o''keefe - black cross-small

BLACK CROSS - By Georgia O'Keefe


Jennifer walks up the sidewalk to the yellow three storied building, having left her taxi in the midst of traffic, quickly exiting on the curb as horns behind them already begin to blare. Paying the fat Venezuelan, who actually tries to act as a Spanish teacher introducing all types of new phrases into her limited vocabulary, she turns to give a farewell nod to the afternoon sun knowing she will, in most probability, not see it again today.

Entering the building she knows so well, she heads up the stairway, for the elevator never works, to the third floor location of her Internist. Having left the her marina in plenty of time to be Dr. Gomez’s first patient, which she is, she quietly sits down to wait in a nearby chair, backing against the outlying wall, until he arrives, 45-minutes later. This delay is expected and Jennifer is pleased that there is only a young secretary, and no other patients, with whom to share a conversation; it is obvious though, that she knows not a word of English.

Nevertheless, within the ensuing time Jennifer discovers that the young lady is ‘viente’ (20) and has two older brothers and a sister who live with their parents; her mother is 49 and the entire family lives near to her grandparents who are 62 but in poor health. It is her habit to draw Venezuelans into conversation, with her limited Spanish. She knows just enough words to engage them, moving her hands through the air in illustration; the results are always humorous.
Latinos love to laugh almost as much as they love to eat and dance. She enjoys this aliveness concerning her adopted country and is always amazed at its loving and simple nature.

‘El Doctor’ soon arrives and Jennifer is ushered into his ‘officina’. He smiles warmly, taking her hand, for he now knows her quite well, this being her fifth visit in two years. Quietly, he goes to his computer to find her name and history while she spreads her test results, x-rays, and medical summaries in front of him on the desk. He is a large man, somewhere in his mid-forties, who is able to nurture patients psychologically, concerned as much for their mental condition as for their physical.

He asks her how she feels, to which she replies, “Fine” and then, for some unexplained reason, tears come to her eyes. She has not brought an interpreter, as in the past, because she wants the privacy and confidentiality that she knows exists in this relationship. She thinks that, although her physician knows very little English, they can get by on her smattering of Spanish.

“My heart beats so ‘rapido’ all of the time,” she says, holding her hand up to her heart with rapid gestures indicating a wildly beating heart.

“How long has this been going on?” he indicates in Spanish.

“About seis semanas (6 weeks),” she replies. Just the length of her relationship with Dale but then the doctor doesn't know this.

He motions for her to enter the dressing room, remove her top and put on a gown, returning to the examining table. Having completed these actions Jennifer gently lays down on the table, with her feet up, and waits for him to take her Blood Pressure and complete an EKG. She is very quiet during the 20 minute procedure, moving in and out of a meditative state in order to become more relaxed.

When he has the results he sits back in his official chair and beacons her to change back into her clothes and be seated on the other side of his desk. She remains silent while he enters her medical information into his computer. One thing Jennifer admires about Dr. Gomez is his calm, caring and compassionate manner, being one of those rare physicians who are actually concerned about their individual patients and not about money or social position.

She also admires the outstanding medical care in most Latin countries – physicians are not highly paid and are required by law to teach at the medical school as well as treat the country’s poor without charge. While facilities are not centralized, as they are in the United States, the medical care is far better in her opinion. Expatriate patients, such as herself, receive extra personal care as there are so few of them that the doctors treat them as special. Although she feels the unjustness of this, the quality of medicine she receives makes her rest more easily, medically speaking.

“Why don’t you tell me what is wrong,” he says, laying his hand on top of hers and showing an expression of genuine thoughtfulness.

With tears in her eyes, and using as many hand gestures as she possibly can to indicate her absence of the Spanish language, she describes her present life – that she loves her partner very much and has spent almost two decades with him in the Caribbean where they enjoy a comfortable life on their boat.

“But,” she hesitates before continuing.

“He is old,” he interrupts. “Yo comprendo – (I understand)” he states, with a gentle smile.

“And now you have met a man that you can love. This is turning you upside down, he gestures with his hands making the motion emphatic. Your two natures are in opposition”, he says slowly in Spanish and amazingly she understands perfectly.

With a shaking of his head, he brings up his hand to his face, points the index finger in the air and then at his heart.

“We have no medicine for this.”

Jennifer is now lost in the conversation as he begins speaking in rapid Spanish. Indicating her confusion at his words he lifts the pen from his desk and starts to write a word on his pad.
S --- T--- U

“Stuck” Jennifer blurts out, realizing the finality of her words.

“Si, Senora, as we say in the ways of amor - you are stuck”

He refills her prescriptions, warmly embracing her from across the desk and, with a smile on his face, tells her that she is a very strong woman. Knowing that he is referring to her persona, in addition to her health, she puts on a cheery face and replies, “Mucha gracious - yo comprendo.”

Walking out into the dimming sunshine, Jennifer hails a taxi with the realization that a five letter word defines her life – possibly forever.