Another quiz today. I can’t take this constant testing anymore. It’s wearing on my nerves. I should have become a bus driver.
Noel’s Memory Book:
I think about girls a lot. More than I used to, actually. I used to mostly just think about Liz. I mean, yeah, I liked the usual stuff guys like. But I was happy with Liz. Didn’t fantasize too much about other girls. Well, sometimes. I mean, every guy fantasizes about the young scrub nurses. I’m only human.
But now it’s out of control. I think about girls all the freaking time like I’m 15 again. And it’s frustrating because my chances of having a girlfriend are really low right now, even worse than when I was 15. It used to be easy. I was confident, smart, decent looking. Girls always said yes to me. Well, except Liz. She made me work for it. But damn, she was worth it.
But now. I can’t imagine a girl agreeing to go out with me unless it was out of pity. Who would go out with a guy with one leg that doesn’t work and one leg that’s missing, who gets lost on his way home from work? At night when I get undressed, sometimes I look at my legs: my right leg atrophied and wasted, my right gone, and I know there’s no way. No fucking way. Any girl in her right mind would be disgusted.
I saw Chloe in the elevator this morning and I felt so attracted to her, it was almost painful. I tried to put it out of my mind, think about other things. Usually I can sort of distract myself, but it’s really, really difficult with Chloe. As much as I try not to, I really like her.
I watched as Chloe bit her lip and nervously toyed with her hair. She was giving me that expectant look again. “Another quiz?” I asked her.
“Yeah,” she said. She was looking at me, waiting for me to say something. She wanted to be reassured. It made me feel good that I could give her some kind of reassurance.
“You’ll be fine,” I told her. “The quizzes aren’t worth much anyway. They’re just to help you figure out what to study for the final.”
She gave me another look, like she sometimes does when I say something that shows just a little more insight than the guy who works the elevator ought to have. But she’d never suspect the truth, that I have an MD. It’s not even on her radar. She’d just as soon suspect that roach crawling along the floor won the Nobel Prize.
“You’re doing okay on the quizzes, right?” I asked her.
Maybe I imagined it, but she hesitated. “Sure,” she said.
Somehow I had a flashback to Liz hiding her failing anatomy test papers from me. She didn’t want me to know. She was embarrassed. She once admitted to me that she always felt kind of inferior to me. I remember how bad I felt when she said that. I never wanted Liz to feel like we were anything other than equals. “You’ll be fine,” I told Chloe again.
I have this crazy fantasy about Chloe. It’s late in the evening and I offer to walk her to her car. You know, for protection (as if I could fight off anyone trying to hurt her). We get outside and it’s raining and the water is making her clothes cling to her body. As we walk, she leans into me more and more and I feel the heat of her body against mine. And I don’t fall over, which is what I’d probably end up doing if she leaned against me like that in real life. And then just before she gets into her car, she hesitates outside the door. And I kiss her. And it’s incredible.
I can’t imagine if she knew what I was thinking about her. She’d probably spray me with mace.
Today’s dissection is insane. We’re picking apart the celiac trunk. Whatever that is, right?
“This is the portal vein,” Graham says, hooking a blood vessel around his index finger. “It’s fed by the splenic vein, the superior mesenteric vein, and the inferior mesenteric vein.”
“Oh,” I say. How the hell am I going to remember this? How does Graham know so much? He must study during all his waking hours. At least, all his waking hours when he’s not hooking up with Claire. Although I can sort of imagine them having sex while taking turns holding the textbook with a free hand.
Dr. Conrad comes over to look at our dissection. It looks great, of course. “What are branches of the celiac trunk, Chloe?”
I want to crawl under the table. Why does he always ask me? Why can’t he ask me a question I know? Like, he should ask me where the closest bathroom is. I totally know that one.
Dr. Conrad gives me this look and I know I haven’t been impressing him lately. Then Olivia gets the answer right. I’m mortified.
I’m feeling tense and awful by the time the lab ends and all I want to do is get out of my scrubs. I walk with Olivia to the lockers and there’s no one there. “I’m going to just change here,” I say.
“In the hallway?” Olivia gasps, horrified by my brazenness.
I’m already stripping off my shirt and scrub bottoms. I’ve never considered myself particularly modest and this really isn’t a big deal. I’m down to my bra and panties when the door to the locker area opens and in walks my entire class. Oh hell.
I hear a few whistles and I’m fumbling with my T-shirt, trying to get it on before this gets any worse than it already is. Okay, so a bunch of people in my class saw me almost naked. So what? I’m basically wearing the equivalent of a swim suit. Except for the fact that you can see my nipples through it. At least I shaved my legs.
I’m about to put my shirt over my head when I look up. It’s Graham. He’s standing about a foot away from me. And looking at me. Not the way he usually looks at me, like he thinks I’m a complete moron. He’s looking at me like Olivia would like him to look at her.
I’m frozen. He opens his own locker, which is a few doors from mine. Then he pulls his scrub top over his head.
