space. While they’re not precisely side by side, they’re also not so far away either, and can overhear each other’s conversations.

There are some very special patients who don’t wait in the waiting room. These are the “regulars,” who enter and leave the office at their own free will. They’ve earned this right with their daily persistence, and they’re part of the atmosphere. Indispensable and loyal, they come every day.

They greet the doctors affectionately using their first names. They bring hot coffee and report how they spent the night. In passing, they request a new prescription for the medicine that they take, because they misplaced the one that they were given yesterday or the day before. They happily leave with their prescription passing out kisses to everyone and bidding everyone farewell until the next day.

One of the patients, already seated, takes a list out of her bag and begins reading to the doctor the names of the medications that he should prescribe for her. The doctor’s face is a study in patience, and I thoroughly admire him… until he can’t stand it any more and asked the woman: “But, Cleotilde, do you want to alleviate your pain or are you planning to open a pharmacy?”

Now the man who had the prostate operation comes in. The doctor begins to write in his clinical file and to indicate that he should take this or that. The prostate patient interrupts him:

“No, doctor, give me something else, I can’t take that medicine.”

Silence, surprise. The doctor stops writing, and the patient explains to him. “It’s a vasodilator which can have a hemorrhaging effect on the weaker capillaries in the mesentery of the peritoneal membrane…”

The doctor’s expression is indescribable. He gets out of his seat and says to his colleague, “I’m going out for a moment to get a little drink of cold water.” Poor thing, I feel so bad for him. He’s so young! Just graduated and a geriatric consultation falls on him.

The young girl that comes in next is a walking boutique. She’s dressed in the latest street fashion: A plunging neckline and a lightweight skirt, so thin that only a heroic feat maintains it in its precarious place just beneath the navel and sagging towards her pubis. She also has hair of various colors and costume jewelry draped over the entire geography of her body, even tattoos where her backbone ends.

She is scandalously young and pretty, but she can be overheard when she speaks into the woman doctor’s ear: “No, doctor, I can’t have it.”

Evidently she’s talking about interrupting a pregnancy. Regarding this matter, all of the women present form a chorus of opinion to support the doctor and convince the pretty girl. She listens and looks at us with a mixture of perturbation and shamelessness.

“Okay, okay, thank you all for the advice, but do you want to know something? My husband is off on an international mission. He works in Tanganyika, and he hasn’t been back to Cuba in a year and a half. Does that make it clear?” The round table was over.

My doctor informed me that the results of my lab tests had arrived and that everything is normal and under control. She reminds me that the nurse already told me that last week. I told her, yes, I already knew that.

“In that case, what are you doing here?” she asked with a look, not saying a word.

I told her calmly without any embarrassment whatsoever.

Doctor, I need multivitamins for my little dog. She’s so old and I love her so much!

  • Michael N. Landis

    !What whimsical descriptions, Mavis! This could be the basis for a comedy series–or a telenovela, (except one like it already exists. Still, yours is more authentic, and nuanced, than the slapstick comedy series I viewed on Habana television.) !More, Mavis! Make more visits to your doctor’s office, and be as a fly on his wall. Soon, however, you will see that your characters will develop lives of their own. Like the humans who the gods created, they will have the presumption to control their own stories! Then their creator–you–will have to follow them where they may lead!

  • mary

    I am laughing so hard at the description of the “round table” discussion, I can just see it. I agree with Michael above, this would be an excellent series. Happy Valentine’s Day Mavis. Wish I was closer to have a toast of vino with you. I hope you write soon again for this journal.

  • http://www.nscuba.org Mark

    Wonderful writing – keep it coming! Stories like these help the North American audience relate to the Cuban experience.

  • http://www.ronridenour.com ron ridenour

    Mavis,

    Reading you gives me a high, better than drugs. Perhaps you could be a weekly regular at the doctors´ office-fly on the all-do a series and publish a book. I´ll help if you wish.
    I´d like two more copies of your women portraits books for women friends.
    With solidarity and affection, Ron