The initial lines in italics are from A Fortunate Man by John Berger
The doctor listened once more to her chest. She lay back exhausted. “I am sorry”, she said, not as though it were an apology but simply a fact. He took her temperature and blood pressure. “I know”, he said, “but you’ll sleep soon and feel rested”.
Then they were both quiet. The gulf maintained by spoken language cannot be bridged without silence. The communication of this sort of knowing is beyond the definitions confined in words.
For the doctor to be the reassuring presence is also a gift because, for a few moments, he finds himself reassured too. All the ifs, buts and worrying unknowns of his own life need to stop at times like this.
Solid, quiet moments in which what is real is truly respected. The reality of the frail and frightened old woman, whose bed is a sea of clutter in a musty, uncomforting flat. The doctor knows that she cannot find peace but is undeterred in his effort to bring some. Until all practicalities attended to, he gently takes his hand from hers and takes in a breath for himself.
Afterward sitting in the car, typing in injection batch numbers to the notes, he glances up. Now himself needing a glimmer of hope. A hope that he had helped. Another glance at the laptop, two more visits and surgery starts at 3 o’clock. Best be off.