Family Medicine Physician
This is part of our series, Flattened By the Curve, which features the voices of doctors, nurses, healthcare workers, and others on the front lines against COVID-19. For information on how to submit, click here.
After Danez Smith’s “in lieu of a poem, I’d like to say”
In lieu of a poem, I’d like to predict the past. New work leadership position Microsoft Teams and emails pouring in and out and lists of tasks and meetings and what did I get myself into & buying a car during COVID-19 haggling with the dealer behind plexiglass and paper duck beak masks & teaching improper fractions to my 9-year-old and why are they called improper — they are just differently shaped, really, just not cleanly severed & the yard full of grass growing and kick balls strewn and lilacs browning to a sickly tan & a man who left the first of March, two days before the patient’s test came back positive for coronavirus, admitted to the ICU — they say she’s otherwise healthy and young but she’s on a ventilator and was just here at this clinic, maybe in that exam room, maybe used that bathroom and sat on that chair and is it airborne, respiratory droplets, how long can it live on a surface? and no one knows yet, not even the King County Health Department or the New York Times or the rest of the country still crowding their restaurants and swinging on their playgrounds and hugging their grandparents and you run down the hall to get the last box of N95 masks half-empty left in the foot care clinic and hand it to your colleague, the single mother with an asthmatic 7-year-old, the only doctor in the clinic who is fitted for PPE & you have to take a break and sigh here — was that so long ago, was that just ten weeks ago? & he’s living in the yellow house and the kids are there each Wednesday night and the silence is agonizing and the silence is glorious and you take a breath and you weep in the middle of a guided visualization meditation when she says: now imagine yourself 20 years from now.
Mary Pan is a writer and physician with a background in global health and narrative medicine. Her work has been published in multiple journals and anthologies. She is a Tin House 2020 Nonfiction Winter Workshop alum and a Media & Medicine fellow at Harvard Medical School. She teaches narrative medicine writing workshops and facilitates a Literature & Medicine program for medical professionals. She is currently working on a book exploring mental illness and identity. More at marypanwriter.com.