That's what the elderly lady said to me who'd just stepped onto the crowded Grady elevator to slide in right next to me. Even though the small space was filled with passengers standing shoulder to shoulder, my very pregnant silhouette was pretty hard to miss--even under my white coat. "No, ma'am," I responded cheerfully. "This is number two."
"Boy, ain't it?"
I chuckled at her accurate assessment--one I'd heard constantly throughout my pregnancy. "Yes, ma'am. Boy number two." The elder curled her lips downward and gave her head a smug nod.
The other people riding with us turned in my direction. I could feel everyone surveying the position of my belly to see if they agreed. Another woman looked me up and down and then chimed in. "Oh yeah. That's a boy all day and all night." A few others mumbled in agreement.
And you know? Nothing about this felt intrusive to me. All of it was Grady. So very Grady.
"It's because he's sitting high, right?" I patted the side of my stomach when I said that.
"Yeah. And 'cause your face ain't all splotched up and swoll up neither. Them girls rob your beauty every time." The crowd laughed at the Grady elder's unfiltered honesty even though she didn't mean it to be funny. "But you know you gon' have to turn right back around and try for that girl, don't you? Can't leave it at two boys."
I squinted one eye playfully in her direction. "Look at you already planning the next pregnancy! But no, ma'am. I don't think a girl is in my future. I'm pretty sure we might be done after this little boy joins us."
Her face became surprisingly serious. "Oh, now you need a girl. You got to have one."
"Uhhhh. . ." I let out a nervous laugh. Then I decided to break it up with a joke. "Can't you see I cut all my own hair off so I wouldn't have to comb any heads in the morning? God knew what He was doing. He knew I needed boys."
She still wasn't smiling. "Well. You gon' get old one day. It ain't got nothin' to do with buying baby dolls or combing hair. It's your girls that grow up to be the ones that see about you when you old. Even the boys that love they mama ain't no count when you get up in age and need 'em."
The rest of the passengers seemed to conveniently become silent. Even though I didn't want to do it, I started sifting through my head to see if her statement held any truth. Immediately, I imagined my brother, the one who lives only four houses away from his mother--and before that was only separated from her by two houses. "My brother sees about my mother. That's not always true."
"Yo' brother married?"
I swallowed hard and wished the elevator ride would end. Her sustained gaze over the top of her wire glasses was intimidating. I couldn't think of any witty comeback so just answered her question. "He is."
"And I bet she be the one seeing 'bout your mama. I bet."
Just then I was relieved to hear the elevator ping on my floor and the doors fling open. "Well. I hope that's not true of my boys." I offered a tight-lipped smile and eased my protuberant tummy around the crowd. "Have a good day, everybody!"
That Grady elder touched my arm and looked into my eyes. Her entire hand was splayed over my the shoulder of my white coat in that way church folks do when laying hands. "God bless you and your baby, sugar. Speaking health and wellness over you and a easy delivery. In the name of Jesus!" Others in earshot joined in as an amen choir. Just when I started feel a sweet wave of emotion, she added a sucker punch. "And go on have you that girl after this one, hear? For when you get to be a old woman like me. You gon' be glad you listened to me."
I tried to respond with a polite nonverbal expression of gratitude. Mostly I felt this weird mixture of moved, awkward and lightweight offended. Even though I knew she didn't mean it as anything but endearing.
I always remembered what that Grady elder said on that elevator ride. Just as I'd predicted, we were done after Zachary and didn't attempt to have more children. And honestly, I've never really felt much regret about my two boy/no girl household. From the rough and tumble play to the stinky socks to the never-let-down toilet seats, I've loved it all. Truly I have. And sure. I can totally see what is special and amazing about having daughters--especially considering that I am one. But being a boy mama hasn't felt like a mistake or a regret to me. I guess it's just always felt sort of meant to be.
Something about that statement of boys growing into inattentive men who "don't see about their elders" would occasionally niggle at me. Just occasionally. I'd find myself lying in bed cuddling one of the boys and saying things like, "Are you going to forget your mama when you grow up?" Only to feel my heart nearly explode when hearing the heartfelt elementary school declarations otherwise.
I'd still wonder though. In the back of my head, I would.
As silly as it sounds, subconsciously I've kept score ever since. Looking to find as many exceptions to that rule as possible in the family members accompanying in clinic or waiting at the bedsides of my patients. Eyes peeled back looking for those caring, doting, exemplary sons. And yes. There have been sons for sure. But a lot of times there were sisters and wives, too. In fact, nearly all of the times.
So me, the mom of boys, is always hoping, you know? Hoping this isn't how it is. Or, at least, hoping some wonderful women marry my manchildren by the time Harry and I get as old as that woman in the elevator.
Not even kidding.
But, see, that was before I met Mr. Moreland.
I met him in the emergency department one day when my team was on call. He was sitting in the corner with his feet crossed and resting on the edge of the stretcher like it was some kind of ottoman. He was holding on to a folded piece of the Atlanta Journal Constitution and had reading glasses on top of his head. Mr. Moreland stood up the minute I stepped over the threshold into the room. "Frank Moreland," he said shaking my hand. "I'm Mrs. Eloise Moreland's son."
"Nice to meet you, sir. I'm Dr. Manning and I'll be one of the senior doctors taking care of your mother while she's in the hospital, okay?"
"Yes, ma'am," he replied. The "ma'am" felt funny coming from him given that he was easily ten or fifteen years my senior.
Mrs. Eloise had a high fever and a urinary tract infection. Her nearly ninety year old body wasn't much of a match for it, either. She'd been brought to the emergency department confused and moaning. This was a huge change from how she'd been described at baseline.
"Does your mother live alone?"
"No, she live with me." I felt my heart leap a little and scolded myself internally for getting off focus. "She fully self sufficient, though. Real, real independent. She just prefer to not be alone, you know? So she been in my house for quite some time."
"I see. Who else is in the home?"
"It's just me and her. My wife passed a few years back and my kids all grown. But all our family all around so everybody be over there all the time. She got a lot of people looking in on her and coming to see about her."
"Yeah. I'm one of eight. And everybody still living 'cept my oldest sister who passed in '13. I'm the only boy, though." Again an internal pirouette for team boy-mamas.
"Did they used to call you 'brother?'"
"You know it. Still do." He took off his weathered cap and tucked it under his arm with the newspaper. Rubbing his balding head, he yawned. "All them girls and just one boy. That sho' is something, ain't it?"
