While his oxygen hissed

under-the-influenceWhile 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.

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