A Conversation About Death and Stuff.


Dr. Juan opens a packet of Splenda, spills its contents into his cup of coffee. He stirs the concoction with an inch of right index, the warmth from the liquid coats the flesh like a tepid bath. A knock rattles his office door.
“Come in!” He shouts.
Martha, the secretary, walks inside. Her high-heels tap on the hardwood floors, creating a clicking with each step. She pauses at his desk.
“Dr. Juan…have you got a minute?”
He licks coffee off his finger and nods yes.
“I was wondering if I could have next Friday off?”
“I see no objection.” He takes a sip of the coffee. “But why the absence?”
She takes a seat in-front of his desk, crosses her legs, exposing holes in her nylons.
“As you know my sister is sick…and well…they’re taking her off chemo…”
The explanation takes pause for tears. Dr. Juan removes himself from behind the desk and walks to her side. He rubs her shoulders as an act of comfort. In response she looks up, his eyes accommodate her sad gaze. Displaying proper respect for the distress. Never once flinching, or shifting.
“They start hospice tomorrow. I just want to say goodbye to her…while she still remembers me.”
“Martha,” he says, “would you like off sooner, or longer?”
She reaches for a tissue from a box on his desk, with it dabs away running mascara.
“I can’t afford the time off.”
“You have plenty of vacation and sick days.” He responds.
“Yes, but…I need those days for the Disney trip in the summer.”
Dr. Juan drops his hands to his sides. He walks back behind his desk and takes a seat.
“Is that selfish of me, doctor?”
He sips the coffee, she keeps her stare towards the floor.
“No, I suppose not. Death comes for us all, we have no choice when it does. Should our plans change for such a common occurrence?”
Martha looks up, her eyes red, appearing stoned.
“I guess not…” She says.
“Well then next Friday is all yours.” He says with a smile.
Martha gets up, takes a few steps towards the door.
“Have a good weekend. I’ll be praying for you.” Dr. Juan mentions.
“Thank you…but I cannot imagine God will care about such a regular thing.”
She closes the office door and packs up her purse for departure. Ending work as if it was a routine day.

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