Sparks from Katrin: Surgical scrub brush, headphones, post it note
‘Note’ – by Ro
Ray groaned as the sudden sound of ‘Free Bird’ tore him from his deep sleep in the sunlit room. He reached over and slammed his hand down hard on the alarm clock, wishing he could sleep the day away. Angrily throwing back the covers, he winced as his feet hit the cold wooden floor beside his bed. Cursing to himself for forgetting to replace his soiled slippers, he shuffled into the kitchen, grateful for the coffee pot with its auto start feature.
Sitting down at his desk blindly, eyes squeezed shut as he yawned, he bumped the mouse and wished he could wake as easily as the computer. He rubbed his eyes and looked at the monitor, attempting to ignore the bright green Post-It note affixed on the upper left corner. He exhaled deeply as he opened his mail program, wanting to rip the note down but somehow fighting the urge. After sifting through silly forwards and memos from work, Ray dragged himself into the shower, the bright green square of paper burned in his vision as he closed his eyes under the hot spray. The note had had a confusing power over him since appearing two weeks ago.
After dressing for the day, Ray walked down the steps of his building while cramming his headphones on tight to block out the noise of the city as he jogged to work. Every day he wondered if he could go on. Every day he was afraid the reaper would finally catch up and drag him kicking and screaming back into oblivion. There was a kind of peace in oblivion, but not the kind of comforting peace that lasts. Ray always tried to find the exact right balance, the perfect number which would mean the peace would not abandon him, but no matter how he tried it always failed.
Ray strode into work with ten minutes to spare before his first surgery and headed into the locker room to change into scrubs, skipping through his iPod until he found the song ‘Down and Out’. He always listened to this song before surgery. He often wondered if all surgeons had their theme song. Sure they did, he thought. I’m no different. He had been thinking that to himself a lot lately. I’m no different. Why was he thinking that over and over? He thought it had something to do with the note, though he did not know why.
It was getting worse. The note was beginning to haunt him, follow him. Everywhere he went he wondered if the person who told him to write it were passing him on the street, sitting in the coffee shop, laying on the operating table. He trudged into the washroom to scrub, shaking his head as though the motion would rid the thoughts.
After tying a cap around his unkempt hair, Ray soaped up a surgical scrub brush and began the tedious ritual of rubbing the skin of his hands nearly raw. He used to love this part of the preparation. Scrubbing always meant he was about to be in his element, the stark white operating suite with its bright lights, the stainless steal trays with his favorite equipment, the hiss of the respirator as the patient lay in deep sleep waiting for an ailment to be cured. This day however, Ray’s hands began to shake uncontrollably for the first time in his career. He stopped scrubbing and stared down at his nimble fingers, his livelihood. his worst fear was being realized.
He closed his eyes and began scrubbing again. The note appeared as if some sort of digital overlay had been implanted in his vision. Clear as day, the blood red letters on bright green paper:
I won’t remember this in the morning, so he told me to write it down. I called for help last night.
Ray squeezed his eyes tightly until bright lights appeared, scrubbing his hands so violently it hurt, trying to make the image of the note disappear. His breathing quickened as his heart sped up and he remembered, a very foggy memory of grabbing the red Sharpie and scribbling the note to himself and then placing it on the monitor. Up until that exact moment, he hadn’t remembered writing the note but suddenly the memory was there, the sharp smell of marker ink, the broken glass, the cut on his knuckle and the phone call. Ray had grudgingly obeyed the man’s suggestion of writing a note to himself.
Tears swam in Ray’s vision now and he threw the scrub brush into the sink, his hands trembling, bile rising in his throat. He had to call back; he knew it then. He couldn’t put anyone’s life at risk just because he was too ashamed to call again. His knees felt week and Cotton coated his tongue as the scalding water burned his hands and he tasted salt on his lips. He whirled around and told the surgical nurse he was suddenly violently ill and could not operate. Ignoring her questioning stare and wide eyes, he stumbled back into the locker room tearing off the untarnished scrubs, donned his street clothes and ran, ran down the hall passed astonished doctors, down the stairs and out into the sunshine where he put his hands on his knees, breathing heavily and grateful for non-sterilized air. Tears began drying own his cheeks as he straightened and pulled his phone from his pocket, beginning to dial a number he had somehow memorized.
When a woman answered cheerily he said, “I called a few weeks ago, I didn’t remember calling but I wrote a note to myself. I’m calling you back because I can’t do this, I need help. I can’t stop drinking.”
He listened to her soothing understanding and assurances that there were people out there no different from him who could help. Ray didn’t even notice his hands had stopped shaking.