He’s only 40, an age I’d still consider young for a doctor. I see the features of so many of my Chinese peers in his face, though he’s actually an Irish expat. Family and a restaurant sealed his parents decision to emigrate to the Emerald Isle when he was too young to speak. It explains why his conversational diction is impeccable while some spoken consonants are merged or lost, a familiar accent from being born into a Cantonese family. This immediately puts me on my guard. I’ve rarely gotten along with those peers; the culture hasn’t been kind.
But I’m not here for myself. I didn’t even make the appointment, which is why I don’t know what to say.
Thankfully, he takes the lead and takes his time. The questions cover a motley gamut, and I can tell how comprehensive his notes are through the clacking of the keyboard.
At some point he asks if anyone came with me, and I tell him who’s in the waiting room. He kindly offers to speak to her on my behalf, but she already knows. It’s the only reason I’m telling this story another time. I can’t help admitting how humiliating it is to be so dependent on others, to need people like her so desperately sometimes that I can’t imagine how I’d survive without them.
Without any change in his procedural tone, he says this sentiment is part of our Chinese guilt. We disappoint our parents by not being strong enough to live up to their expectations as self-reliant adults, but they prevent us from growing up by treating us like children and refusing to let us make our own decisions. He knows, cause he’s gone through the same thing. At the same time, he never condones my feelings, offering a reassurance that we all handle things differently, and that we can’t do it alone sometimes. It tells me he doesn’t just listen; he cares.
Before sending me off with a dose of Pristiq, he hands me a sealed envelope — on it written “emergency room letter” — and tells me to give it to the doctor at the Queensway-Carleton, while carefully suggesting I have nothing to lose at this point. It makes sense, but I’m not ready. Not yet. This is good for now. She’ll thank me for taking this step, one that’s as much for her as it is for me.
After, we hold hands in the car while waiting to be composed enough to be seen in public, bass lines washing over us like heartbeats, an affirmation of reasons for and the things I love.