"Hazel? Care to present?" I called one of the interns when our team entered a hospital room the next morning. She stepped forward with a smile, proud to have been called on. Glancing down at her chart, she proceeded.
"Here we have Avery Weppler. Thirty year old male, hospital day 2. He has a malignant tumor located in his occipital lobe and encroaching on his brain stem..."
As she continued to present, I looked over to the patient lying in his bed. He'd been gazing at me all the while, so when we made eye contact he bared his pearly whites in a friendly smile. I smiled back, holding the tablet with his charts and patient information close to my chest.
His brown eyes fell to my neck then traveled down gradually. I blinked, looking back at my intern.
"Repeat his vital signs for me," I requested as she did just as I ordered.
"His blood pressure is 107 over 70. Heart rate is 66 bpm, and his respiratory rate—"
"Is that bad? Sorry, I'm lost," Avery chuckled.
"It's a bit lower than we'd hope, but looking at the monitor I'd say there's been an improvement since those readings were last taken."
"Do we page cardio, Dr. Larsen?" One intern asked. "It's still low."
"No need. I'll get a neuro consult once we're through with rounds. Hazel, you're on this case with me." I turned to the patient. "We'll be right back Mr. Weppler."
"Please, call me Avery." Another smile. Of course, I had to return it even as he stared at me in shameless adoration.
"Avery," I amended. I moved out of the room and my interns followed me, all eager to learn.
David stared at his notepad, scribbling words onto it almost feverishly. Tears wet my lips and I wiped them with the back of my hand.
"What're you doing?" I asked, a hiccup stealing my voice.
"I'm trying to understand..."
"I'm being honest, David."
He shook his head. "You called him Mr. Weppler, and he told you to call him Avery which is his first name."
"Yes," I affirmed.
Then he stopped writing, gripping the notepad. "You addressed me by my last name when we first spoke. Then I told you to call me David."
I was silent, trying to figure out what that meant. His scribbling picked up again and I ran my fingers through my hair.
"Please, stop writing," I pleaded.
His hand hovered over his notes but he wouldn't look at me.
"I'm not your client. I'm not a patient. I'm your husband. Please, stop writing. I feel like you're trying to... treat me or fix me."
"Yes, you're my husband." He dropped the notepad and pen on the coffee table, standing up. "I need a minute."
I couldn't bear to watch him walk away, so I buried my head in my hands and cried.