Thursday, August 9, 2018

Onde Anda Você — Three

         Do what you love and you'll never work a day in your life, Mark Twain once said.

But that's a lie. That's the biggest lie ever told by a white american guy, although it likely isn't. But love doesn't pay the bills—unless you're lucky enough to have married rich. 

I'm not lucky enough.

So I took it upon me to alter the damn saying so it's a lot less hypocritical; work with something you love—and you'll never love anything ever again.

There. I said it.

I used to think I'd love to work in healthcare; I felt it in my guts. I'd say: I don't care if they pay for my labor with food—which would piss off my japanese immigrant family, who have definitely had to put up with this sort of proposal in the past century, from the moment they walked off that boat without knowing a single word in Portuguese and not much in their pockets. But I was young, hopeful and bright-eyed and thought I'd make a difference. Thought I'd make the difference.

Instead I'm severely overworked and criminally underpaid. My joy for healthcare is gone. How could I still have it? I earn in a month what an intern doctor gets in a shift. I’m not gonna romanticize that. But I'm good at my job. Maybe I was right—maybe I really did feel it in my guts. This is where I'm supposed to be; it's what I can do best. No one would do it better than I do, and I don't say this out of arrogance. At least not entirely.

"Seu Elias, please, I need to get your foot checked." I sigh heavily.

He's a diabetic. We need to get his foot checked.

I hate clinic mornings, but there are days when people in São Paulo simply collectively decide not to get into any drastic accidents. Not a single stab wound all morning, I’m beginning to think there’s something wrong here. We usually get lots of stabs. Good for them—the people who weren’t stabbed—I guess.

"I'll wait for the doc, sweetheart." He says through his teeth, scanning the daily paper. Print paper. It never ceases to surprise me how that’s still a thing. 

Had I been younger, I'd tell Mr. Elias that the only doctor available is a first year resident, an intern. I'd tell him the doctor is only coming in three hours and gonna spend an average time of five minutes checking him out, and still have me check his goddamn foot because that’s my goddamn job. I'd be frustrated and flustered and I'd be fighting a lost battle against every 70 year old that comes through that door.

But I'm experienced now.

"Sure, I could have Doctor Marcelo here in a minute."

"I'll wait for him, then." He looks pleased with himself, flashing me a smile that says was it that hard, sweetheart? It pisses me off. 

"Doctor Marcelo is an orthopedic surgeon." I turn around to the procedure tray, grabbing the gloves and acting as naturally and professionally as I can. "I'm sure he can fit you in for a Pirogoff Amputation soon."

"A Pirogoff what?" The old man flips the newspaper loudly.

I fit the gloves in my hands with practiced ease and turn around with a serious face.

"A foot amputation, Seu Elias." I say. "That's what happens when diabetes gets out of control. When you have foot injuries. That's what's gonna happen if you don't allow me to do my job."

And that works like magic.

He grumbles something under his breath and I lift and clean his injured foot, then bandage it up properly. I make my careful, long notes in his chart, and move to the next patient.

It's a long, boring morning.

And it feels so very distant from the night before—when I was rescued by my knight in shining, well, armor.


I sat there in silence. I thought I could still feel my lips tingling. Maybe I couldn't. But I think I actually could. He'd touched my head. He'd drawn me closer and kissed my neck—I thought I'd pass out. I could actually feel his aftershave and it immediately turned me on. He was a really good kisser.

Now we were sitting there in awkward silence.  Is he really gonna drive me home and drop me off like nothing happened? We're not even gonna have wild sex? Can he have wild sex? But that’s not even a question; he obviously can. It doesn’t matter how, if we could do it in his chair the way I told Suzanna last night, if we could be creative--it doesn’t matter. Not when we kissed like that.

 The nearest radio station was playing a random tune as two guys discussed football. It switched automatically between that and generic eighties' rock. There wasn't much to see outside—it was fully dark and the moon was covered by the clouds; not even a full one. I knew for a fact that the view was breathtaking, though. I stared out the window, picturing it in my head and making out the gorgeous mountains, pretending I could see the bright green Atlantic Forest I'd stared at in awe earlier on my way here.

"Did you watch the game last night?" I finally broke the silence.

His eyes quickly moved from the road to me and back to the road again. He chuckled.

"Not really, no."

A man who doesn't like football. Is he really trustworthy? Should I be in the same car as someone like that?

"Not a fan?"

"Not for Paulista teams, I'm not."

"That's right. You're not paulista." He nodded affirmatively. "Where from, then?"

"Minas Gerais." The land of coffee farms and pão de queijo. Once the land of gold and diamonds, the shining commercial spot of the Imperial Age. It suited him, I guess—the genuinely nice and polite easygoing way he carried himself. But it didn't explain the lack of accent; if he's mineiro, then he should at least have that adorable accent they're so well-known for. It would certainly add to his character. I didn’t ask.

