When Bayu heard, or more precisely saw, for the first time about the hospital, he thought it was like any other hospital. Squeezed among buildings in one of main streets in the capital, it stands unnoticed. Even the plaque bearing its name is half-way obstructed by plants growing in front of it.
One night, while driving with a friend, he felt pain in his chest followed by shortness of breath. Luckily, his friend knew about the area and since they were close to the hospital, the first logical answer to his immediate problem was to seek relief there.
Luckily, it wasn’t heart attack as he thought; although, from what he had read, he was sure that it was it. Still, he was baffled as the doctor told him the diagnosis: he was still a healthy young man; no sign of troubles whatsoever. He could go home but, of course, he had to pay his bill first.
Luckily for him, his company would pay for his medical fees. Or in case he was admitted to the hospital, his insurance.
“This hospital is the favourite of one of the former presidents,” his friend told him, “and you know, presidents never go to ordinary hospitals; but that doesn’t mean you become like a president; although you will have to pay the same bill as the president does.”
Later, when they finished and were walking to the parking, he was looking with envy at every luxury car that was passing through the main entrance. Inside his friend’s small Korean car, they laughed at the idea of comparing her car with other cars parking surrounding them.
Because his company will cover for his medical bill and this is the hospital where one of the former presidents goes to seek medical treatment, why doesn’t make it as his hospital too? he told himself. After all, it’s not very often that you find a presidential treatment.
He was back to the same hospital, some months later, when he felt something was wrong with his throat.
He was referred to an ear-nose-throat specialist. Reading the specialist’s nameplate on the door, full name plus all his/her credentials, he felt a rare feeling of relief of being in the right place at the right time before the right person.
Thirty minutes later, his name was called. But it took another ten minutes for the surgeon to start examining him. She let him sit nicely before her, and forced him to involuntarily listen to her conversation with her assistant, ranting about unthankful somebody and finishing it with a long list of advices about how one should behave. She didn’t talk to him for sure; and it was better that way, because he’d come to see her not to listen to her story or to seek her advice on how to live a moral life.
And that started to annoy him.
He told her that he had problem swallowing food; since last week he could easily got chocked when eating. “It’s strange,” he continues, “because I don’t think something is wrong with my throat, except for this problem of swallowing; no pain being felt, just food was very difficult to get through my throat.”
“Stick your tongue out!” she asked him. He obeyed, and then smiled inside his heart (how can you smile while sticking your tongue out?) because he remembered a funny picture of someone called Mr. Albert Einstein sticking his tongue out, and looked like a five-year old asking for candy. “I’d insert this device through your throat and we can watch on the monitor before us what’s happening inside your throat.”
He felt uneasy. Not from the beam scanning his throat. But from the surgeon’s fingers pinching his tongue, with such force, ready to unplug it! He made noises that clearly annoyed the surgeon; of course it hurt him. “Ah, it’s nothing!” she dismissed it.
Then ten minutes passed and they were over. “I found no suspicious lumps inside. Everything is normal.” Then she continued: “I suggest that you go see a psychiatrist.”
He grinned because it was so unexpected to hear the surgeon referring him to a psychiatrist; what he expected was she to tell him that something was wrong with his throat muscles. And that happened because he was getting older. Even she would have said that, he would accept it. But certainly not something related to his mental conditions.
“It seems that you’re someone who worries too much,” she started again, “pray more to God for peace of mind.” She stopped suddenly, looked at him and asked: “What’s your religion by the way?”
“I believe it’s different from you.” He replied, and wanted to add, “And that’s none of your business.”
He took the bill and prescriptions –prescriptions, if nothing was wrong with him why she still prescribed him, he thought- and went out of the surgery. Seven steps later, he stopped and turned back; his eyes now were fixed on the nameplate again. He carefully jotted down the name of the surgeon. He promised himself that this would be the last time he would see this doctor. The reason was simple: the surgeon thought she were god, to be able to read one’s state of mind. And that was exactly the reason: he didn’t want to see again a god who guessed incorrectly and judged too quickly.
(Jakarta, March 24, 2009)