It's biopsy time again.
Dr. Ridge is tall and gaunt. He eclipses the hall light when he stands in doorways. He trims his white beard to a stubble and, even though he heard the message about making small talk with patients, he doesn't believe really believe it. He is economical with his words, downright parsimonious with gestures. He's come to symbolize for me, the starkness and the beauty of my little encounter with death.
He starts out our meeting with the snotscope. In case you've forgotten, the snotscope is a length of garden hose with an old Ray-O-Vac flashlight attached. He snakes it up my nostril and down my throat for the eighth or tenth or twentieth time since I've known him. The sense of being invaded by the housewares and garden section at Lowe's is both undiminished and every bit as pleasant as it always was.
"Say 'E'." he says
"Say 'I have no fucking dignity, I'm a series of tubes'."
Okay, maybe he didn't say that last one, maybe he just signed it.
"Don't bite me." he says again as he pushes my tongue around with a shoehorn.
"Breathe through your nose." he tells me as I gag.
The site of the cancer looks pretty good he says.
We're getting along really well here and the nurse hands him a syringe with needle. The growth in my mouth, he says, probably hasn't sprouted much in the way of nerves just yet, but this may burn a little. A small pinch is more like it, kind of like finding a piece of shell in the middle of your crab cake. A few seconds later, he's used a little snipper to remove a pinhead's worth of white tissue and we're done.
The results will be back in a week, he says. No, wait. Not a week, I'll be away, twelve days.
Well, can someone call me?
"I like to look in a patient's eyes when I'm giving them results so that I know they understand the significance of the results."
And what, praytell gentle doctor, might the results be? Is this just a papilloma?
"That's what we're trying to find out."
What else could it be?
"Could be cancer." His eyebrows twitch up a little.