It was clear that he was exhausted. But interestingly he didn't seem the least bit bitter or bothered by it. And for that, I liked him immediately. I sure did.
For several days I watched Mr. Moreland come and go. One day he'd have a fluffy fleece blanket and another day would be a hot water bottle to put under her neck. And right along with him were those sisters and grandchildren and some great-grandchildren, too. All surrounding their Big Mama with the love and attention she needed to get better. They brought in balloons and cards and rubbed her feet with salve. And all of it was awesome. It was.
But let me be clear. That manchild of hers? He was the one in charge. And Brother was anything but "no count" as my elevator companion suggested. He was conscientious, devoted and there. And it was all so natural. I loved every second of it.
On the day that Mother was discharged from the hospital, I was sitting at the nurses' station writing a note. Mr. Moreland walked up and made some small talk then clarified a few disposition concerns. Just as he prepared to step away, I spoke his name. "Mr. Moreland?"
He turned around with the discharge folder in his hand and raised his eyebrows. "Ma'am?" He never stopped calling me that.
"Can I ask you something? Or rather tell you and ask you something?" He stepped back over to the counter and positioned himself to let me know I had his full attention. And so. I went ahead and told him what was on my mind. I shared with him what that lady said to me ten years before and how seeing him with his mother had given me hope. Then I asked, "What did your mother do? I need to know her secret." I chuckled when I said it although I was only partially joking.
Mr. Moreland narrowed his eyes and sighed. "Oh now it take a village, that's for sure. But my mama loved hard on all of us. Every last one. And I was just the one in the position to move her in with me, you know? I feel sure my sisters woulda done the same. But I had more room and mama got on well with my wife. I guess I ain't never thought about it as strange."
"That lady said I needed a daughter because boys grow up to be no count when it comes to seeing about their elders."
He laughed out loud at that. "I think folk that's no count when it come to their kinfolk is no count everywhere. You ain't got to wait 'til somebody grow old to see that."
"I say just love 'em. Sacrifice for 'em and show them they matter to you. Like they ain't never no afterthought. When they grow up? It won't even call for no arm twisting. It'll just feel like what they 'posed to do. Like it's in order. You mark my words."
"I hope you're right. Because I'm too old to have a daughter now."
"Daughters can be no count, too."
We both laughed. "I loved watching you love on your mama." I felt my eyes starting to sting a little and rolled them skyward. "Ugh. I'm such a mush ball."
Mr. Moreland grinned wide showing the metal dental work along the sides of his back teeth. His face washed over with warmth. "Something tell me those boys of yours gon' be just fine. Don't you worry."
"I'm a son. And I know what it look like when a mama got love in her eyes."
After that, he tipped his cap, turned around and headed back to his mother's room to retrieve the bouquets of flowers, cards and clusters of mylar balloons. I'm super glad he did, too, because I was on the tippy-tip edge of crying. One or two even slid out.
I hope to grow old with Harry and need only love from my children someday. I want them to have full lives of their own. It is also my wish to forge meaningful adult relationships with them and the people with whom they partner. And now, after listening to and watching Mr. Moreland, I recognize that it isn't so much that I want them to move me in with them or deny others for me. I think it's more that I want them to evolve into the kind of empathic human beings that nurture out of love instead of burdensome obligation. And no. Not just toward aging me. But to people in general.
Something in my heart tells me that they will.
I'm a mother of boys. And you know? I'm cool with that.
Now playing on my mental iPod. . . . .
*Names and details changed to protect anonymity. You know the deal.
He was estranged from his family. No one could fully put their finger on just why that was but all of the notes in the chart underscored that fact. Even though I knew he'd been living in shelters, I wanted to hear it from him. "Where do you live?" I asked. He didn't answer.
Wait. I take that back.
He mumbled something that I couldn't understand. His eyes were at half mast when he spoke but then slowly drifted downward afterward leaving a teeny slit of the muddy whites of his eyes. And that? That was how most conversations with him went. Questions answered in shaky, garbled replies that slipped out of his mouth, rolled onto the floor and under the bed out of grasp.
According to the chart, he'd never been here. Well, unless you count the one fleeting visit he had to the ER triage some seven years back, he hadn't. And that made it just that much more difficult. His medical history gave us no point of reference upon which to reflect. No elaborate note from an earnest intern or dutiful social worker explaining all that had gone awry in his life and some glimmer of a clue about his mind or his world. Nope. There was none of that.
None at all.
And perhaps this wouldn't be such huge deal if he wasn't so sick. Not just sick. But sick-sick in that way that conveys an imminent demise unless some act of God occurs. The kind that calls for family members sitting around tables with long faces and troubled glances while doctors clear their throats and try their hardest to use only empathic body language. But, see, that wasn't happening in his case. Because there was no family to call.
None. As in, not one person who could step in and help navigate all of this awful while at his side. No worried soul wringing their hands or scowling suspiciously in my direction. And especially, there wasn't any person to step in and speak up for him should his mind not allow full decision making capacity.
By the time I came along, that's what was happening. His indiscernible speech sounded nonsensical during most interactions and had been deemed a lack of competence to make his own medical decisions. Which basically left us with tied hands since there was no one. No one at all.
Our social worker data mined and found a phone number for a granddaughter. After speaking to her once or twice, it became clear that she wouldn't be the go-to person. The follow up calls went straight to voice mail.
And so. It went very predictably day after day. Him sick-sick and muttering inaudible replies to our questions and us chasing our tails trying to figure out what to do. The overall prognosis progressively dismal, without any clear evidence of meaningful recovery anywhere in sight. So, really, death with dignity appeared to be the best option. At this point, that could be achieved only through a decision to do nothing heroic. But that? That calls for a shot-caller. A person who not only knows and loves the patient well enough to know their wishes. But especially who's also willing to step in as an advocate to assure the patient the gets the treatment they'd want. Or, in this case, doesn't get the treatment that they wouldn't want. He didn't have that, though.
So what it meant was a full court press. Doing it all even if it was mostly futile.
And wait. Let me be clear. No, I don't fancy myself the angel of death. I do think miracles can happen. That said, since I am a believer of said miracles, I know that they don't follow rhyme nor reason and happen regardless of what we do. Otherwise it's not as much a miracle as it is an intervention, you know?
So yeah, that's my thoughts on that.
Anyways. The point of this is really what happened the last time I saw the patient on rounds. We came in and it was that same thing as always. But at the very, very end of the encounter, something happened. He said something that struck a cord and gave me pause. "I'm all out of tears today." It was still gargly but this time, it was enough for me to understand.
