My boyfriend has a door in his head. He’s had it for a long time. When I touch his hair I know that beneath the long, parallel scars on his scalp is a suspended mess of bone and a set of hinges, ready to be swung open whenever he needs to be fixed. My skull is a mostly solid mass of cartilage and bone, but Dwight’s has been sawed through and exposed to the air and to the careful, trained hands of you, Surgeon. He’s closer to the world than most people.
Medieval surgeons thought the mind existed in the heart. We still emphasize those tough blood muscles: I heart you; you are in my heart. Surgeon, you and I know better. We know that what we conceive of as the heart exists in that spongy grey mass in our craniums. I occipital lobe you. You are in my corpus callosum.
You saw him first as a little boy with blue eyes and a dreamy face, and you’ve watched him grow into a tall twenty-four year old with a soft voice. Twice you have peeled back his skin, opened his skull and carefully removed the bubbles of air and horror that pressed up against his cerebral cortex. He trusts you. Dwight told me once that his earliest memory was lying calmly in the backseat in the car on the way to the hospital, as his terrified parents drove their son to the operating table. He wasn’t scared. He believed in you, Surgeon, and he was not afraid to die. He still isn’t. That fear belongs to the people who love him.
Were you scared, Surgeon, to feel the interworking of this whole person pulsing beneath your blue gloves? Did you nervously touch the crackling nerves entwining to create his particular makeup, miraculously forming his gift for silly puns and his love of sharks? Did you sense the promise of him against your fingers?
You don’t have to worry, Surgeon. When we bike, Dwight always wears a helmet. He’s protective of your work. He is careful. He tracks his headaches and dizzy spells and sends them to you, casually, like a grocery list, while I wring my hands and worry. He tells me, “don’t worry. You won’t lose me. You get to keep me forever!” I still worry, lying awake sometimes at night wondering what if. What if the light behind his bright eyes went out, the love that lights me up from the inside out?
Dwight never takes your work for granted. Surgeon, he is grateful to you every day. He never asks why this has happened to his brain. Instead, he asks why he was saved. Some people would rage against what the universe has done to them. Dwight is so dumbstruck and gratified that the universe let him live. He says he wants to make the world a better place. That he has to. Surgeon, I am pretty biased on this topic, but I think the world is a better place because he is in it, so thank you. There is really nothing I can ever say to thank you enough, Surgeon. I’m sure no one ever can. You’ve saved hundreds of people. Dwight is the most precious person in the world to me, but he’s just one of your patients. Every one of them is somebody’s most precious person.
Two weeks ago, Dwight had a severe dizzy spell that resulted in him having trouble writing legibly. He tells me that isn’t as bad as it sounds, but if you ever need to open the door in his head again, Surgeon, I just wanted you to know—once, when we were visiting the ocean years ago, I spun around, stretching my fingers towards the rocky crags of the Pacific Northwest coastline and exclaimed, “This is my favorite place!” He laughed along with the surf, and came over to wrap his arms around me, his eyes aglow. “This,” he whispered, “This is my favorite place.” Thank you for that day, Surgeon. Thank you for your steady hands and your own dexterous brain. Thank you for this miracle of a person. Thank you for the door in his head.