I do not enjoy my visits to the doctor, not simply because I fear there may be something so seriously wrong with my body that I will soon die, not because my body is a mystery to me and houses secrets I do not understand, but because I expect to be found guilty of criminal neglect.
The doctor will tell me that I eat too much of the wrong foods, that I drink too much wine, that I do not exercise enough. The doctor will tell me that although it is now over twenty-eight years since I last smoked a cigarette, it makes little difference. The damage is done.
The doctor will tell me when she pulls the Velcro tab off the blood pressure monitor that my blood pressure is up. She will frown knowingly and tut a while.
‘We'll try taking it again later,’ she will say and my heart will race in unison with my thoughts. I have inside of me a heart that is out of order, a heart that will not behave, a heart I cannot trust.
The doctor will look into my eyes with her bright pencil light. The doctor will look into my ears. She will probe my tongue with a spatula half way down my throat and I will gag.
The demons lie behind my tonsils in my voice box and if I am not careful the doctor will hear things I do not want her to hear.
Tell me doctor, what I must do to enter into a state of goodness, to enter into a state of bodily perfection?
The priest wears black. The doctor wears white. I dress in red.
The passion of my faulty heart crisp under the stethoscope as the doctor listens for the rattle in my chest.
‘Are you sure you don’t smoke?’
Does she know? Does the stethoscope know?
I smoke cigarettes in my dreams. I drag onto one cigarette after another and draw in the taste and smell, the flavour, my grandfather’s Amphora tobacco, my father’s Craven A filter tipped, full strength – the poisons of the past course through my lungs and the doctor sees it all.
‘What have you been doing to yourself?’ she will ask, as if she does not already know.
Your body is a temple. Treat it with respect. Do not ask of your body that which it cannot give. Stay pure in thought and deed.
One and a half litres of water a day, three twenty minute walks a week. Jog. Do not walk. Get your heart rate going. Get your pulse up. But here in the doctor’s surgery you must slow it down.
How can I hide. The doctor must not know.
This body, this temple, this soul polluted in thought, word and deed. My body, my sanctuary for the devil.