In the early 2000s, I had lost my job, moved to a new city, and changed medical providers. I usually preferred quack doctors: ones who smoked, whose hands trembled, who used the slightest excuse to shave my chest and attach sticky tabs and alligator clips to my skin.
No, I’m not making any of that up.
When I joined Kaiser Permanente, I was assigned a new doctor. He was young, well-shaven, and wore a tie. My doctor gently shook my hand and quietly told me his name was Dr. Hosseini.
I didn’t know what to make of him. I had expected, now that I was with an HMO, that my doctor would run through the room in a whirl of motion, stick things in all my available openings, declare that I was suffering from a bone aneurism, and rush out to see the next patient. Instead, he sat down and asked me how I was feeling, what I did for a living, and so forth.
It’s a little disconcerting to sit naked in front of a stranger who acts completely contrary to your preconceived notions.
I told him I was always hot, noting that I was sweating while naked in a cold room. I told him was out of work. I told him I was considering writing fiction for a living.
As he took some of my blood (for a thyroid test that came back negative, I guess I was just sweating from nervousness), he told me he wrote a bit, and I shouldn’t try to rely on fiction writing for income. Then he wrote some publishing websites down on my exam receipt and bid me good day.
Over the years, he was very kind and responsive to all my medical needs. He never asked me about my writing, so I never asked him about his. Eventually, I moved away for a year. When I was waiting to get on the plane to move back, I noticed a woman reading a book. It was called A Thousand Splendid Suns and was written by “New York Times Best Selling Author Khaled Hosseini.”
I felt my stomach sink, convinced myself the book must have been written by a different Khaled Hosseini, walked over to a bookstand, and picked up a copy. The bio said Khaled. Hosseini was a doctor and a New York Times Bestseller (for his book The Kite Runner). The picture was obviously him, minus the tie, minus the clean shave.
I never saw my doctor again. Kaiser replaced him with a succession of new doctors, whose names and faces blended together over time. Once, I saw him on The Colbert Report. He was unshaven, spoke loudly, was gregarious, and joked with Colbert about not wearing a tie. I barely recognized him.
I really wish I had asked him about his writing when I had the chance.