I suppose it happens to every doctor once in a while. We sit behind our polished and ordered desks waiting for our next patient, and suddenly the door opens and we're faced with an attractive woman who stirs all those emotions we've been taught to repress.
Of course, most of the time we successfully resist the temptation. But it's only natural that we're going to get guilty urges for the occasional female patient. Something in their eyes, their hair, their nature. The unintentional femme fatale. The cause of our downfall. Those female patients who do nothing to encourage us except sit there in our consulting rooms and hope we can cure their ills.
For me, Donna was one such patient.
I knew, right from the first time she entered my consulting room, that she was my nemesis. She was in her early thirties, a peroxide blonde with deep brown eyes radiating sensuality. Having presumably come straight from work she still wore the neat uniform of a local bank, her shapely legs accentuated by the dark blue knee-length skirt that pulled tightly over her hips. She had given me a faint smile as she sat down and I returned the warming gesture.
"You're new to the area?" I asked in a reassuring tone.
"Yes. I used to live in Somerset."
I looked at her medication history, a list of tranquilizers and ante-depressants.
Vulnerable. Very vulnerable. And attractive.
No. Don't think that. You're a professional.
"What made you move down here?"
"Work," she replied simply
"You work at the bank?"
"Yes, just part-time. It looks good on a reference but it's not my ideal job. It pays the bills though."
Her voice was gentle and friendly. Of course she was anxious, seeing a new doctor has that effect on people, I'd seen it countless times. But somehow I felt she was trying to put me at ease just as much as I wanted to reassure her. It was doubtless a sign of her understanding nature.
Or her vulnerability? An over-riding desire to please?
"You've been on a repeat prescription for Fluoxetine for some time?" I asked, consulting my notes again
"I admit I don't really approve of keeping people on ante-depressants for a long time," I admitted. "I know they're not habit-forming in the same way as tranquilizers but I've always thought the best way to cure depression is to treat the cause not the symptoms."
Panic shot into her eyes.
Don't worry, my darling, I thought. I won't hurt you. I wouldn't do anything to hurt you. It's against the Hippocratic Oath.
I quickly added that I wasn't planning to withdraw her medication straight away.
"I've had relationship problems," she said, looking down.
How could any man hurt a delicate butterfly like you? If you were mine I'd never hurt you.
She seemed to be searching for something else to say but it didn't come. In the end she just said softly: "I need the drugs."
"Have you thought about counseling?" I inquired probingly. "If you really want a fresh start it may help to talk about the past? The things that make you feel low? I think counseling does far more good than pills."
And what would you confess a counselor, I wondered? What secrets would you reticently reveal?
You attract me. I'm attracted to you.
No. No, no, no.
Do I attract you? Even a little bit? Just a very little bit?
"I'll tell you what," I conceded, sitting back in my chair. "I'll give you another month's supply, you go away and have a think, then come back to me in about three weeks? Have a think about the counseling and if you decide to take up the offer I can refer you to somewhere suitable."
You have trusting eyes.
And you're vulnerable.
I do not prey on vulnerable patients. I absolutely do not.
She agreed to consider what I'd said and took the prescription. As she got up to leave I found myself looking at her tanned legs.
Many months later I wondered why she affected me so much, right from that first meeting? I see women all the time in my consulting room. Sometimes they have to undress. They lie on the couch, semi-naked. And yet, mostly, I feel nothing. Mostly I feel nothing.
The rest of that evening's surgery went slowly: a septic toenail, a chest infection, and several hypochondriacs convinced they were suffering everything from angina to black death. But one, and only one, patient stayed in my mind as I climbed into my car to drive home.
Stop thinking about her.
I can't stop thinking about her.
My wife and I lived in a cottage a few miles out of town, and as I took the cliff road I glanced down the lights on the promenade and the reflection of the pier in the calm waters of the English channel.
Donna's down there somewhere, I mused thoughtfully. Somewhere.
I do not prey on vulnerable women.
I do not abuse my position.
I am not a sexual predator.
Are you lying with a man, I wondered? Are you looking out through the window at those same rippling lights across the bay?
Think about your wife. Think about Tina.
I want you Donna. I want you.
When I got home Tina was in the kitchen, standing at the sink with her back to me washing some dishes.
"You're late," she said mechanically.
"Yes," I admitted slowly, "the surgery was busy."
"Your tea's ruined," she said unemotionally. "I threw it in the bin."
She turned and went into the living room, wiping her hands on a tea towel.
Three weeks until I see her again.
Unless I happen to meet her in town? Unless I go to the bank? I could go to the bank.
I am not a stalker.
I am not a sexual predator.
I could go to the bank. I bank there.
I could go to the bank.
I wondered if she'd take up my suggestion of counseling, or whether she found it easier to take a tablet and dissolve away whatever demons haunted her?
I sat at the kitchen table, deep in thought. I wasn't hungry.
"Are you coming?" Tina called from the other room, "There's a draught with that door open."
And what were those demons that made her rely on prescription medication? Relationship breakdown? What happened between her and that anonymous male?
I followed Tina into the lounge and closed the door.
"Sorry love," I apologized obediently.
She didn't reply. She was too busy watching the television.
I'll go to the bank. I'll see her there.
And as I sat on the sofa, watching Tina out of the corner of my eye, I knew I was going to submit to my demons too.