"Wait. What did you say?" And he repeated it. This time it was unmistakeable. I rested my arm on the rail of the bed and spoke again, this time more softly. "This is a lot, I know." And when I said that he nodded, a tear trickling from his eye and rolling under his chin.
I paused to see if he'd say more but he didn't. "Sir? I am going to come back to talk to you some more, okay?" He grumbled an affirmative response.
We stepped out in the hall together. The interns and the med student studied my puzzled face. One finally bit and asked me what was on my mind.
"That last statement," I said. "It was abstract."
"What do you mean?" a student asked.
"I think he gets it. He knows what is going on. Like he's decisional."
One intern squinted an eye. "You think?"
"I do think."
And that was all I said.
We finished up our rounds and I returned to him as promised. This time, I pulled up a chair and sat as close to him as I could so I wouldn't miss a single word. "Hey there."
He looked both surprised and happy that I'd actually returned. He smiled, bony cheeks rising high on his face and lips so dry that they cracked a tiny tear revealing glistening drops of blood when he did.
"I came back to talk to you some more."
A string of sounds came out in response. I asked him to repeat what he'd just said and recognized it to be, "'preciate you for that." And so. I dug down deep to pull out all the patience I could to hold what I hoped could be a meaningful conversation with this man. A discussion that everyone said he was incapable of managing. Trusting my gut, trying to see if this hunch I'd had earlier that he was still in there might be true.
So we talked. Or rather, I asked questions and he mumbled responses. But this time I was listening more carefully and asking for instant replays on the pieces I didn't get. Eventually, he said something that couldn't be confused for anything else:
"M-m-m-my body sick. Y-y-you c-c-can't find nobody 'cause-cause-cause I bes to myself. B-b-but I'on't n-n-need nobody calling my shots. I-I-I can c-c-call'em my own self."
I asked to hear that again just make sure. And he said the exact same thing again. He sure did.
Was he a quirky man? Sure. And had his life taken the rocky terrain of never-stable housing and disconnection from family? Definitely. But that didn't mean he couldn't understand his health problems for himself and have his own say. No, it did not.
The chart had note after note that said he had no capacity to make decisions. Over and over again that's what was written. By important people with lots of knowledge in this area. And honestly, I could see how that happened to some degree. But now I knew otherwise. He was decisional. And yes, reversing all that had been said and determined about him would likely be super difficult and a huge headache.
First, I documented our conversation. Then I started dredging through what I knew would be a painstaking process with a lot of push back. Except something happened. It wasn't hard, actually. I called my psychiatry colleagues and the social workers and the physician who saw him before me and told them what he'd told me. And all of those people were happy, not prideful or resistant. Happy that this man would be able to call his own shots--for his own self.
He was discharged the very next day to the hospice care center that he chose himself. And it was seamless and free of any road blocks. He was smiling on his way out, this time without the cracked lips since somebody had slathered them down with petroleum jelly.
I learned a simple lesson and had another reinforced. The first was that I shouldn't assume things will be difficult. I mean, it's good to be aware and pragmatic, but I'm talking about dreading something to the point of thinking it's not worth the fight. A lot of times, it isn't as impossible as it looks. I think I'll fight harder for patients given that insight recognizing that I am not the only person who wants the patient to win.
And last is one I've always known but can always stand to think about again: Listen and decide for yourself. Clinical inertia is a mighty, mighty thing. You hear things and are told things that are life changing for patients. I was reminded to not let the exhaustion of a busy service of patients make me pull back and not look and listen with my own eyes and ears.
I hope if I'm ever in a situation where I'm up in age and very sick-sick but deep down inside can make my own decisions about my health that someone listens to me. I hope someone somewhere fights for me to call shots for my own self. I really do. And you know what else? If my lips get chapped, I hope they rub a little Vaseline on me, too.
I do not mind seeing you in hair salons or in chic shopping malls. Laughing louder than the rest with exaggerated hand gestures and a language all your own. Occasionally addressing your closest friends by the word used to describe a female dog even though they are neither female or canine. Hips swinging just a little more than usual, eyebrows telling the world that you don't conform to any gender. Or you do but you want to define what that looks like. No. I don't mind that at all.
I do mind that this--even if it is authentically you--gets amplified into this larger-than-life caricature that elbows all of the other facets of those like you to the shadows. That I do mind.
When I was sixteen, I lived in Inglewood, California. I was what rapper L.L. Cool J would have referred to as an "around the way" girl with two pairs of bamboo earrings in my ears, easy subject verb disagreement, and neck rolling to get my point across often times than not. I remember standing behind the counter at my job as a cashier at Foot Locker in the now extinct Hawthorne Mall chewing a gigantic wad of Hubba Bubba, poking the register with my elaborately decorated acrylic nails and greeting each customer with the same three words: "How you doing?"
No. Not "how ARE you doing" or "how're you doing" but exactly what I just said. And this wasn't because I was trying to be something or create some version of me. This was just who I was at that time. And that was fine.
But I was also a lot of other things. And so were my friends. Some were nothing like me, voices with the singsongy twang of the Valley due to their lives on opposite sides of town. Others were far more unabashedly urban than me, the varsity cheerleader Foot Locker cashier, and that was cool, too. My best friend was studious, outgoing and neither of these things. And all of us represented what young, coming-of-age black girls looked like.
So I found myself reflecting on this after going to see a movie the other day. This independent film that had gotten a lot of critical acclaim but that, for the most part, has ridden slightly below the radar of the mainstream. A friend had seen it and loved it and thought I would, too. I had a few hours off on Monday, so we met up to see it together. Even though we saw a daytime matinee, this movie "Moonlight" left my soul mixed with the same melancholy one feels when standing under a gleaming full moon.
And let me be clear: There was so, so much to take in from this movie. But I guess the thing that keeps floating to the surface of my thoughts is how beautifully you were portrayed.
No one was snapping in a Z formation. Not one individual called another friend "bitch" in jest or pronounced the word "yes" with a soft A followed by a loud cackle. And no, there is nothing wrong with that, you know? I mean, if that is you. But this movie, this sublime piece of work, put the other pieces of the dream that makes up who you are on a gigantic screen for all to see. For me to see.
And seeing stuff makes you less afraid and confused, you know? Yes. That.
The friend I saw the movie with is like you. A same-gender loving black man with thoughts and feelings and a life time of experiences that has shaped him into who he is. And seeing it with him, perhaps, made my breath hitch even more. I realized that I thought I saw him for all these years. But I hadn't fully. And am still working to see him.
