I had spent the whole of the previous night sweating, shuddering, and throwing up. The stomach flu had stricken again. On one hand, I felt like crap. On the other, I remembered Emily Blunt remarking in The Devil Wears Prada: “I’m just one stomach flu away from my goal weight.” And upon thinking this, I immediately felt guilty. Sorry, confident women all over the world, for this moment of weakness.
In the morning, I tried getting out of bed. But my legs wouldn’t even take me to the bathroom across the hall to brush my teeth. I fainted before I got to the door. Unsurprisingly, my mother panicked and called the doctor.
My GP is a strange man. I remember my first visit and how he was being friendly and stern at the same time. His handshake was not just firm, it was relentless. Somehow, it made trusting him easier.
Upon every visit, he would have a long conversation with me about school, friends, my life decisions. Not as an impartial bystander because he would not just offer advice. He would make his advice sound as an order.
If I would come in only to get a note for school, he would get mad because I wasn’t ill enough to stay at home. He could be sympathetic, but he could also be disciplinary and tough. Sometimes I liked him, and sometimes he scared me.
At two PM I woke up because I heard his footsteps on the stairs. I wondered whether he’d get mad because I didn’t look sick enough for a house call, although I couldn’t even stand up. I tried making myself look more pathetic and wondered where that fear of not living up to someone’s expectations had come from. Especially a doctor’s.
“Hello! How are you?” he asked upon coming in. He wasn’t asking it in a patient-doctor way. It was as if he was just paying me a casual visit. He sat down next to me on my bed.
“Well…” I faltered, not knowing what to say. I wasn’t exactly fine, was I?
“Your mom told me you had the stomach flu. Tell me more.” I tried to explain what had happened the night before, how many times I had thrown up etc. and noticed that he had already stopped listening. “Is that your guitar?” he asked, pointing at the acoustic guitar in the corner of my room. I nodded. He didn’t even comment on the symptoms I had described. “That’s a Martin!” he exclaimed. It was an expensive guitar that my dad had bought me, saying that he would rather buy his daughter an expensive guitar than an iPad. I had never asked for an iPad and he was kind of proud of that.
“It is,” I agreed, not really in the mood. I was wishing he would leave because I wanted to go back to sleep.
He jumped up and made his way across the room to the instrument. He reached out to take it but halted. “May I?” I nodded, tired but astonished.
He sat down on my bed again, this time holding the Martin guitar. At that moment, my mom walked in, looking just as shocked as I was. The GP didn’t even look up. He just started playing the chords of what I recognized to be Blackbird by The Beatles. “You have to work this guitar. Your plectrum is too thin for these strings.”
“How do you know all this?” I asked.
“I’m in a band,” he said. “What about you?”
“I’m a singer-songwriter,” I replied, to which my mom said: “Play something, Erika!”, as if I was bursting with energy, and not being nauseated and feverish. Nonetheless, when the GP handed me the guitar, I took it.
He liked the song, said that I had a strong voice. I was at the end of my abilities, hoping the visit would come to its end as soon as possible. Then the doctor finally remembered what he had come for in the first place and said: “About the flu: you should just fast for a couple of days. It will figure itself out,” and then stood up. “I really enjoyed this visit.”
I was left there with the guitar in my bed, while my mother accompanied the GP to the door. That’s when I realized that he was even stranger than I had initially thought him to be.