The kind doctor said it might take a long while for me to gain my weight back, and I remember that he was right, though I don’t remember how long the long was. I went to him for checkups, at first every two weeks, then once a month. I tried to look nice; I remember I would try on different outfits and look in the mirror to see what he would see. In his office he had people in his waiting room, people in his examining rooms, then in his own office, a sort of conveyor belt of many kinds of human material. I thought of how many people’s behinds he had seen, how different they all must be. I always felt safe with him, felt that he paid attention to my weight and to every detail of my health. One day I waited to go into his office; wearing a blue dress and black tights, I leaned against the wall just outside. He was speaking to a very old woman; she was carefully dressed — we had this in common, to be clean and carefully dressed for our doctor. She said, “I have flatulence. It’s so embarrassing. What can I do?”
He shook his head sympathetically. “That’s a toughie,” he said.
For years, my girls would say “That’s a toughie” to something that was a pickle for them — they had heard me tell the story so many times.
I don’t know the last time I saw this doctor. I went a few times in the years after my hospital stay, and then once when I called for an appointment they said he had retired and I could see his associate. I could have written a letter to him to tell him what he meant to me, but there were problems in my life and my concentration was not good. I never wrote him. I never saw him again. He was just gone, this dear, dear man, this friend of my soul in the hospital so long ago, disappeared. This is a New York story too.