I saw a retail place for rent in Hawthorne, next to the post office.
Four or five hundred square feet: big enough for medical consultations, an EKG machine, minor surgery equipment, the usual apparatus for small-time doctoring.
Maybe I ought to hang out a shingle again, I thought.
There are no days when I'm not practicing medicine, off-label, so to speak. Wherever I go. someone catches me by the sleeve and asks for advice, or a prescription. People call me at home for "second opinions."
You don't stop being a doctor just because the feds indict you, it seems. My license is intact, though this probably irks the bejeezus out of the prosecutor.
And the indictment is a joke, whatever happens, whatever story the prosecutor tells at my trial, fanning a spark she caught from the FBI agent's flint into a blaze. The indictment simply has no basis in fact. And if facts can be twisted like fencing wire to rein in a different story, a story completely opposite to the truth, a story that sends me to jail, then we don't live in a country of educated, honorable, truth-seeking, self-questioning people.
"Do you think I ought to go back into medical practice?" I asked my sister, a nurse, who lives in my home state of Pennsylvania. She's someone who relies on intuition and spiritual guidance to make decisions, and these count for as much as anything, in my book.
"You need a diversion from the mess they've put you in," she said. "And you're so good at medicine. You should be helping people."
I miss patients and medicine, the magnificence of the human body healing itself, the riddle of symptoms, figuring out how they add up to diagnoses, turning those diagnoses into cure, kneading the cures into a prolongation of life.
"Why don't you look for a space to set up practice?" my sister suggested. "And pay attention to signs along the way, from the universe."
This is pretty much what I expected her to say. (We ask people for the advice we want to get. We prompt them to offer exactly that.)
I called the phone number on the sign for the space next to the post office. Myra Jill Barker (352) 481-2376. There it is, in case the prosecutor wants it.
"Ms. Barker, hello."
"I'm calling about the property owned by Mr. Lewis, next to the Hawthorne Post Office."
"What do you want?" she demanded.
"Are you a realtor? Or are you selling that property privately?"
"I'm a realtor," she said, and there was pride in her tone.
"Is Mr. Lewis willing to rent the space?"
"Yes, he is."
"Can I look at it?"
"I just showed it this morning to someone who wants to rent it."
"All right, then. Perhaps I could call you back in a week, in case that person doesn't go forward with the rental."
"No," Ms. Barker said firmly. "That's not going to happen."
"What do you mean?" I asked.
"Because that person is not someone I want to rent it to."
"Okay," I said, mystified. "Do you want to show it to me?"
"I would, but first tell me what you plan to do with it."
"I'm Dr. Colasante, and I'm thinking about opening a small office there. A consulting clinic."
Then the phone connection was lost. Click-click, dial tone.
Probably my AT&T connection, which drops calls every day.
I called back.
"I'm sorry for the dropped call," I said. "I wanted to--"
Ms. Barker burst into my sentence. "I've cleaned up all your dead bodies!"
"I've cleaned up all your dead bodies, and I'm sick of it!"
(Was she delusional? I couldn't tell, not over the phone.)
"I don't understand, Ms. Barker. What do you mean?"
"I used to work for the fire department. I hauled away all your dead bodies!"
"Would you like to talk about this?" I asked. "I'm confused by what you're saying." Was she calling me a murderer?
"No I would not like to talk. And I will not rent to you."
"You're saying you won't rent to me?"
"That's right, I won't."
"But isn't your client, Mr. Lewis, the one who would make that decision, rather than you, the realtor?"
With that, she hung up. Which made me think the call hadn't been dropped a few minutes ago. She'd hung up on me then, too, but answered my call-back to drive in a sword.
Experiences like this send a jolt through my nervous system. What's going on?
Apparently there are people who think I am scum of the earth, and Ms. Barker is one of them. How many more are there? Dozens? Hundreds? If I open a clinic, will people throw rocks through the windows? Will they trail me with Tazers or, worse, shotguns?
I know there isn't cause for this, so they must be piggybacking on the government's attack, a government that is piggybacking on Pat McCullough's lawyer's--Mr. Cohen's--attack, a lawyer who hopes to profit big-time from a whistleblower commission (he's already borrowed against multiple future expected whistleblower payoffs, to the tune of $30 million)--money that would go to Pat, whose attack served her purposes, and hers alone, at great cost to everyone, taxpayers included, except her.
When someone powerful like the government makes an accusation, does everyone else follow suit, like the Pied Piper's retinue, blowing horns, shouting curses, waving swords, adding their own anger to the mess of inchoate anger rising up out of their unsatisfying lives, sullying the small possibility of any truth coming out?
What if the truth is complicated and time-consuming to unravel? It's much easier to jump to firm, pat conclusions. "She's a liar, she's a thief, she's a fraud!" Those are simple, satisfying things to say about me, to take in and vomit out like a good, fat, five-course meal. They take a load of guilt off the accusers, who feel pure and clean in their hearts, afterward.
"Was Ms. Barker's refusal to talk to me a sign?" I asked my sister.
"I don't know," she said. "But it gives you another taste of what it's like to live in that part of Florida."
"What do you mean?"
"It's different down there. People are different."
"Right," I said. But really, I was thinking about Mr. Ivey, from yesterday, and all the patients here in Florida whom, different or not, I had come to love. People I wanted to help live a long time, because they had big hearts, and things to teach me.
"Maybe you should come home," my sister said. "People need you here, too. Come back up north. You're a bird who's lost your migratory path. Maybe Florida isn't the place for you."