The Other Yao

Doctor Yao was a prodigious physician. For ten years, he worked seventy hours a week and saw twenty-five patients a day. Perhaps it was his destiny to work hard. His ancestry never interested him in the least, but he knew that his name meant “demanding” in Mandarin. So, he strove to be the best. In medical school, seduced by the mysteries of science, he traded the pleasures of youth for the white coat. In residency, under the pretext of being more objective with diagnoses, he avoided touching patients to evade the strange feelings that arose from the physical exam. And at work, to save fifteen seconds from every visit, he never introduced himself to the patient. Now at forty, he had almost achieved his ideal career in all but one aspect: he had Calisto.

Calisto was a passionate man. For ten years, he found a profound beauty in experiencing shared emotions with his patients. He identified with the immigrant communities he served and was honored to play a role in their triumphs and failures. In his free time, he flirted with his receptionist who had taught him phrases in Mandarin. When he realized that his last name also meant “medicine”, he dreamed of traveling to China to study acupuncture. However, after ten years he felt burned out. In medical school, he was motivated by the beautiful possibilities of the future. By residency, he had accepted the painful realities of medicine. And ever since the imposition of daily patient quotas, he resented having to reduce patient visits by fifteen seconds. He dreamt of recapturing the passion he had previously. According to Doctor Yao’s gestalt, Calisto suffered from an undiagnosed psychiatric derangement. Why else would someone care so much about fifteen additional seconds with the patient?

One night, upon returning from work, Doctor Yao sank into his favorite green velvet easy chair and reviewed patient charts while sipping his coffee. Under the light of the brand-new television, he noticed that Calisto had fallen asleep. Calisto’s head was propped in the crook of his hand while the familiar documentary about Mario Benedetti flickered in the background. At this moment, Doctor Yao became immobilized with rage. He already paid the electric bill, but where did the television come from? After turning off the useless appliance, he rabidly ran up to the bedroom. In backdrop of the deafening silence of midnight, he shouted insults at Calisto for wasting money on such a useless thing. He had put up with Calisto’s idiotic behavior for forty years and couldn’t tolerate it for even one day more. Calisto went to bed without saying anything, but upon the next morning, he had committed suicide.

At first, Calisto’s death was a small inconvenience for Doctor Yao because now nobody reminded him to sweeten his coffee. After three days of drinking nothing but terribly bitter brew, he had an epiphany. He realized that he could now dedicate himself completely to his work and wildly hurried towards the clinic. From a distance, he saw his receptionist and nurse. He felt a strange sensation in his chest, something he couldn’t describe. Meloncholy? Fear? Attraction? When they passed, they did not address him, but he overheard their hushed whispers. “Poor Doctor Yao. And to think that he used to be so nice and optimistic.” Doctor Yao had no other choice but to slow down because he started to feel a tightness in his chest, the prodrome of an infarction. However, if only Calisto were present, Doctor Yao would have recognized the signs of regret.