A medical doctor sometimes does not have the time to explain everything or can be intimidating. No longer the kind country doctors, the medical profession is often clinical and detached. Folks need a place they can trust, a place to go and ask questions without judgment. The library is the last place where every question is welcome, no topic too dark, and help is offered with no strings.
On a cold Monday morning, the reference desk sat quiet, still. No sound came from the slab of wood save the soft hum of a computer underneath. No light but the soft glow of the computer monitor, the words “Can’t Get No” bouncing around in white on the dark background. Feet shuffled up, the woman named Loretta tired and alone.
“Need some medical shit,” she said. Loretta was old for her age, wrinkled skin dark from tanning, raccoon circles under her eyes. A blue sweater draped on her shoulders over a tight t-shirt with Cookie Monster on the front.
The reference librarian came from the stacks, books in hand. Not medical shit books, but a random assortment of titles to be shelved. “Excuse me?” she said to Loretta.
“I got this thing the doctor told me about down at the clinic. Something about ‘bee nine.’ That some kind of insect thing?” Loretta held out a pamphlet.
“I don’t understand,” the librarian said, putting down the books on the desk and reaching for the pamphlet. It was about cancer, a cheap handout. “This is from a doctor?”
“Yeah. I got this lump, found it in the shower on my tit. They stuck me, right here, see?” Loretta pulled down the face of Cookie Monster to reveal more over-tanned skin at the top of her left breast. She pulled back a bandage to reveal a puncture mark.
The librarian said, “Oh. So you want to know what the doctor meant?”
“Yeah. What’s my tit got to do with bees?” The bandage back now, and Cookie Monster, a little stretched, also fell back into place over the bandage.
“What did he say exactly?”
“She. I don’t let no man stab me again. Down at the clinic, they stuck me a couple days ago and gave me this pamphlet and told me today my tit was bee nine.”
“You mean benign?”
“That’s what I said.”
The librarian moved to the reference collection, pulled out a medical dictionary and flipped to the “b” section. “It means you’re okay. ‘Benign’ means the lump isn’t cancerous, or malignant.” She showed the woman the book, the definition.
Loretta read the page and her face relaxed after a moment of concentration. “Thanks. Can I read this?”
The librarian gave her the book and showed her more materials on breast cancer. Loretta thanked the librarian and went about reading. The librarian drifted back into the shelves to put back the books. A mind put to rest, another person helped.