While his oxygen hissed, he flipped cigarette ash. The tiny orange cinders fell from the air, slowly blanketing the bottom of his Styrofoam cup. The kitchen was disheveled; crusty dishes filled the sink and roach shells littered the floor.
The patient was heavyset, crippled, and pessimistic. I wanted to help, but he made it impossible.
As he spoke, I listened, nodded my head, and feigned interest. This wasn’t the first time I’d heard his spiel; I could almost see the words drip from his lips before they even opened.
“I feel terrible. I just ache all over,” he whimpered. “I just can’t get a break.”
I asked, “Did you check your blood sugar today?”
“No. I can’t find my meter. I don’t know where it went.”
As his mouth moved, my frustration simmered. I felt like pulling my hair from its roots and plucking my eyes from their sockets. I wanted logic to prevail, but his defeatism lingered in the air. The patient professed to want help, yet his actions denied it.
I wanted to wring his neck and shake him senseless. I couldn’t rationalize the irrational. It didn’t matter what I did or how I did it–he seemed hell-bent on self-destruction.
I tried to listen, but couldn’t anymore. I’d just lost interest in him, his wounds, and his worries. As I headed towards the door, I felt a glimmer of guilt; and then, without pause, I stepped into the elevator.