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Voices in the Clinic Room

What happened to his smile?
Minutes ago, he was beaming.
Now the patient’s face contorted as he yelled.
Fury filled every crevice and crack of his face.
His neck was full of vitriol-soaked wrinkles.
My heart thumped with angst and trepidation.
Guilt and confusion sat in my stomach
Crushing me to the laminated floor.

When we first met, his face was sunshine.
Grinning ear to ear, his joy filled the room
A breeze of warmth through the clinic.
Then, he exclaimed :
“There are worms in my legs!
Look at how they wriggle!
Look at them coming out!”

Our eyes saw different worlds.
I didn’t see the worms crawling in his legs
Emerging through scars and lesions
Like intrepid explorers searching for sunlight
Conquistadores of the lower limb
Colonizing and conquering his body.

Our ears heard different sounds.
I didn’t hear the voice
Whispering in his right ear
Telling him he was a doctor,
That he needed to educate me.

He pointed at his right leg.
His voice dignified as he gave me a lesson:

“Did you know feet are sponges?
All things you eat, drink and inject
Pool in your feet.

But I didn’t see the crack, heroin, and needles
Clumped loosely in his feet.
I just saw scars and swollen feet.
A puffy foot perhaps a sign of homelessness

I didn’t hear another voice,
Barking at his left ear with insidious jabs
Mocking and laughing at him,
Grumbling that I scoffed at his wisdom.
That voice  said he was nothing.
That voice said I thought he was nothing

That breeze of joy and levity vanished
A fog settled in that clinic room,
A dark, rancid fog of foul emotions.
Frustration and betrayal swirled together
Consuming him.

He yelled and screamed in indignation
I wish his furor was only from his sickness
But my eyes must have read disbelief.
My doubt was a pyre of oil and wood
And with a spark his body was in flames.
Specters in his head were just waiting.

As I stood mute and still,
I thought how frustrating life must be
When no one sees the nefarious creatures
Invading and pillaging your body.
And how isolated you must feel
When only you hear the voices in your head.
If I saw what he saw and heard what he heard,
Secluded and alone with no one else believing my reality,
I’d yell too.


Rohit Mukherjee Rohit Mukherjee (6 Posts)


Drexel University College of Medicine

Rohit is a second year medical student at Drexel University College of Medicine. He graduated from Georgetown University in 2012, and then went on to teach reading to elementary school students for two years. After teaching, he worked in health policy for a year, and then matriculated to medical school. Currently, he is pursuing an MD/MPH degree and hopes to work in community health and harm reduction. He is passionate about health equity, LGBTQ rights, and racial justice. By far, his greatest skill is reciting lines from Pixar’s Up.