Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Stuck in reverse.

When you try your best but you don't succeed
When you get what you want but not what you need
When you feel so tired but you can't sleep
Stuck in reverse

~ Coldplay


"Miss Manning! Miss Manning!"

I looked over my shoulder and saw you coming toward me and waving your hand. I waved back. I figured you were just saying hello so I kept walking toward the hospital.

"Miss Manning! Miss Manning! Wait! Wait! Wait!"

Your feet were shuffling quickly behind me. There was urgency in your voice. Once you reached me you repeated my name, more to catch your breath than get my attention because I'd already stopped to wait.

"Miss Manning," you panted and you reached out to shake my hand.

"Hey there, sir."  I squeezed it tight and covered it with my other hand. "What's up?"

Your eyes were dancing and your face had a film of sweat over it.  Your clothes were unkempt and pasted to you with sweat. There was a nervousness in your disposition that made me worry about you immediately.

"Miss Manning, I'm hungry. I'm hungry. I need some money to get some food."

I was going upstairs to round. But that wasn't the issue.

Something was up with you. Something wasn't right. Your voice was staccato. Your hands were waving and shaking so I could see the burns on your thumbs.  The erratic behavior, the jumpiness, and even the pressure in your walk suggested that something else was up with you.

And you weren't a stranger to me, so this wasn't the same as being presented with this request by someone I didn't know.  I decided to keep it simple in the interest of time.

"I don't have money. Let me speak to a social worker. Let me--"

"Miss Manning! Miss Manning! I'll wait for you to go get some money, okay? Okay? I don't have my medicine either. I need it. I'm sick. I don't feel good. Please."  Your feet kept shuffling. Your eyes bouncing wildly and that film of sweat now coalescing into beads on your brow.

"I won't give you money. You know I won't."

"Miss Manning! No, it's not. . . I mean. . . Listen I promise . . .I promise that I--"

"I don't know what's going on with you. This is making me feel nervous." I registered the security officer standing several feet away from me even though I felt pretty sure that you'd never harm me. But something was up with you that might turn you into a puppet on a string with actions you don't see or want or mean. "Sir? Are you using again?"

"The thing, Miss Manning, is that it's hard. You know it's hard."

"Sir. It makes me sad that you're telling me you want money for food and medicine if that's not what you really are looking for. What happened when you left us?"

I was referring to you leaving the hospital earlier in the month. You shrugged.

So we just stood there staring at each other. I was already late for rounds. It was like standing in front of a giant mountain that needed to be torn down brick by brick. All I was doing was yanking on one, somehow hoping this would cascade the whole thing down.

But deep down I knew. I knew I couldn't fix this in five minutes before rounds. Just like I couldn't fix you in those five days. And we both realize that the only one who can fix you is you.

That made me feel sad. And helpless.

I think you saw that in my eyes.

"It's hard, Miss Manning. Hard to break free." You wiped your face with your hand and shook your head. Then your feet started walking backwards away from me. Like a puppet on a string. "Be blessed, okay? I got to go. I know you care about me, Miss Manning. I do. I'm gon' keep trying to break free. I'm gon' keep trying, okay?'

Keep trying. To break free.

The last thing I saw was you diagonally crossing the street, disjointed like the marionette that you still are.

Still erratic. Still anxious. Still stuck in reverse and not quite ready or able to break free.

Welcome to Tuesday.

Now playing on my mental iPod. . . . . haunting words, haunting lyrics. . . please listen.


  1. Thank YOU for always trying and pulling on those bricks anyway, Dr. Manning... your patience and love and efforts to understand, and to see the good in people, inspire me. Sending warm thoughts to you this Tuesday.

  2. It must be hard. At least he's still trying - or trying to convince himself that he is.

  3. Beside the point, I know. But why does everyone call you Miss Manning rather than Dr. Manning? You deserve the respect.

    1. Lisa -- you know what? It never ever bothers me. Ever. I don't see it as someone being disrespectful actually. I see it as a southern thing partly, but also something that some folks just feel comfortable with. And since I know I'm a physician, no person saying Miss will undo that for me. I know who I am and deep down inside I believe that every person who says that to me does, too. If demanding to be called "Doctor" creates a barrier between me and my patient, then I'd rather live with the "Miss."

      Plus. . I find it rather endearing. Ha ha . :)

  4. Hi Dr. Manning! Thank you for posting your reflections on life at Grady. Today was my first day at Grady as a nutrition intern. I've been reading your blog for the past few months and have really enjoyed getting the scoop on what it's like to be at Grady!


"Tell me something good. . . tell me that you like it, yeah." ~ Chaka Khan

Related Posts with Thumbnails