This? This movie helped me with that. It showed the complexities of growing up in a world that isn't always filled with love. Navigating a shitty environment while also struggling to find and own who you are. And no. It wasn't a "gay movie." It wasn't. It was an exquisite portrayal of a sliver of life. A piece that has been there all along but that we don't get to see. Even those of us that call ourselves looking hard with eyes wide open.
My Wet 'n' Wild .99 cent lipstick, door-knocker earrings and biker shorts probably did fit some cartoonish idea of the 1980's black girl back then. Spike Lee put us on mainstream screens with all of that, just like (some of us) were in real life and that felt good. But right next to lolly pop licking neighborhood girls were the Ruby Dees and the other grown ass black women splashed upon those movie screens. All the different versions of us. We were also on small screens as Claire Huxtable or collegiates like Lisa Bonet and her friends on "A Different World." Not only did we get to see them, so did the world.
So did the world.
At first, I was sort of speechless when "Moonlight" ended. My soul was stirring but I didn't know how to feel. I walked to the restroom afterward and came out still drying my hands on a paper towel. My friend David M. was standing there chatting with the movie theater manager, Chuckie, who also happened to be a same-gender loving black man. I smiled at them both.
"Well? What did you think of the movie?" Chuckie asked.
I parted my lips to speak and suddenly felt like I'd been punched in my chest. My eyes welled up with tears and I started full on crying. Hard. It was actually rather embarrassing.
"Why are you crying, hon?" Chuckie's tone was gentle. He really wanted to know. All I could do was shrug.
David knows me so just sort of watched and waited. I then saw a tear trickle down his cheek but never asked why it was there. I tried to express myself but knew I wasn't making much sense. I just knew that my heart was feeling overwhelmed with emotion and . . I don't know. . .awareness, maybe? I don't know.
But not because it was a "gay movie" and that I'm so damn renaissance that now--oh yes, NOW--I'm all open-minded and down with the cause. Because that would reduce this to something akin to someone staring on the outside looking through the glass of a piece of art in the Louvre. Looking and staring but not touching or being a part of the painting.
See, David and Chuckie are just two people. Two very different people. And just like the protagonist, Chiron, in the movie "Moonlight" was one person, like them he had a story--his own story--and feelings, too. And not just like them--like me, too.
Sigh. I bet none of this is making sense. But what I am trying to unpack here is that Barry Jenkins, the man who brought this to the screen, unfolded an aspect of life that doesn't get shown like this. Joy, pain, sunshine and rain--the same kind we all feel and try hard as hell to sort out when we are young and confused about any and everything. And beautifully turns a mirror on all of us, you know?
I think that's what made me cry. It dawned on me that we all want the same things--as children and as adults. To matter and to be cherished. That looks different ways to different people. But it is as necessary as air and water. Regardless of who you are.
Seeing that movie in a bona fide theater was a step in the direction of cherishing the narrative that so many live. More than the wise-cracking hair stylist talking shit with the marcel curling irons in his hand or the kid strutting down the street to jeers at a parade.
Kind of like how on "A Different World" I could identify with spunky Jada Pinkett's braid-wearing, lip-curling, shit-talking character right along with all of those cocoa-complexioned college girls on the same show trying to navigate young adulthood. I was all of them. And sometimes none of them. But it gave me value to see them all. But little did others know that it helped them to value me, too. Because it helped those other people to not be afraid of me and my essence when coming into my presence. Or feel disappointed or confused when I don't fit the singular idea of what the media portrays me to be.
And see, that's what this movie did so bravely and beautifully. For me, that's what it did.
Does this make sense? I hope so.
And so. Today, I'm still basking in the afterglow of seeing "Moonlight." And today, I am reflecting on just this one teeny-tiny aspect of the many, many things I've been left to think about after seeing it.
Here's what I know for sure: I am better for seeing it. Because seeing it helped me see more of myself. Which ultimately helps me see more of you.
Happy Hump Day. And thanks, David, for trusting me to see it with you.
Now playing on my mental iPod. . .this was me. . .but not all of me. Then or now.
I only have to miss her. No, my heart doesn't compete with feelings of inadequacy or the "if I coulda-woulda-shouldas" that plague many people after a loved one has been snatched like a thief in the night. Me and my sister Deanna? We were good. I only have to miss her.
But missing her is no small thing. Like, everything beautiful and funny and of good report, I want to tell her. Not just the pivotal days and moments. The smallest, most inconsequential things are where I ache for her the most. I want to text her and ask if she saw Michelle Obama's hair with the new weave tracks or binge watch an entire season of Orange is the New Black while talking shit with her. (Crazy Eyes would have been her favorite for sure.) I want to get on my hands and knees and paint posters for youth football games with her and listen to her reaction when we found out that Idris Elba smokes cigarettes. Was Beyonce's last album #teamtoomuch or would Deanna have been in formation? Was the Breaking Bad series sublime or way too dark and creepy instead? I want to know her input on my next idea for a Jack and Jill fundraiser or get her reaction to something I've written to publish. She's the person I want to show my teaching awards to first and the one I want to text a funny selfie after a really, really sweet elder talked my head off in the hospital. It's that stuff. It's the most ordinary things that are the hardest, you know?
But the blessing is that I only have to miss her. I never saw her suffer nor do I have some apology left dangling in a word bubble out of reach forever. There were no stinging misunderstandings or lumps under the covers of our relationship. We were close. So close that many times I just close my eyes and have all of those aforementioned exchanges with her. In my own heart and head, I do. I hear her saying that "Smoking don't got nothing do do with how fine Idris is" or "Michelle Obama is one bad bee-eye-tee-cee-aytch." or "Lemonade is like Eve's Bayou or the Blair Witch Project put to music. Scary, creepy, confusing and probably the result of some mood altering substance."
Yeah. Today marks the 4th year since I lost my big sister. And I will say it, tell it, and share it until the day I die: My sister was like the sun. A force, a light and capable of igniting any space she entered. And especially . . . . I want people to know that she was fucking awesome, man. So fucking awesome. And when you have a fucking awesome ball of fire in your world one day and not the next, it can be hard sometimes. It can.
But it's okay. Because we were good. Solid as a rock, man.
Yeah. So today sucks. Mostly because it punctuates what happened. Not because I feel lost or conflicted or disconnected from her essence. Because me? I only have to miss her. And I don't need November 15 to remind me of that. I do that I do every single moment of every single day.
