Page 1 of Doctor Next Door



I arrived home around 7:30PM, which was exceptionally early considering the hectic day I’d had. The emergency room at Sacramento Mercy Hospital had been jammed packed, no thanks a multi-vehicle pileup on the freeway. I’d been stuck in the OR pretty much since I started my shift, and should have been there well past nine filing paperwork.

It wasn’t out of the ordinary for me to stay late to put in overtime, especially now that the Board of Directors was looking for someone to take over the Chief of Surgery position. There was no doubt in my mind that I’d make an excellent chief, but now it was just a matter of proving it. I figured the more hours I worked, the more impressed they’d be. But today, I decided to take a break. Surgery after successful surgery had left me completely exhausted, drained to the point where I could no longer tell the difference between a vein and an artery.

It was probably best for everyone if I called it a day.

I stepped into the apartment and pressed the front door closed with a firm palm, listening carefully for the faint click of the lock mechanism. I’d noticed as of late that the warm summer weather had expanded the frame a bit, resulting in a bit of resistance whenever I tried to shut the door. I made a mental note of calling up the landlord to see if there was anything he could do. The last thing I wanted in a massive, busy city like this was to accidentally leave the door ajar during a rushed morning for work, which was practically an open invitation to ask to be robbed. I double checked the lock to make sure the door was secure before turning to head for the living room.

My apartment was smaller than I would have liked, and its location honestly wasn’t ideal. My commute every morning –provided the traffic was light– usually clocked in around an hour’s drive both ways. But the rent was cheap, and I was always far too busy to remember to look in the classifieds for something new. It wasn’t like money was exactly an issue for me. At a very early age, my mother instilled an incessant need to save up a large portion of each paycheck I earned. Now that I had a significant fund squirreled away, I figured that sooner or later, I could buy out my own property that I was actually happy with. But between scheduled surgeries, my commute, and attempting to get enough sleeping hours in, there really wasn’t any time to conduct a thorough search.

The first thing I did was turn on some music. Sweet melodic jazz with an easy beat flooded the apartment, drowning out the noises of the busy city just outside. I then made my way to the bathroom where I promptly stripped, clothes pooling at my feet, and stepped into the shower. I stood beneath the hot, strong spray and allowed the warmth to soak into my muscles, beads of moisture dripping down the surface of my body. Closing my eyes, I let out a long, tired sigh. It was a relief to be somewhere quiet, somewhere I could be alone with my thoughts. No needy co-workers, no screaming patients, no paperwork to file. It was just me, the gentle rush of water, and the smooth jazz playing out in the living room.

I eventually stepped out of the shower and wrapped a red towel around my waist, wriggling my toes against the fluffy bath mat just before the bathroom sink. Dragging my palm over the steamy mirror, I inspected my face in the reflection. There were dark circles beneath my eyes, no thanks to the long hours I worked. It was nothing a good night’s rest and a cup of coffee in the morning couldn’t fix. Reaching for the mirror’s edge, I pulled it open to inspect the medicine cabinet hidden. Everything inside had its place, labels facing outwards for easy reading. I grabbed two aspirin and popped them into my mouth, swallowing dry, in an attempt to get ahead of the headache I could feel coming on.

There was a singular pillow on the bed, beckoning weary head to sleep. But it was far too early to call it a night. After I toweled off and slipped into a clean pair of grey sweats, nestled into the fluff blankets and grabbed the hardcover book renaissance art history I’d started almost a month ago from off the bedside table. I was normally able to dive right into the words on the page, fascinated by old painting techniques used by some of the greatest renaissance artists in Italy, but for some reason I couldn’t get into it. I kept reading the same line over and over again, found my thoughts drifting from the topic of unique paint pigments to the awful beat of my next-door neighbor’s incessant music.