Can You Wake Up Your Own Doctor?
Sebastian Castillo

This is a true story, unfortunately.

I visited my doctor the other day, after being told on the phone that my appointment had been rescheduled for later in the afternoon. The front door was open, but his office was empty — no receptionist, or other patients. I heard my doctor’s voice in his study. “Hi, Sebastian,” he said. “Hi, Doctor [redacted],” I said. A long pause — the emptiness of the room breathing — and then: “I think we’re going about this the wrong way.”

I didn’t know how to respond — what were we going on about? He continued speaking, and I realized that he was on the phone with another person named Sebastian. That’s funny. He also referred to the man on the phone as “Your Honor” so he must have been a judge; that much I can know. They spoke for another five minutes while I sat in the waiting room, looking at the cover of the latest Time Magazine. I couldn’t tell you what was on it, but it probably injured me in some way. The big, dumb world.

By the slipper-shuffle of his feet I could hear that he went into his back room after hanging up the phone. I presumed he had heard me greeting him but perhaps had some important, litigious paper work to complete. After twenty minutes, I said his name again, loudly, though my voice felt sheepish and stringy. Maybe he had forgotten I was there or didn’t hear me in the first place. I knocked on his study door with that little, percussive jingle everybody does when they announce their arrival on wood. I wonder where that comes from. No response from the doctor. I used my phone to call him. The office phone rang sarcastically in front of me — sent to voicemail. I didn’t know what to do. I felt that I could take advantage of the situation, curling a smile at my imaginary mischief. Of course, I did nothing. I could never steal something, even if I had the right.

I knew I wasn’t allowed in his back quarters, as is the case with any financial transaction. But after waiting close to an hour, I purposed my impatience, walked behind the desk through a skinny hall and into the rear of his practice. It looked like a dead relative’s basement. I could hear a TV bleating in a small, dark room a few feet away from me. I looked inside. He was sleeping on a mattress.

I couldn’t believe it. I texted my friends. Can you wake up your own doctor? I knocked my jingle again, closer to his body, and said his name. I was afraid that I was doing something wrong, that I had trespassed in a manner that would not be forgiven easily. “Yes, come in,” he mumbled, half asleep. I told the doctor that I had an appointment an hour ago, and that I had been waiting for him. He apologized effusively, embarrassed, though perhaps only medically. I would guess that Doctor [redacted] is in his early seventies. Bald; soft, green eyes; always hunched and in leisure wear. His voice carried the scattered tenor that comes from the first moments of waking. His receptionist had forgotten to tell him about me before leaving for the day.

We walk to his study and go through our appointment. He thanks me for the third or fourth time for waking him. “I’m glad you woke me,” he says, “I was planning on playing tennis later.” We talk about tennis courts; I give him fifty-five dollars.

Sebastian Castillo is the author of 49 Venezuelan Novels. He lives in New York and teaches writing.