There is this whole session we do with the medical students about navigating those sticky moments as doctors. Like, where somebody calls you up and asks you for random antibiotics or to look at the rash on the back of their leg while you're trying to chill during a jazz festival in the park. It involves these role plays on how to shut all that down and, if I recall correctly, this part where you just sort of sit around and talk about it.
"What will you do when the homie asks for some blood pressure pills refills?"
"What's the right answer to the old man at you car wash asking you to hook him up with some of them Viagras?"
So yeah. We talk to them about all of that stuff. And, for the most part, it's fine.
But here's the thing--the older I get as a doctor, the more I'm realizing how great of a privilege it is to be next to the next-of-kin. That is, the person who helps a friend or their family navigate scary, lumpy times. I got to do that twice this week. And let me tell you--it did as much for me as it did them.
Now. I will come right on out and make a confession counter to that last statement: It feels good when I have a very personal connection to the patient or the loved one of the patient. Like, the mother of my sorority sister from my pledge line in college? I want to be the one you call. I want to be next to the next-of-kin.
Your next door neighbor's daughter's boyfriend? I do care. I do. But no. I'd prefer not to be the go to on that one. You? Your mom? That is, if we have a relationship? Yes. Which kind of sucks since by nature as doctors we are supposed to be selfless servants of humankind, you know?
Anyways. I told those students, just listen to your spirit and what feels right. You cannot be the doctor in the family for everyone but it's good to be the doctor in the family for more than just the ones related to you by blood. It's up to you to measure out what that is.
Although the antibiotics and the random Viagras are pretty much a no regardless of our blood relationship.
I guess these last few days has me reflecting on how so many aspects of being a doctor can't be taught in a classroom or even on the ward. You have to live it, man. You do.
So tomorrow? I will round on my hospital patients. Then I will round on the couple of people that are on my next to the next-of-kin list. And it is all on my terms and it all feels right. Very right. Nope, I'm not calling doctor shots. Just being there and answering questions. Holding hands and helping making sense out of stuff. And I love it because every time I do that, some piece of me feels like this piece of being a doctor was one of the most important parts of me becoming one at all.
On the day after the election, it seemed like the whole hospital had this cloud over it. People were walking around doing their jobs, yes. But kind of like they were in some sort of a melancholy fog. If you slowed down long enough, you'd hear the hushed whispers trying to make sense of it all.
"I still can't believe it." "Me neither."
Then, eyes would flit from side to side and next came that split second decision to avoid a discussion of politics in the hospital. I am sensing that there are a lot of liberal people working in a safety net hospital. So even without the conversation, there were the eyes. Those somber glances pleading with one another for some sign that this is all some very bad dream.
The elevator was the worst place of all. Deafening silence that kept me feeling on the tippy-tip edge of tears for the whole ride. People of all hues, some not speaking a word of English but all in this quiet place of uncertainty. And no, it wasn't so much a "who you voted for" thing but just this scary unknown that no one really saw coming.
So I went into that day and felt the heavy of it. Pressing on my shoulder blades and sucking up all of the extra air in the hospital. My team was admitting new patients that morning. It was what it was. Amidst the suffocating feelings of grief and disappointment, the show had to go on.
And so. I saw the first couple of patients with the team and it was cool. Straightforward issues with clear, identifiable solutions. So we talked about those things and laid out a plan and answered the questions that our patients had. We did.
But then I saw him.
He was youngish. And by youngish I mean close to my age which is too young to be navigating the end of life. Here because of the stuff related to all of that. There weren't solutions. Identifiable or otherwise.
And he was this complicated cross between really, really mad and really, really sad. Have you ever seen someone in that place? Like that exact place? Well. I have. And I know it when I see it. It comes out as stinging sarcasm with inappropriate laughter and unfiltered profanity. The kind designed to make everyone in the space uncomfortable but, because of the mad-sad interface, not the concern of the person navigating it. And rightfully so.
So what I've learned to do is just wait. Stand and listen and wait. Acknowledge the mad-sad interface for what it is and not get up in my own feelings, you know? Especially since I, too, was somewhere in that mad-sad interface except I didn't have the luxury of acting on it. See, on a day like the day after this last election? That was a day where it was easy to get impulsively emotional and defensive. So I recognized that and keep my mouth sealed during the mad-sad parts because that's what I signed up for. And my patient? Well, he didn't sign up for anything.
"Tell me what I can do to support you today," I asked.
"You can take this fucked up hand I just got dealt and sprinkle some fairy dust on that shit. Or find me a rainbow with a pot of gold so I can go chill in somebody's VIP section." He laughed.
The team shifted nervously. And me, I just stood there with my eyes trained on his.
"Are you in pain?" I asked. Then I paused for a second and revised that question. "Are you in physical pain that I can help with?"
He seemed to like that question. It's like some kind of glass broke giving me access to the lever of some more authentic piece of him. Eyes squinted, he studied my face for a moment and then replied. "I am in pain. And yeah, Miss Manning. That would be good if you helped me with that."
"How are you doing today?"
"Me?" I pointed at my chest.
"Yeah. You. You look sad and somber like all the folks 'round here. Slow singing and flower bringing and shit. That election really fucked y'all up, huh?" Again, that laugh. Followed by the collective team squirm.
"Well. If I must be honest, I did feel down when I came in today. But something about coming to the hospital and especially meeting you puts some things in perspective, you know?"
"Yeah. Like, 'We don't get to have a lady president but at least I'm not dying a fucked up and painful death like this dude in front of me.'" He turned on his side and propped himself up on an elbow and chuckled to himself. This part was one of the only pieces of control he had remaining. I allowed it.
"I hate seeing what you are going through. And yes, you're right. This is messed up. Far more messed up than the election part. We are the same age pretty much."
"Is that right?"
Something about how he said that made me feel immediately embarrassed and self important. My face started burning and I hoped it wasn't outwardly apparent. I did my best to steel myself. "Yes, sir."
We kept looking at each other for a few more seconds. Him on that elbow and me with my feigned resolve. I went on. "I am going to work on better controlling your physical pain. I am going to listen to you and be honest with you. Whatever I'm saying outside of your room will be what we talk about inside your room. And though I can't take this away, I am going to do my best with my team to not make it worse."
"I'd like that."
We wrapped things up and headed out of the room. I sent the team off to conference and prepared to go. Then I realized that I'd left my ink pen next to the sink and stepped back inside. "Forgot something, sir. Sorry to bother you again."
