“Are you leaning more towards a man or a mouse regarding needles”?
The lyrical Irish brogue vibrated in my ears like a cool breeze as I vomited up the cancerous bile I had managed to collect over a difficult and dissolute life.
Hours earlier I’d been admitted to Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital Perth Australia (commonly referred to as “Charlie’s”) suffering from severe stomach cramps that turned out to be a tumour obstructing the bowel.
I’d had pain medication relief in the ambulance on the way in (thank everything for paramedics) but now it was time for a top up so it was with some gratitude and light-heartedness that I’d heard these words and, as I looked up, my eyes must have given away some of the wonder I felt. For there before me was a beautiful, young, Irish Doctor. She smiled as I replied donning an exaggerated Australian accent in response to her brogue “definitely towards the mouse side of the equation love”.
Dropping the accent, I continued “I have never in my life seen a more Irish-looking Irish person … and my Mother was one of a family of thirteen Irish Catholic siblings”.
She smiled again and tested the back on my hand for an appropriate vein to insert the needle.
“Not the hand”, I explained, I play piano, bruising and all that”.
“Piano?” she repeated.
“I’ve never taken up an instrument personally”.
“No”, I replied “many doctors are excellent musicians. You’re Irish, so you must sing”.
“No”, she said, “hockey’s my jam. In fact, the women’s championships are on at the moment”.
Thankfully the effects of the last load of painkillers had not worn off entirely and I was able to giggle at her comment.
Somehow the jump in logic between music and singing to hockey seemed so “Irish” it delighted me.
“Well as a matter of fact”, I said with mock bravado, “my partner’s cousin is probably the most well-known hockey player to have ever played the sport – no less a Perth legend than, Ric Charlesworth. Are you impressed?”
She paused again, and with a hint of defiance proclaimed “Women’s Hockey. I only like women’s hockey. The male game is all strength, hit and miss. The female game is grace and finesse>”
She searched diligently for the right vein, but it proved elusive.
I wanted to continue the connection, so I thought I’d bring up the Irish love a little tipple – ha, ha.
“You Irish love your Guinness don’t you”?
“And whiskey”, she beamed in a whisper. “I like a little myself you know, for my heart’s sake. But Perth closes when the party’s just getting started”.
Now this little moment of intimacy, and probably feeling in such a vulnerable state, really had an impact.
Over the years I had become increasingly interested in ZEN. A couple of books, a few lectures. Yet one statement of a serious pundit really stayed with me. She had stated that one could study ZEN ten hours a day, for a hundred, a thousand hours … and still know nothing, nada, zilch about it. Alternatively, you may never have even heard the name, yet in a single moment, understand it completely. And watching this young doctor, her grace, her skill, her humour and the map of Ireland written all over her face, I got it, I got it!
My mind stopped and, in an instant, all the patterns and conditioning that had festered led me to this sickening situation, surfaced – and then … nothing.
“Ouch”, I twinged. The needle had hit its mark and I was with her again – utterly silent.
She smiled once more and stated, “I hope I never see you again”. I laughed
“I only meant that if I I’d seen you again then your next stop is probably a box. One without a ribbon around it”.
“Doctor”, I heard another thick Irish accent pronounce, “You’re needed urgently”.
“How many Irish people work at this hospital”, I enquired?
“Oooh, we only come out at night”.
I laughed once more at her quirkiness as she disappeared into the myriad experiences that fill the moments of most lives.
And yet, within that five minutes, I’d uncovered something precious, uncontaminated, pure … no works could explain it … no mind could rationalise or divide it into any categories. From that moment on, it would expand within until … I don’t know what?