That day I was supposed to be the patient.
The nurse putting the blood pressure cuff on me was the same one who always takes my vitals. She likes to chew gum; you can see her tuck it between her teeth and cheek as she walks into the exam room. A slight bulge pumping against her straight hair. Today it is dyed a reddish-brown.
As her hands wrapped around my arm, my eyes landed on small blacks on her left wrist.
“Is that a semicolon?” I asked.
“It is,” she replied as she shimmied her stethoscope up around her ears.
“Can I ask if there’s a story behind it?”, a tactless way of indirectly asking the question anyways.
“It is for suicide awareness,” she replied.
I let out a soft “hmm”; the type that indicates you have no idea what someone is talking about but don’t want to pry.
“I guess because the semicolon isn’t finite, it isn’t an end; it’s like a pause before beginning again.”
“How lovely,” I said. “What a beautiful way to think about grammar.”
She pumped up the pressure in the cuff and pressed the bell of her scope to my elbow crease. Before releasing the gauge she paused, “I used to have a little scar there. I got the tattoo to cover it up… I was a bit of a wild teenager.”
Then there was silence as she listened to the pounding of blood flowing back down through my veins.
She removed the cuff and stepped back. Her voice was soft, “gosh, I just turned so red.”
It was unclear if this was a question or a statement, so I didn’t say anything.
“I’ve never told anyone that before.”
I still didn’t say anything.
“My watch usually covers it up,” she continued, “for some reason I forgot it today. Usually when people ask I just say, ‘It’s a symbol of awareness for suicide prevention”. But I never mention the scar.”
We sat in a warm silence.
“Thank you for sharing,” I said as our eyes locked. “I can’t imagine it is ever easy to do.”
A nervous smile replied affirmatively; her face was still flushed as she gathered her vital bag of goodies.
“The doctor will be in to see you soon,” she said before slipping out the door. “And thanks for listening.”