"It's cool, Miss Manning."
"Alright then, sir." I pushed the door handle preparing to leave.
"Hey, Miss Manning?"
I paused. "Sir?"
"I like you, man."
For the first time, I laughed, too. "I like you, too."
"You honest. I like that."
I shrugged in response.
"Tell me this. . . . you feel sorry for me, don't you?"
I sifted through my brain for a meaningful reply but decided that anything that seemed scripted or too P.C. would frustrate him again.
"I feel sorry for both of us. Sorry for you having to go through this and sorry for me that the world doesn't get the full you because of this disease. But yeah. My heart does feel sorry specifically for you. I'd be lying if I said anything other than that."
He sat up in the bed and smiled at me. This time genuine and not remotely sarcastic. "I feel sorry for me, too."
I stepped away from the door and reached back to shake his hand. It was pretty much all I had left short of crying. "I'll see you a little later, okay?"
"Okay. And thanks for not being scared."
Still shaking his hand, I responded, "Who says I'm not scared as hell?"
He nodded, released my hand and pointed. Then he snapped his finger. "Well, thanks for not hiding."
I pressed my lips together and sighed. Raising one hand, I stepped outside of the door.
Then I went to the nearest bathroom, locked the door and cried and cried.
Warning: Random ramble ahead. Proceed at your own risk.
There was this meme that I saw on social media about Secretary Hillary Clinton. It was shortly after she'd clenched the democratic nod and gave her acceptance speech at the DNC. This person had changed her profile picture to the infamous "H" with the arrow and underneath it said these words:
"Girl, I guess I'm with Her."
I have to be honest and say it made me laugh out loud. And while I can't say that meme spoke to exactly how I felt personally, I'd be dishonest if I didn't say that some piece of that statement didn't resonate with me just a tiny bit.
And let me be clear: I was never really not on board. Like, I had been following Hillary Clinton for some time and was fully aware of her tremendous track record. Her commitment to the "least of these" didn't just pop up out of the blue. This woman has been a champion for others her entire adult life. All it takes is just a few moments of looking over her history and you have to admit it to yourself right away that, when it comes to her resume, Hillary Clinton is one dope lady.
Dope, in the urban vernacular, is one of the highest compliments one can give. It suggests more than just "cool" or "really good." It suggests that someone is. . .well. . .the ideal. Yeah. That.
So yeah. As far as doing stuff and showing up is concerned, Secretary Clinton is pretty dope. But still. Regardless of that fact, there was something that held some people back from seeing her as universally dope.
Does this even make sense? Let me try to unpack it.
Okay, so check it. When Barack Obama stepped up on the DNC as a senator in 2004, I felt my heart racing. His voice, his swagger, his intelligence, his essence grabbed me by the chest and pulled me in close. And maybe I was late to it all, but honestly, this was the first time I'd really heard of him.
Yep. I admit it.
But after that, I started following him. I read about him, learned about him and joined the legions of folks who hoped this man would run for President. Yup. And damn, was I among the over-the-moon elated who jumped for joy when he said that indeed he would.
Being with him was a no brainer. Not only did I like his policies and plans for our future (and I respect that some reading this did not) the thing I recall the most was liking him. He was cool. His infectious smile made me do the same. He was this biracial man who identified with black culture and navigated it so smoothly that it welcomed others in instead of making them feel like outsiders. And all of it was amazing.
Universally dope, even.
I had an Obama sign on my lawn. I canvassed parts of Atlanta and made some phone calls. I genuinely cried big, fat crocodile tears when I couldn't go with my friends to Washington D.C. for the first Inauguration and cried through the entire swearing in. That was a magical time. We didn't need a sign to tell us that this symbolized hope. We felt it.
And listen--this is not a post designed to polarize. Like, I am aware that some of my friends who read this blog felt true sorrow during this time that stands out as a special piece of my life history. I respect that, too. I do. But really, I'm just trying to understand my emotions about the recent election process and the outcome. Reflecting on the last candidate I supported is a part of that.
I hope that makes sense.
Anyways. So even though I knew for sure that Secretary Clinton was highly qualified, every time she stood up to speak, I felt nondescript. And no. It wasn't like this overwhelming sense of distrust, which does happen sometimes with people I see or encounter. But more just this mourning I felt and longing for the connectivity my heart immediately felt for Barack Obama.
The first time I cast a vote in a presidential election, I was 18 years old. It was an absentee vote for Bill Clinton and I sent that form in with glee. He, too, left me giddy. And at 18, seeing a presidential candidate playing a saxophone on a late night talk show?
I was older when I voted for John Kerry. I honestly liked him, too. It felt good to get behind him. It did. And no. It wasn't Barack Obama good. But good. Big and pregnant, I pushed the button with his name on it. Sure did.
Bernie made me smile a lot. His curmudgeonly passion ignited a lot in me and especially in my husband. And, okay, pound for pound I'd say that as far as the "like" button goes, I found him more likable. Yeah, yeah, I'll admit it. I "felt the Bern." But not in this overwhelming way like I'd felt in 2004 and 2008. So I was sort of left with this in between feeling. Like, "I sure appreciate y'all putting your hat in the circle and riding hard for folks like me and my patients." But that was about it.
So as things reached a fever pitch and Secretary Clinton's campaign rolled forward, I did my duty as a card carrying democrat. I gave money and spoke positively. And though I did feel annoyed by the whole email scandal thing and how distracting it became, I got on board with the pantsuit nation. But as I look back, I think I did it in that way you do something you're supposed to do, you know? Like a middle school kid who washes dishes without being asked.
Awful analogy, I know.
But the thing is, that's why that meme is in my head right now. The "I guess I'm with her" sentiment oozed out of the world of Instagram and Facebook and made its way into hearts and minds. This seething indifference brewed in the very people who metaphorically marched on Washington to get Barack Obama elected not once, but twice. And it was unfortunate.
I was with her. But I realize now that it wasn't in the way that I was with him. Even though I wanted to be.
Does this even remotely make sense? Sigh. I don't know.
So I guess beyond the stunned feeling, I'm conflicted. I'm not so sure I or even we left it all on the field this time. The lukewarm emotion that some of us felt was probably telling. And the fact that a meme that said "I guess I'm with her" going viral might have been a sign.
Maybe. Maybe not.
Here's what I know for sure. It's not enough to galvanize people to vote against someone. The masses need to feel driven to vote for the party's endorsed candidate. And though qualifications matter, it seems like liking the person matters, too. Not just from the popular vote standpoint but obviously all the way up to the level of the electoral college. I don't know the answer to making all of that happen. I don't.