And can I just say… oh… my… god…
Graham is RIPPED. How in hell does a first year med student end up with a six pack like that? He’s… I mean, I never appreciated muscles before, but my god. And now he’s got his pants off and is just in his boxers. Oh wow. He’s not like a muscleman, but he has such a perfect physique. I actually like his ass. I’ve never admired a man’s ass. I never knew such a thing was possible. I just want to run my hands over his…
Oh hell, now I’m staring.
And Graham knows I’m staring. He’s kind of grinning at me. Oh god, this is weird. Yet surprisingly not that awkward.
I quickly put my shirt over my head and pull on my jeans. Graham is getting dressed too, but really sloooowwwly. He knows I’m watching.
Oh god, I can’t believe I’m ogling Graham. Olivia will never let me live this down. I’d have to live out the rest of my days hiding in a cave.
Noel’s Memory Book:
Sonya gave me a homework assignment to make a list of things I’m grateful for. It will be a short list.
Here’s one: I’m grateful I can eat normal food. Moist ground puree is not how I wanted to eat for the rest of my life. Everything tasted like Gerber Baby Food. And every time I ate, I’d either start choking or they’d tell me I was choking and didn’t realize it. Frustrating. Also, I hated food quotas. I had to eat more than half my baby food every day or else I was never going to get the tube out of my stomach, they said. I really hated having that tube in my stomach. So I forced myself to try to eat.
They even ruined drinks. They made my apple juice into a mushy solid. So my solids were turned liquidy and my liquids were turned into solids. Everything had the same disgusting consistency.
All right, so I’m grateful I can eat a piece of chicken and chew it with teeth that aren’t all mine, but at least they work. And that damn tube finally got pulled out of my stomach (which hurt like hell, by the way).
And another thing is I guess I’m grateful I can walk. Nobody ever thought I would. In the early months after my injury, apparently I got a bone infection in the stump of my left leg, and the surgeon asked my mother for permission to take the rest of my leg off, up to mid-thigh. Like it was no big deal. “We’re just going to revise the amputation to above the knee,” he told her.
“But won’t that make it harder for him to walk?” my mother asked.
Apparently, the surgeon looked at her like she was crazy. “That’s what you’re worried about?” he said. Obviously, I’d never walk again. He actually told her that, verbatim. Thank god she didn’t let him do it because I’d really have a lot more trouble walking if I didn’t have that knee.
And then when I became more aware of what was going on around me, I remember my left pants leg was always empty because the doctors said there was no point in ordering me a prosthetic when there was no chance of me ever walking between the amputation and my weak right leg. When I first came home, I mostly used the wheelchair and the therapists warned that I might never be able to be a “community ambulatory.” I do wish I walked better. I need the cane outside the house or a crutch on bad days, and I limp pretty noticeably, but I guess it could be a lot worse.
Also, I’m grateful I can live on my own now. In rehab, my doctor told me in no uncertain terms that I’d never be able to. I’d always need assistance. Twenty-four hour supervision, they said. I moved back in with my parents after rehab and they had to show me around the house I’d lived in for eighteen years. I used to get lost and confused while going to the bathroom. Now I have my own crappy apartment. I got a crappy job. It’s going okay.
So fine, there are things I should be grateful for. But if I hadn’t smashed my car up, I wouldn’t have to think about any of those things. I’d still be able to walk and live alone and eat non-mashed foods. And I’d be a goddamn surgeon.
I can’t believe I failed another quiz. I can’t believe it.
I’m trying not to think about it. I’m scared I’m going to get my wish and end up flunking out of med school. Well, I didn’t wish to flunk out. But either way, I’ll be out.
Olivia and I are waiting for the elevator. I look down at my nails and realize they’re all bitten down. When did I start biting my nails? I’ve done some serious nail damage. I need Manicure 911.
The elevator comes and Noel is inside, sitting on his stool. He asks us what floor we want to go to. Olivia sighs like he’s really putting her out. He ignores her.
“Graham totally likes you, by the way,” Olivia comments to me. “It’s obvious.”
Noel looks at me and raises his eyebrows somewhat comically. I almost start laughing.
“I thought you said he and Claire are hooking up,” I point out.
Olivia hesitates. “I don’t know. Claire is so… cold. I’m sure he’d rather go out with you. I would.”
“You want to go out with me?”
“Shut-up. You know what I mean.”
“Gosh, I’m flattered, Olivia. I like dark chocolates, by the way.”
Noel is looking down and I can tell he’s trying hard not to laugh. I have to confess, as much as Graham’s chest impressed me, I still find myself thinking about Noel. Like, a lot. I know he’s not retarded. I don’t know what’s going on with him, but he’s obviously a smart guy. And he’s the only person in this place who doesn’t take everything so seriously.
With his head bowed, I can see something I never noticed before: a scar that starts just below his hairline and disappears beneath his reddish brown hair. It looks like a long one. God, what happened to him?