By Iris Monica Vargas

Image credit: Moukung Pang, Taiwanese artist, 2016

Category: Essay in fiction

This article is re-published with permission from Doctors Who Create. The original post, published on May 15, 2016, can be found online here

I pushed her wheelchair from the waiting room of the emergency department into the space where her body would be inspected by a machine, and then I brought her back. That day had made little time for her stories. Her body was already large enough. Had it not been for my eardrums, seemingly the only caves with a big enough niche to allow for the passing of her voice with its heavy reports of life outside the hospital, she would not have enjoyed a captive audience.

She had her own theories of what was ailing her, of how it all worked, as if these maladies afflicting her body were all a product of her knitting handiwork, and she was proud of them. She wasn’t attempting to confide in me, I am certain of that. Perhaps, she might have wished, these maladies that were had motion. They could displace from here, this point in time, this yard of space, to there, hand in hand again, alongside her. It had always been that way, as far as she could remember, she argued: she and her maladies. Instead, it was as though her maladies had ran away, self sufficient, into the world, writing the story, leaving her, an abandoned character, alone on the pages of a first draft, given no subsequent credit for her primordial existence.

The maladies, as any other selfish creature—parasites unable to survive without her—had, however, forgotten the trails they had left on her skin, on her body, betraying the fact that they were, they are, indeed, a part of her. They: the plant, too yellow to ignore; She: their soil, too magnanimous to be invisible.

She lifted up her shirt and slowly walked the tips of her fingers down and round a path leading to the exact location where those trails had lingered. She placed my cold hand on her white, confusing breast. How could she trust me like that?  I thought, unaware yet that it had little to do with me. Didn’t she know that I deserved no such access to her universe? Didn’t she know that I was little more than nothing in that ward, a worker ant, a stranger without any power, a simple volunteer, a lowly pre-medical student?

I wasn’t yet able to understand the loneliness of having your stories leave you but to be someone else’s, for someone else to tell them; the thirst and the anger propelling you to fetch them and to draw them near, so you can cease to be merely their instrument, so you can rewrite them as you should, for they belong to you, because it was you – and everything else that is yourself, and not some microscopic entity – She Who Gave Them Life.

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About the author:


Iris Monica Vargas is a writer based in Cambridge, MA. She has a degree in Science Writing from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (M.I.T.) and a master’s degree in theoretical physics from Universidad de Puerto Rico, and is currently a medical student at Ponce Health Sciences University in Puerto Rico. Her first book, a poetry collection serving as a meditation on medical dissection and humanism (Terranova, 2013) is called “La ultima caricia.” (Amazon) She has written for numerous publications nationally and internationally, including Harvard Gazette, Science News, Seed Magazine, Letralia, El Nuevo Dia, Bay State Banner, among others. She is the editor of Stethoscopes & Pencils, an online venue on the intersection between medicine and literature.

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