To those who were truly, deeply with Hillary Clinton from the very start and to the very end, I apologize for letting you down. I eventually got on board but today wish I'd gotten on with all of my heart like I did in 2004. And while I did vote and give to the campaign, I guess I'm just realizing that this isn't enough. It just isn't.
So what happened has happened. It did and it has.
And I get it that someone will find this offensive. Like it's indicative of some self hate I have for myself as a woman or the idea of a woman as Commander in Chief. But I think a lot and in my heart of hearts, I don't think it was the woman thing. I don't. I guess I'm just thinking that it was this absence of universal dopeness thing that created a gigantic "meh" for the people who needed to be more plugged in.
See, when folks like us elect the people we want? It takes moving a few people out of the woodworks. And some part of that is strictly by qualifications. But another part is overcoming the "meh" with a feeling of deep connection.
There was a video I saw the day before the election. It was the first time I saw Hillary Clinton as universally dope. I wish I'd seen it before and felt what I felt when watching that video before Election Day eve. I really, really do. Because today I'm feeling a new kind of burn.
And something tells me I'm not alone.
Couldn't figure out how to embed this really dope video. But here's the link.
"Do you hear me? Do you feel me? We gon' be alright."
- Kendrick Lamar
Shed your tears and then dry them. Talk to your children, then pull them close to you so that they will feel less afraid. Then go out into this day knowing we are still stronger together. Use your anger and power for good. Pick your words with care--especially if you are a leader or have influence. Someone somewhere wants you to act out, be foolish.
No narcissist who thinks its cool to grab me by my private parts or any administration working to make me and others disappear is going to take away my own value or make me shrink. Nor will I allow the people who cosigned it do the same to me. So my head is up so I can see, dammit. And what I see is all of you and what I know is that the underrepresented and disenfranchised people of this country have prevailed through far, far worse.
We gon' be alright.
Happy Day After.
Now playing on my mental iPod. . . thanks for a perfect soundtrack today Kendrick Lamar.
I was walking into Grady this morning and ran into this man who appeared to be unstably housed. His clothes were somewhat soiled and his coarse hair was kind of matted. The dank odor from his body greeted me long before he did.
"Hey there, sir," I said as I passed him. Not particularly small talky. Just polite, you know?
"Good morning, miss lady." He pointed at the sticker on my chest and nodded hard. "I see you voted. Good job."
And you know? You'd think that this very light teaser statement wouldn't have been the least bit perplexing. I mean, this whole week has been filled with people and their ultra proud lapel/chest swag followed by their obligatory post vote sticker selfies on social media. I can't even count how many thumbs ups and fist bumps I gave to the residents, students and nurses I saw who'd voted--and could prove it via that coveted sticker.
But this? This was different. It was nine something in the morning and we were outside in front of the hospital. It didn't take a Phi Beta Kappa to realize that this guy hadn't just slipped from out of his house or just pulled up in a late model car and had just fed the meter.
So I wondered. Like, is it even appropriate to say back to him what I say to everyone? I decided to stop overthinking it.
"Did you already vote?"
He pointed at his chest. "Who me?"
I stopped walking and faced him. "Yeah. You."
He curled his mouth and sucked in a deep breath. "Naw, man. I wasn't able to vote."
And yeah. I could tell that his life was mad complicated and that nothing at all was simple for him right about now. I mean, it was clear that things like where exactly will I sleep or what exactly will I eat were being given priority over getting to the polls on this day. But here's the thing--he seemed genuinely bothered when he said that. He did.
"You said you couldn't vote? Why not?" I queried. I asked because I was curious, actually. Like, was it that he was registered but needed a way to the poll? Or was it that he had no idea what site his assigned one? Or something altogether different? I mean, maybe it was something I could help find a solution to fix.
"Oh, so I'm homeless and I don't have no identification. To be honest, I did for real try to get registered one day when they was out here registering folks in front of Grady over the summer. I ain't have no license or no ID card and I don't have no address. So yeah. It was messed up."
"Awww man. Seems like there should have been something they could have done."
"Well they tried, you know what I'm saying? Like, the lady who was there she was going hard with me and trying to help. Pulled out her phone and called a whole slew of folks. She was determined! But we hit the wall when I start trying to figure out how to get some ID. You got to have a birth certificate and I don't have no way to get one."
"Are you a Grady baby?"
"Naww. I wish. This would be easy if I was born at Grady. But I'm not from Atlanta. I'm from the country. And, my peoples, they not alive no more or they in a place where I can't get they help. So I couldn't get no ID and I couldn't get registered. They was gonna let me use a shelter address so it wasn't that. But you got to have some way for them to know you who you say you is."
"Damn." That's what I said. And I was just kind of looking at him with one eye squinted like maybe some super, duper ah hah moment would fly down from the heavens and suddenly create a solution to let this man vote on this day in this election. "I'm real sorry to hear all that."
"Yeah. Me, too. I wanted to be able to have some say in all this stuff. 'Specially the judges and stuff. 'Cause like, the president help determine who gonna be the top judges. And from what I see, the president either somebody who give a damn about people that's losing or they don't give no piece of a damn. I want to pick the person who seem like they'd stop and talk to somebody like me."
"I feel you."
"You voted for her or ol' boy?"
I smiled at his reference to the two candidates this way. "Let's see. I voted for the one that would stop and talk to somebody like you."
He laughed when I said that and gave me a thumbs up. "That's what's up."
"I'm gonna try to find out what a person in your situation could do in the future. You should've been able to vote, man. I hate hearing that."
"Yeah. 'Cause it seem like a lot of people that hate us coming right on out with it and they giving the ones who don't care one way or the other about people like me a wave to ride on with 'em. I be having nightmares of it going the wrong way by just one vote and me feeling like it was mine."
I paused and thought about what he said. "Wow. That's kind of deep."
"But true, though."
I bit my cheek and nodded slowly. My team was waiting and I knew I had to get going. I smiled once more and reached out to shake his hand. "Alright then, sir."
"Alright then, miss lady. And thanks for voting."
I picked up my pace and headed to the door. But before I did, I spun around and called out while walking backwards, "Next time, okay?"
The original 1976 Bad News Bears--one of our favorite movies as kids.
"The bad news is that 50 people died in a hotel fire.
The good news is that we got exclusive coverage."
