The emerg locker room, in my dirty scrubs
“Can I touch you?” she asked, as we faced each other.
Would it really have been right of me to say no?
Standing there I felt naked, feeling my bare arms exposed to the room, anticipating the touch and dreading it at once, wishing for the protection of the yellow gown worn in the examination room.
We were standing in a room full of recliners stuffed with patients, by the nursing desk. Unclothed in my armour, wearing but my short sleeved scrubs, mask and safety glasses, feeling vulnerable – and in my discomfort I felt sharply her raw need.
I did not refuse.
She placed her hand on my arm like a feather, a slight grip, enough for her to feel my humanity. Alone, solitary, her husband recently deceased and her children living out of town, this elderly lady needed what only human touch could provide.
The tears in her eyes like glass, the hand on my arm like a weight underwater, I let her stay there for a moment. Frozen, warm, I waited until she released. We parted, to meet again later.
Can I touch you?
Can you touch me?
These gestures, so simple before, so rare and even frightening now. We are living in a time of complex emotion, in a time of physical division, when what we all really need and crave is unity. Touch. Each other.
She touched my arm, and I was touched. And reminded, of the little moments that I can give my patients, that have nothing yet everything to do with being a healer.