Back in New York City I made an appointment with our neurologist to discuss the recent visit to Los Angeles. The day of the appointment, I didn’t have Sophie with me because of the seriousness of the matters being discussed. I had made a resolution after the incident in Los Angeles that I would try my hardest not to talk about her condition in front of her. A “cutting edge epileptologist” who looked to be about 35, Dr. N wore his blond hair with a distinct, vulnerable part down the side, crisply pressed khaki pants, a white button-down shirt with a bow-tie and shoes that I can only describe as Buster-Brown-like.“Mrs. Aquino, please come in,” the doctor stood at his door and beckoned to me. I was sitting in one of those curved metal chairs with stainless legs and flipping through an old Scientific American magazine. I put the magazine down and stood up abruptly, nervously and walked down the hall to his office.
He had already seated himself behind an enormous desk covered with papers, stacks of journals and magazines and what appeared to be a child-sized replica of the human brain. The cauliflower folds looked tough and protective of the smooth pink surface beneath. The brain sat on a huge book, one of those diagnostic tomes that doctors flip through in the privacy of their offices, when they can’t be seen looking for information not easily recalled.
“Sit down,” he said, motioning me to one of two armchairs angled toward one another and the imposing desk in front of them. I was alone, though, as Michael was at work, and I awkwardly pulled one chair out and then sat in the other.
“So, what can I do for you today?” Dr. N. is an obviously intelligent man but sweet as well. He is thoughtful instead of arrogant, appears earnest and concerned. His face is placid, his eyes warm but they blink like a cartoon child’s. He is gracious, almost humble, and he asks questions in a manner that gives you the sense that you are making the decisions, not he. When I relayed to him the information that I had recently received from the acclaimed Dr. S in Los Angeles, Dr. N leaned forward and put his hands together, fingertip-to-fingertip, like a little tent. He leaned his chin on the top of the finger tent, blinked several times and listened intently. It seemed like what he heard was going into his head and then down through his fingers into that tent on his desk. Neurologists have so much power, you see, what with their delving into the human brain. After a year of dealing with them, I was painfully aware of that power and sensitive to inferences. I wanted to get in that tent.
Dr. N is a good listener and rarely interrupts, so when I was finished, he let go of the finger tent pose and let out a long, “Hmmmmmm.”
It was my turn to lean forward, which I did, restraining myself from placing my own hands on the desk in front of me. I willed them into my lap, to be still. I clenched my knees.
“Well, let’s talk a little bit about brain surgery,” Dr. N began.