- Jessica Savitch
We were all sitting outside on the brick wall between classes she walked up. Her eyes were dancing, flitting from side to side. She licked her lips and brushed her hair out of the way from her mouth. "Did you guys hear about Dawn?" Her eyebrows went up when she said that part, waiting for our reply. You could tell from the looks on our faces, we didn't know this news. But there was one thing we did know. She was going to tell us.
"She didn't pass the boards, man. Again." Her face fell into this dramatic frown. And honestly, I was so young back then that I didn't recognize that this was a pattern.
We all reacted. "Damn, that sucks," one person said. "Awww, wow. I hate hearing that," another said. And she kind of nodded and took it in. Stirring the pot with a few more tidbits like the fact that she might not graduate at all and that, to make matters worse, her boyfriend was out around town cheating on her while she was already down.
And now, when I look back, I see it. The very edge of her mouth turned up a bit and her voice quickened in exhilaration. Why? I'll tell you. This classmate was one of those people that liked sharing bad news. Like some piece of it almost made her euphoric.
There was this guy I knew in residency who was similar to this. He loved to casually drop bombs in the cafeteria about how someone screwed something up on call or didn't get a job or overslept and got called by the chief residents. Every second of it made him high. So he hit that pipe repeatedly.
Oh yeah. And then in my recent life, there was this person that kept kept kept texting me updates about this really, really, really awful thing that was happening to a mutual friend. Wanting to discuss it over and over again or clarify the shittiest parts in case I'd missed them or tried to see some silver lining. All of it made me anxious. Not to mention like some bolt of lightening would strike my phone every time I texted back some sort of nondescript response like "Whoa" or "OMG that sucks" or "Dang."
So what I realized is that peoples' woes are favorite pastimes for some folks to follow. The crappier the news the better, too. Whether the person intentionally feels giddy telling it on the mountain or not. I call them the "bad news bearers."
I guess I'm thinking of them today because of my last few days at work. Nearly every day, I am charged with pulling up a chair and telling some unfortunate news. Like, I tell people the kind of stuff that will thrust them hard and fast into a new normal that they didn't even know or want to be signed up for.
And see, me? My job is to bust into the room and, in the most empathic way I can, shit on someone's entire existence. You know? I have yet to get used to it. And one thing I can say for sure is that I never enjoy it.
This got me thinking about people who dig hearing of someone's hard time and who love telling someone else about it even more. And let me be clear: It's not like I genuinely believe that people do this on purpose or feel this way intentionally. I guess I just sort of think of it as how they're wired.
Maybe? Maybe not.
I hate being the bearer of bad news. Little bad and big bad, I don't like it. Like, over the weekend I had a patient who was really, really ready to go home. And one of his lab tests was very abnormal and just too abnormal for him to go home and me be able to sleep soundly. I needed to watch him another day.
My team had told him he was leaving. And he thought he was, too. So I go in the room and tell him otherwise. That I'm just too concerned to not watch this value one more day. That I needed him in house to make certain nothing life threatening was brewing. And honestly? This was little bad news. Not big bad news. Like, he had family support and a way to manage. But still. I hated telling him that his body wasn't all the way ready to go and that he had to remain in the hospital.
And then there's the big bad news. Like the person to whom I tried my best to explain the difference between regular chemotherapy and palliative chemotherapy. Me realizing that eventually that puzzled expression would be replaced by something much worse. It sucks to be the person who slams the door on the "what ifs" and hypothetical versions of something. My heart does not feel paradoxically happy or glad that I get to be the one who is doing it.
I feel similarly about real life bad news. I learned of someone who is at the start of a divorce proceeding. It will be a shocking to people to hear it, too. I heard it from that very someone who told me of her situation. "It's not a secret at this point," she said. And her voice was stoic and brave. It was.
Now this? This was some bad news. But my thoughts wandered back to those town cryers who took pleasure in spreading this kind of news followed by feigned concern. Which reminds me--I pretty much left one of my favorite Facebook groups after someone shared all about another person's unfortunate marital issues which garnered all sorts of comments and postulations peppered with those "praying for you" lines that, I guess, serve as the olive branch after a sucker punch.
And listen. I am human so of course I do have some amount of nosiness and mischief in me. I mean, I do like to know what's going on around me to some degree. But. Rehashing and re-rehashing peoples' fucked up situations? It's not fun to me. Especially as I get older. Especially as I get older, man. Because getting older has this way of giving everyone a chance to sit in the bad news hot seat at some point. So, nah. I don't feel delight when I get the scoop about someone being down on their luck. Not even those people that I don't particularly like or who most would say had it coming.
Yeah, I said it. I'm silently rooting for the assholes, too. Ha.
Divorce. Losing a job. Failing a board exam. Infidelity. Getting in trouble with the law. Not being able to get pregnant. These are the sorts of effed up things? I'm happy to let someone else tell the world. They are the things that, short of unpacking in private with my best friend or husband, I try my best leave to someone else.
Because bad news sucks. And I hate being the bad news bearer.
Metastatic cancer. Life altering health concerns. Medications like steroids that will alter your appearance. And, perhaps, an extremity that needs to be amputated to save your life. These are the kinds of things I have no choice but to tell. And so. I do.
And I hate every second of it.
"If you're gonna bring me something, bring me something I can use.
Don't nobody bring me no bad news."
- Evilene, the wicked witch from "The Wiz"
And who knew that they remade The Bad News Bears movie with one of my favorite humans ever Billy Bob Thornton? OMG. So gonna find that on Netflix and chill with it very soon.
And just because Deanna would call it blasphemy to only put the remake clip, here's a clip from the original movie, which was one of our absolute faves as kids. I think Deanna, Will, JoLai and I saw this now less than seven hundred trillion times.
And obvi, I have to include this from our other favorite kid movie The Wiz--"Don't nobody bring me no bad news."
Honestly? I write this blog to share the human aspects of medicine + teaching + work/life balance with others and myself -- and to honor the public hospital and her patients--but never at the expense of patient privacy or dignity.
Thanks for stopping by! :)
"One writes out of one thing only--one's own experience. Everything depends of how relentlessly one forces from this experience the last drop, sweet or bitter, it can possibly give."
~ James Baldwin (1924 - 1987)
"Do it for the story." ~ Antoinette Nguyen, MD, MPH
Details, names, time frames, etc. are always changed to protect anonymity. This may or may not be an amalgamation of true,quasi-true, or completely fictional events. But the lessons? They are always real and never, ever fictional. Got that?