No Room for Error

by Marah Reinoso Vega

I have to get my job done. I have a very important job. I am a Pediatric Spine Doctor. People put the lives of their children in my hands. They trust me with the lives of their children. They trust me, and they don’t. Today, I am scheduled to perform a major surgery at 3:00 p.m. A child’s ability to walk depends entirely on my ability to complete the surgery successfully. I must be precise. I must be one with the scalpel. I must be aligned with his spine. I must breathe when he breathes, there is no room for error. I have to get my job done.

It is 12:07 p.m. I am scheduled to be at the hospital at 1:00 p.m. to meet with my team. If I want to make it on time, I must leave my house at 12:25 p.m. If I want to leave at 12:25 p.m., I must start getting ready at 12:10 p.m. Precision is important. It is 12:07 p.m. and I have been standing in front of the mirror for forty-seven minutes. I am looking at my brown hair —my brown hair which has been overpowered by long, wavy, white hairs. I am looking at my eyebrows —my eyebrows that I used to pluck because they grew too fast too many, and now seemed to have gone on strike, refusing to grow. I used to complain to my husband about my ever-growing eyebrows.

My husband is gone now, he said I worked too much. He said the sound of my pager kept him up at night. I never complained about the sound of his snoring, it sounded like a drill, a drill drilling a hole in my bedroom walls. This mirror is my enemy. It is 12:08 p.m. and I am looking at my breasts. My barren breasts. A hot flash. Is it too late now? Is 46 a cursed number? If I want to leave at 12:25 p.m. I must start getting ready in two minutes. Why are my breasts so lifeless? Are my bedroom walls grey? My bedroom walls were blue. I remember choosing the color with my husband, we laughed at the brochure called One Thousand Shades of Blue. We chose the first blue from the first page. Blue gives me peace. Another hot flash. Are my hands steady? My hands are steady. I am the best Pediatric Spine doctor in the city. Parents trust me with the lives of their children. They trust me, and they don’t. It is 12:10 p.m. Another hot flash. It is Thursday, I must wear my Thursday outfit. Having a planned outfit saves time—what if I wear my Monday outfit? The child’s name is V. He wants to be a soccer player. He is seven years old.

“Doctor S, after my surgery, when I can walk straight, I’m going to play soccer at school. I’ve never kicked a ball before. I’m going to kick that ball so far one day I’ll be on TV, and I’m going to invite you to a big game, and you can have all the popcorn you want.

Are you going to watch me play?”

“I will not miss it for the world.”

I am one with the scalpel. I should have had lunch instead of staring at myself in the mirror. I cannot be one with my spine if my stomach is hollow. I have my Thursday outfit on. I will eat a banana in the car. I will eat two bananas. Bananas are rich in sugar and potassium. Make a left at 67th Ave., turn right at 62nd St. —what if I turn right at 60th St.? Each traffic light is an extra one hundred and twenty minutes. I am turning right at 62nd St. There is no room for error.

The nurses shall take the child from his mother at 2:30 p.m.. The child shall be prepped for surgery before I walk into the operating room. I shall change into my scrubs and sit alone in the quiet dark before I walk into the operating room. Once I am face-to-face with the child, I shall smile my it is going to be alright smile, then I shall tell my joke, the same one every time, the one I know makes them laugh. P shall administer the anesthesia, only, after I get the child to smile. Once the anesthesia is administered, I shall ask this child to tell me how many black pentagons are there, on a soccer ball.

My white hairs are brown again, my breasts do not exist, only my breathing and his breathing. These walls are a pale green. My hands are not my hands. Something else is in me. My hand is swift and the scalpel, precise. The incision is so elegant that at first no one sees the cut—then the blood. What a beautiful spine —I whisper. All I have to do is remove the tumor that hugs it. A hot flash. Remove the tumor without damaging the spine, that is all I have to do today.

It is 7:33 p.m. I’m exhausted. I shall make sure there is no blood on me when I speak to the mother —A successful surgery.
The hot flash starts and makes its way to my neck and face. I shall not sweat in front of others. They might think I am nervous. I am not nervous. I am a god with a scalpel.

I shall move to the left lane when I get close to 62nd St. A car is coming down fast. I will not make it to the left lane on time. A green, glowing sign appears in front of me: 60th St NEXT SIGNAL. What if I turn right on 60th instead of 62nd? What a strange thought —I whisper. What if I keep driving?

* * *

Marah Reinoso Vega is a Creative Writing student at Florida International University. She was born and raised in Cuba, spent most of her adult life in the United Arab Emirates, and now resides in Miami, Florida. She writes short fiction stories, and non-fiction essays about travel, education, and women’s empowerment.

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