Internal Fixation - Tawdra Kandle


Dear Emma,

I’m sitting here in my office, and you’ve just fallen asleep, curled up on the couch. There’s a little more peace on your face than there was an hour ago, so I hope our reminiscences gave you some comfort; even though we were talking about patients we’ve lost, there’s a kind of solace in knowing that we’ve all gone through this. We’ve all lost battles we desperately hoped to win.

Angela Spencer was the battle I was sure I could never lose. She was in such a good place to fight leukemia. She was the poster child for patients who should recover. But even now, as you and I sit here, down the hall she is letting go of this life a little more each moment. We’re losing her, and we’re losing the fight.

This is hard, but it’s not what is making me hate myself tonight. That honor goes to what went down between you and me last night, right here in this room. Not so much the sex, because unless I’m really off-base, I think you enjoyed that as much as I did. We’ve never made angry love before, but I’m pretty sure that’s what we did on the sofa where you’re currently napping.

No, it was what happened before we had sex that is tearing me apart. What I said to you—what I believed I’d walked in on—it comes from a side of me that I hate. I thought I’d excised that part of my being from the rest of me, but apparently not. He’s just been lying dormant, waiting for the worst possible moment to rear his ugly head.

Jealousy isn’t pretty. I know this. I also know that what makes it worse is that I had no real cause to be jealous. About five seconds after I walked into my office and found you hugging Noah, I realized that you were just offering comfort, but the ugliness was already taking on a life of its own by that time.

You didn’t deserve the cruel and hurtful words I threw at you. You didn’t deserve the way I behaved. What you had no way of knowing was that I wasn’t really yelling at you last night. All of that emotion and vitriol was aimed at someone who’s been out of my life and my heart for a long time.

I should have told you about Laurel when we first started dating. But I didn’t want to talk about her and what happened between us. I thought I’d put it behind me and gotten over it—clearly, I was wrong.

Laurel and I met in med school. We had a one-night hook-up that evolved into something more, and before either of us really knew it, we were a couple. We dated through the rest of our time in school, and we both landed residencies in Gainesville at hospitals that were about twenty minutes apart from each other. We moved into an apartment together, and at the end of our first year as residents, I proposed to Laurel.

I did all of this in spite of some serious reservations. First of all, she was more than a little spoiled. She was a good doctor, but I’m not sure she was a good person. When I brought her home to Harper Springs, she hated it. She didn’t get along with Gram. She hated the farm. She was bored there. Any time we went to a party and I walked away from her even for a moment, she accused me of ignoring her. She pitched a fit whenever I went out with friends.

During our second year of residency, Laurel managed to transfer to the program at my hospital. We were working together, but I realized I resented having to put up with her both at the hospital and at home. I was beginning to have troubling misgivings, but just when I’d be about to break things off, she’d do something sweet and wonderful and tell me how much she loved me, and I’d back down.

We had a patient that year—he had lymphoma. Young guy, just about thirty—he was a successful business owner, and everyone on the floor liked him. Laurel took a lot of interest in his case—she was determined to make sure he got better. I was proud of how focused she was and happy that with this focus, some of her less attractive traits fell away. I thought she was finally maturing, and I was happy that we’d start off married life on the right foot.

And then