Sepia: Part VI
The walk from the MRI department to David’s office felt the longest ever this time, even though I had done it a thousand times. David walked close by me, his reassuring presence giving me the courage to move on.
What do you say to a man who could be your long lost Father? Do I introduce myself and then maintain the pretense of the Doctor –Patient conversation?
I am not an anxious woman. I have walked into operating theatres with a calm mind and a steady hand. While the pang of that past betrayal always lurks in my mind’s attic, I have always felt that I have successfully overcome all that to be a confident, assertive human being.
I did not anticipate this upheaval and how much it has unnerved me. I must have started dragging my feet as we neared David’s office as I felt his warm hand in the small of my back pushing me on gently.
“You have to do this.” He whispered in my ear while opening the door to his Office.
I cracked open the door, took a deep breath and entered the waiting room.
Janet, our PA, walked up to us and smiled.
“Everything OK, Dr Miller?”
Before I could say anything, David butted in. “Where’s the patient, Janet?”
She raised a perfectly shaped eyebrow. “Which one, Dr .?”
“The one I left here waiting when I went to the MRI. Mr. Miller and his …daughter”
“Oh, them. Mrs. Johnson, the daughter got an urgent phone call. She asked me to apologise to you both. She has left a phone number where she could be reached and has taken her Dad back with her…. Are you alright Dr Miller”
I must have visibly paled. I am not sure if it was relief or disappointment.
“I’m ok Janet, could you get us some coffee, please”
I walked into David’s empty office and he was close behind me. I dropped myself into his plush leather chair.
“Susan, you look tired. Have you not been sleeping?”
“What do you think?”
He pulled a chair around and sat close to me.
“This is a bit embarrassing, I did tell her to wait, they were both here when I left.”
“Well I suppose, it helps us to compose a strategy.” David brushed his hair back from his forehead.
“I feel this is all happening too quick. You haven’t had a chance to talk to anyone. We only spoke about this briefly but it has been all plan and action. I can’t even begin to imagine what this is doing to you. Let me take you out for dinner, are you free tonight?”
I looked at his chocolate brown eyes. They were sincere. He was asking me out for dinner. Perhaps not meeting my Dad straight away after looking at the MRI was a good thing. It will help me collect my thoughts. It will stop me launching headlong into this situation like some character driven in a Greek tragedy.
And it gets me dinner with him!
“ No, I can’t. I’m sure you have other things to do?” I postured. The logical ‘me’ would just say yes. But the woman in me, the woman he brings out, wanted to posture.
“Would I ask you if I had other plans?”
“What about … I mean..”
He leaned back and looked at me with an amused smile.
“Susan, are you actually blushing? I’ve never seen you blush.”
“Shut up. It’s just warm in here”
“Yeah right. What were you asking anyway? What about.. what?”
“I mean, you know, Your Fiancée. Would she not mind?”
He slapped my shoulder and laughed. “Who Mel? She wouldn’t care less. She has got a gallery opening she was going to and I am not invited. She doesn’t want me cramping her style.”
The door opened and Janet brought the coffees in. She put them down on the table and smiled. “Is there anything else?”
“No thank you, Janet. You’re an absolute sweetheart.” He said.
Janet fluttered her eyelashes, fiddled with her ear lobe and walked out.
“You have no shame, David, you flirt with anything that breathes.” I took a sip of the scalding coffee and leaned back on the chair.
“ It’s called rapport, Dr Miller. It is a social skill some of us work at. You should try.”
“If shameless flirting is rapport, count me out.”
“There’s no shame. A smile and a kind word makes the world run much smoother. It is a painless social transaction. Anyway, you still haven’t said yes to dinner”
I looked at his earnest face, his open eyes and the smiling lips. There seemed no guile in them. I have only ever been out with him to conferences and only ever eaten with him in the cafeteria. He had hinted a few times in the past we should go out as friends, but I never took the hint. Damn it Susan, why do you have to think so much, it’s only dinner.
It’s amazing how two letters can change your heart, can change your life.
The low hum of conversation surrounded me as I gazed intently at the artfully minimalistic started. It looked like an abstract painting. A small slab of patè. A slimline piece of brioche that would not even fill a supermodel's stomach. A touch of coulis. I have never paid as much attention to my starters of the past. Perhaps it is to avoid looking at his big brown eyes with candle flames glinting in them and the resultant shiver that ran down my spine. Hold it, together, Susan. You are like a nervous teenager on a first date.
To be fair, I haven't had a date since God knows when.
The table was small and the relative distance between us was somewhere between the social and intimate space. I could smell the spicy, leathery amber fragrance of his aftershave above the motley restaurant smells.
"Are you going to eat it or admire it?" he laughed, topping up my pinot noir.
I worried a lock of hair and picked up my fork. " It does look nice."
He chewed a morsel of his smoked salmon and smiled. "As do you." He carried on chewing and smiling.
I felt a warm blush spreading on my chest and neck. thank God for the tastefully dim lighting.
Let it go
"Tell me. If he was still waiting what were you planing to ask him?"
"I don't know..." There was a loud squeal of pleasure from the next table from a giggling young thing who had received a birthday present. Her companion looked around and gave an apologetic glance at the neighbouring tables.
"It must be hard. It's a kind of thing you see on TV or movies. People walking back into your life when you had lost them for years is not easy on your nerves." He took a sip of water and mopped his full lips with the napkin. Stop staring at his lips.
I crunched a piece of brioche and chewed on my memories. I hadn't had time to think. I hadn't given myself time to take stock of all the feelings. I felt an overwhelming burden of sadness weight down from nowhere. It must have shown on my face.
David reached forward and touched my hand. " I am sorry. It wasn't my intention to rake it all up. But you do have to talk to someone. And I know you are not exactly surrounded by an army of friends to support you. It is ok to talk to me. To tell me what the heck is going on in your head." He stopped and grinned. " I can't believe I just said that to a neurosurgeon."
The Waiter arrived to clear the plates. I looked at David - his open eyes, his smiling face that was egging me on to talk. Just what did I want to talk about- the shock of losing my dad, the pain of the following years, trying to write him off in my mind as a lost parent but always wondering what happened to him, the confusion of his return and the drama of his MRI scan. Will he remember me? Will he know I was his daughter? will he care? what if the malicious tumour steadily pressing on his brain has removed any memory of his past? Should I let it go? Can I let it go?
I started talking.
And David was a great listener.
To be continued...
© 2014 Mohan Kumar