Off the Shelf
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Take Care


The mother looks at the doctor
and back at me.
The baby smiles.
She says,
“She won’t keep her food down.”

Today, I play a shadow in a white coat.
It is my first day at the hospital.
The soft fluorescent lights act as the sun —
I follow the doctor everywhere he goes
as if his coat were my north star.
I observe everything until I am ready to do so myself.
At this point, not yet.

And so, he walks into room 302:
A four-month-old girl in the lap of her mother.

The mother looks at the doctor
and back at me.
The baby coos.
She says,
“She was just in the emergency room last week.”

I see her begin to cry.
I stood there, still,
her eyes filled with tears.
I feel her eyes on me,
searching as if I had the answers.
And I am trying not to look at her —
I am staring at the child,
listening to the doctor ask questions —
because I can’t look at her.
I am so new, so selfish.
All I want is for her to always look at the doctor —
not at me, please, not at me.
I am as confused as she is,
have more questions to give than answers.
And I want to rip up this white coat and tell everyone here,
“Don’t get any ideas.”
Tell her, “I really have no idea.”

The mother looks at the doctor,
and back at me.
The baby vomits.
She cries,
“I don’t know what else to do.”

I finally look at her:
she wipes away the tears from her eyes,
stares at her daughter
as the doctor listens to her heart.
My own feels heavy.
She looks back at me as she says
all of her daughter’s problems.
I feel her own pain as she talks about her,
her sadness becomes another visitor in this hospital.

And I want to say,
“I understand.”
And I want to say,
“I don’t want you to be sad anymore.”
And I want to be able to say,
“Your child will get better, I promise you.”
But all I do is nod. I say nothing.

The doctor comforts her;
tells her about the medicine he’ll be giving,
that the baby will have to be observed overnight.

The mother looks at the doctor
and back at me.
The baby smiles again.
She says, “Thank you.”

I whisper, “Take care” —
barely audible enough for her to hear
as I follow the doctor out the door.

It was the only thing I ever said in that room.
I am so new to this world.
My own white coat still feels unworn.
And I know I don’t have my own voice yet.
I just hope I’ll get there
so I can look at a mother in the eye and say,
“Your child will get better, I promise you.”
Someday, I’ll get there.

Candice Mazon Candice Mazon (1 Posts)

Contributing Writer

Drexel University College of Medicine


Candice is a student of Drexel University College of Medicine Class of 2019. Her passions lie in writing poetry, discussing racial and gender inequities, learning calligraphy, and living vicariously through TV shows. She hopes to one day work within the realm of reproductive justice and write 100 poems before graduating medical school.