‘Burn out,’ she said, scrolling down the list of results on her monitor.
She took her glasses off and peered across her desk at me. She smiled tentatively, frowned and put her glasses back on. The focus of her gaze shifted from the pot plant in the corner back to me. She tapped the back of my hand where it lay on her desk.
‘Thanks,’ I said.
‘No, get your hands off my desk. This place is supposed to be hygienic. I can’t be having sick people wiping their germs and diseases all over my workspace.’
‘But, you’re supposed to be a doctor?’
‘I’m a specialist. I don’t deal with sick people.’
‘Oh, then what is the matter with me?’
‘Don’t worry, I’ll fix it.’ She sat back and opened her desk drawer, pulling out a aerosol spray and some antiseptic wipes. She sprayed where my hands had touched her desk, and all around the area, just to make sure.
‘People can die from illness, you know?’ She looked up at me as if expecting me to admire her genius.
‘So, I’ve gathered.’
‘Yes. I’ve been ill before.’
‘Yes.’ She put he spray away and bundled the wipes into the bin. ‘You look the type.’
‘Anyway, enough of your self-pity. The computer says you have burn out. So that is what we must fix. Whatever else is wrong with you, is your own affair.’
‘What if the computer is wrong?’
She laughed, then realised I was not joking. ‘Don’t be silly.’
‘Now, about your problem.’ She looked over her glasses at the monitor screen as if to double-check something. ‘Now, your problem is burn out, yes?’
‘So I’m going to have to prescribe a course of treatment.’
I gulped. ‘Okay.’ My hands clenched in my lap.
This time she made sure it was me she was looking at when she leant forward and took her glasses off. ‘Now, what I want you to do is… pull yourself together. Right?’ She sat back, put on her glasses and keyed her intercom. ‘Next patient please.
She looked across her desk at me. ‘Good-bye… er … mister… er. You’ll understand why I won’t shake hands, of course.’
‘Right… I….’ I got to my feet and stumbled towards the door. As I closed the door behind me I glanced up at her.
‘Remember,’ she said, ‘Chin up…. Bye!’ She began sorting the next patient’s notes.
I shut the door.