Arts and Poetry, Featured, Patient Advocacy, Racism and Discrimination
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The Ring On My Hand

I had been here before, checked in at the front desk, filled out a short form on a clipboard, waited to hear my name be called and had my vitals taken as I was escorted back to the exam room. 

I waited in anticipation on the newly crinkled exam-table paper and peered at the laminated anatomy diagrams that were stapled on bare walls. 

When the doctor entered the room, he opened with a question that was comfortably familiar, he asked, “What brings you in today?”

He threaded questions into what felt like a casual conversation, my worries were unfolding effortlessly. 

The doctor paused for a moment, glanced at my left hand and asked, “How is your wife?”

“My wife?” I stuttered. “I…”

Stunned by this question, I looked down at my hand and stopped at the wedding band that hugged my ring finger.

I momentarily regretted wearing the object that jolted me into this moment.

The ring on my hand…

That conceals the scar that formed from the many times I rubbed the side of my finger raw in anxiety while listening to a preacher, teacher, parent, or public figure…

The ring on my hand…

That accessorizes hands that have been used to wipe away thousands of tears shed from rejection and shame endured. 

The ring on my hand…

That distracts from the insecurities that eat away at me in every room that I enter among people with rings like mine, who are not like me. 

The ring on my hand…

That threatens my safety, even possibly my life if everyone knew who placed it there. 

The ring on my hand…

That shackles my mind, always hyper aware of my surroundings and moderating my behavior accordingly. 

The ring on my hand… 

That symbolizes the commitment I made to the man who I love against the preferences of my family and society. 

When the physician looks up to make eye contact with the face that this hand belongs to, he will see a stoic, weathered mask made of flesh.

But deep inside that stare is the same young boy, longing for the opportunity to feel included in his questioning, afraid that his authenticity may be met with disappointment, uncertain if this moment and this place is safe for him to disclose his truth. 

Image credit: Photograph courtesy of the author.

Kenneth Wise, MD (1 Posts)

Resident Contributing Writer, Columnist

Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences

Kenneth is beginning his residency at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center and recently graduated from the Uniformed Services University. While in medical school he was the architect and original author of a longitudinal, peer-led curriculum aimed to foster conversations about bias, racism, sexism, lgbt discrimination, and inclusion in medicine. His interests include health equity, promoting diversity and inclusion, and health professions education.