A cold Wednesday morning in the podiatry department of a London hospital. With three others, I sit waiting for my consultant. He emerges. “Simone – let’s see if we can finally sort you out”. In silence I follow him to his small room and sit down. Always composed and deliberately selective with his words, he radiates control. I get nervous when receiving medical treatment; the focussed attention makes me self-conscious and uncomfortable. The intensity and quiet command that surrounds my consultant makes these particular appointments worse. It’s not helped by his good-looks and gravitas. This time I’m determined not to let him affect me.
For two minutes we sit in complete silence while he reads my file. Eventually he looks up “Take your shoe and sock off”.
I do so, and without speaking he indicates for me to put my foot on his lap. He looks at it and moves my toe, applying pressure.
Consultant: Does that hurt?
Me: Yes, very much so.
He rotates the toe for a while and then presses harder, looking at me.
Consultant: Does that hurt?
Me: Yes, it really hurts.
Consultant (pressing yet harder): Does that hurt?
Consultant (giving a playful smile): I know. I like seeing your reaction. There’s a mischievous twinkle in his eyes.
I roll my eyes and shake my head with a little laugh.
My foot is still on his lap when he looks at the large black ring covered in spikes on my right hand.
Consultant: That’s quite a ring – it looks like a weapon. Can I have a look at it?
He takes my hand in his, resting the other on my leg, and looks at me intently with that twinkle.
Consultant (smiling): Jeez, that’s impressive! You could hurt me with that.
Am I imagining sexual tension? Flustered, I withdraw my hand, look away and start babbling in a light-hearted voice.
Me: Oh the spikes are actually just rubber, and they’re flexible so it can’t do the kind of damage it might appear to be able to.
Thankfully there’s a knock on the door to break the atmosphere and my prattling. Nurse Cherry (I’m not joking – I’m beginning to feel like I’m in a poorly scripted X-rated movie) brings in the results of my MRI. My consultant exchanges some medical jargon with her then looks at me.
Me: Oh sorry, I wasn’t listening. I didn’t realise you were talking to me?
Consultant: I wasn’t. I was talking around you. (He smiles and continues). You’ll know when I’m talking to you.
And he winks at me.
It feels like he’s flirting, but could that really be the case? I say nothing while he silently scrutinizes my MRI results before explaining my options. In full professional mode he uses very technical terms. I ask him to explain it to me so I’ll understand. Essentially, I need him to dumb it down for my distracted squirrel brain.
Consultant: We can cut it off, shave the bone …
Me (shrugging): Ok. I’ll say yes to whatever you say …
Consultant (cutting me off and grinning broadly): I know you will.
Me (laughing): You didn’t let me finish! I was going to say, I’ll say yes to whatever you say if you think it will fix it. I just need the pain to stop.
He explains the procedure and places his hand on my arm as he says goodbye. The next time I see him I’ll be in a surgical gown on an operating table. Unless it’s a really weird X-rated movie for a very niche market, this will be the end of any sexual tension between us.
I realise this may all be in my head. Please don’t shatter my dream – I have very little in life.