Life before lockdown| Storytime: The troubled boy

Sooooooo.. wassup?? What a year it has been, huh? And I know that I am sooooo behind in my (blog) writing. I have no excuses, but I kinda do have an excuse: having a baby. Insert: roll eyes. Just because everyone seemed to use that (having a baby) as their big card to do something but also, not to do something? Hmmm in my case, I have decided that motherhood was a total blur for me in the first 3 months. I barely knew who I was, when I last washed my hair or shave, and that the only touch I longed for was the soft caress of my pillows. I could go on and write about my unfiltered motherhood experience that nobody really talks about, but today, I am here for something else.

Recently, I read through my blog entries and it reminded me about just how I love writing all these things in my head and somehow, you guys seemed to enjoy it. Therefore, since it is yet another lockdown here in London, I reckoned…why not? I am going to kick-start by telling you a story which happened, back in Ireland, some years ago. So, get your tea ready and let’s!!

When I first started doing dermatology in Ireland, we had to do both adults and paediatric clinics. I was really new in Dermatology and the most training I had prior was a 2 week lectures in medical school. One Friday afternoon, like any other Friday afternoons, we had a paediatric clinic. And this was probably my least favourite clinic of all. Not only we tend to finish very late, mostly teething into the evening but also the nature of the triggering screaming of unsettled children with their overly anxious parents, really got me. To say the least, it sounds to me like a perfect chaos as portrayed in the Home Alone movie; except that I definitely was not at home and not alone!

The clinic took a swift start. I kept my head down and notoriously absorbing everything I could. The surrounding felt somewhat less hostile and I could almost say, bearable. Until of course, my fingers landed on a green file with a post-it on it that read: ‘troubled boy. please discuss before seeing patient’. My hands eloquently tried reaching for a file beneath it instead; trying at all cost avoiding a consultation which I could foresee to be extremely long and painful. But before my complex mind could even sequenced my desired action, one of the specialist nurse suddenly stepped in next to me, put her right palm close to her chest and gave me a puppy look. So, that’s that.

Next to me, sat a ten-year-old boy with his mom sitting across him in a room which could barely fit the three of us. His eyes were fixed to the ground, his feet dangling over the tall bed, completely uninterested in whatever I was going to say. I glanced over to his mom and she, gave me a pity look. Then, I moved my chair just a few inches closer and suddenly, just there, beneath his heavy rounded shoulders -I saw him.

I casually asked: So how’s school?

Him: *shrug*

Me: Do you have friends in school?

Him: *shrug*

I moved closer. His eyes were religiously studying the floor. And they are green. His eyes are.

Harry, do you have friends in school?’ I could hear my voice changed. Now, more authoritative. He stole a glance at me and nodded ever so slightly. Shy, almost.

‘Harry, what are their names? Can you tell me their names?’ I nagged.

Him: *shrug*

I took a definitive move, searched for his green eyes and demanded: Harry, look at me. (Pause). Tell me their names.

This time, he shifted uncomfortably, reluctantly met my gaze and muttered some names under his breath. As if he was identifying suspects and I was the prosecutor in a court full of Kardashians.

I pushed my chair back as my voice softened and said, ‘You love playing with them? Tell me what type of sports you are into? Football?’

He bounced his glance towards his mom, rather briefly and as if tired, he nodded. Without fail, at the end of each question, his stare returned to the floor, tracing the shadow of his own mind.

And there I was, sitting in front of a boy, who gave me nothing but just a peek of what looks like a severe case of silvery plaques, tucked behind his ironed shirt. According to a trusted source (you know, the one who gave me the puppy eyes), Harry has apparently been behaving rather ‘unlike him’ -an Irish description that somewhat carries a lot more weight than it befittingly should- for the past couple of months.

I let go of a heavy sigh.

As if I knew all along, how this was going to end (like the many Korean dramas that were unabashedly predictable yet I can’t get enough of), I finally gave him my final verdict: What did they call you? (pause) It’s hard, huh? It’s hard.

I heard myself answering my own question. My right hand gently tapped his. I sat quietly, not demanding any answer or anything, really. And in quietness, I too, was lost tracing the floor.

Suddenly, his hands flickered. His long arms started to shake and I lifted my eyes. Before me, before his mom; his whole body convulsed into a wave of something so familiar to me but before my mind could even put a name to it, there he was. Sobbing between his shoulder blades, his mouth gagged open, choking with a numbing pain. I was so abruptly flustered and looked at his mom. Her mouth reached the floor. She, like any mother would, flung her arms open and secured them around his shoulders. Now, two sets of broad arms, side by side, were heaving away at every depth of each saddening cries.

That evening, as I walked home, I hide at the dark corner towards my bus stop as the same familiar wave hit me. My chest was now inflated with unwanted pang of grief and just like that, the tears emptied readily.

One month later, in the same clinic, a green file was placed on my table. This time the post-it read: for Sophia to see.

From a distance, I saw her. She ran to me and whispered to my ear, as if she has known me forever and said: I don’t know how you did what you did but you changed our lives.

And from where she stood, I saw Harry chasing his little brother, like a child he should -carefree, and loved. Very very loved.

Disclamer: Okay, this is real story but of course, the name wasn’t, duh. Until today, this story still gives me a lot of feels. But most importantly, surely you’ll glad to know that I am not actually done. In one of the paragraph I wrote about how Irish people like to describe things, especially patients with ‘unlike himself/herself’. So one day, as an intern, I roamed around the ward and a nurse told me to review a patient who was ‘not himself’. I quietly moved next to her (the nurse), whispering almost, and asked: so, what is he now? Lion? Tiger? She stared at me, barely blinked, completely unamused and reached a red pen and crossed off ‘review patient on bed 506’ from her to do list. I smiled, faintly and walked away. Spoiler alert: No, there’s no tiger. Or lion.

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