He didn't ask me where I'm from either, which was both nice and disappointing. I'm very obviously a born and bred paulistana, but also very obviously from somewhere else. 

“Cool. Is your family still there?” I asked and he confirmed. “Do you visit often?”

He shrugged this time. Too much information for a one-night-stand? I wouldn’t wanna talk about my overbearing parents either, I guess. At least I still seemed to have enough tact not to ask him if he had a spinal injury and the details. A couple more glasses of champagne and I might not, though.

I recline back against the seat. Once again, silence.

The paramedics bring in a trauma patient. Car crash. Male. Glasgow 10. The day finally feels like it's picking up—from a quiet morning to a hectic afternoon. Such is life; I'd be lying if I said that this roller coaster isn't what keeps me going.

We're keeping the guy awake, the bleeding under control. I try to get some words out but he's confused and in pain.

"Can you tell me your name?" I ask, briefly pressing his hand. "Please? Sir."

He opens his mouth, his eyes moving around.

"I want my mamãe." He cries. You'd be surprised at how often these guys call for their moms. He smells of alcohol, but I'm not here to judge. "Don't let me die."

The doctor can't promise him that. No one can promise him that. He can't be older than his mid-twenties and we cannot promise he'll live.

"I'll take care of you." I say. That much I can promise.

We get him to surgery. He doesn't die at the end, but they can't save his legs. That's always a tricky one when telling the much requested mom later in thhe waiting room. The other driver isn't so lucky and passes away in the OR. Later during the coffee break we silently shake our heads at the tragedy of their fates.

It doesn't escape my mind that Bernardo could have been one of those guys once. One of those guys who survived, whose mom had to get a double edged news.

I don’t get to see many SCI patients after the early ER and ICU stages and I never wonder about how they go on about their lives after helping them fight so hard for it after they roll off the ambulance—we’re so worried about pumping air into their lungs and keeping the right body temperature and stabilizing the spine, so worried about keeping them alive, that we don’t think much about what comes next aside from maybe mentioning it in the coffee room as everyone inevitably thinks what if that was me? And Ben was that guy once.

Although I suppose he isn’t a patient anymore, and hasn’t been for a long time.

So this time I think about that man. He's gonna live, and he'll be alright. He'll get cool prosthetics, or a cool wheelchair—like Ben's.

God, why do I keep thinking about Ben? All day long. Just Ben this—Ben that.

Just forget about it Liv. I blew that off.

I blinked, awake. The radio station was now playing 80s brazilian rock. Ben had his eyes on the road, silently swaying to the sound, both hands in the steering wheel. I yawned loudly, shifting in my seat, letting him know I was back to earth.

"And so she awakes," he turned his eyes to me. 

I groaned, moving against the seatbelt. "Where are we? How long did I sleep?"

"We're crossing the city limits." He said as he tapped the steering wheel.

That answered how long I'd slept. I checked my phone in the hopes of finally getting some signal. No battery. Great. I laid my head back against the headrest. "I didn't drool, did I?"

He chuckled. "Would that make you feel better?"

I groaned again.

I could see the city shape itself up and grow before my eyes, the houses turning into skyscrapers as far as my eyes can see, lighting up the night sky—the city that never sleeps. It never really does. It's home. 

"Where's your place?"

I gave him my address, feeling disappointed at the fact that he didn’t seem to be interested in taking me to his place. But then again, maybe he lives with family. Is it bad of me to assume that? He just told me they’re in Minas Gerais, but maybe not all of them. Maybe he lives with a carer…

But I don’t think so. 

Maybe he just isn't interested. Which is fine. Goddammit. I shouldn't have drooled so much.

He seemed familiar with the neighborhood and I didn't need to give him too many instructions. Even though São Paulo is a city known for its nightlife, it’s well past midnight; it felt weird to drive through the normally high-traffic avenues at a speed higher than a slow crawl, seeing the streets I cross in my bike so deserted.

The conversation faded away, awkward silence taking over once again. I wished I could say something, but then it's too late; he's parked in front of my place. 

"I…" We started at the same time. He chuckled and let me have it, turning the car off. "I had some fun tonight."

"Me too."

I stared at his mouth again. Wishing it was back on my neck.

Fuck it.

"Don't you wanna… Come in?" I risked it. Whatever—there’s not much to lose. 

Ben stared at me and it felt like fucking forever. I knew his answer before he even said it, the way he tilted his head and smiled with his lips closed, his eyebrows close together as if that was really, really hard and unfortunate for him.

"Just a ride, remember?" He said.

I swallowed my pride and unlocked the seatbelt.

"Just a ride." I wet my lips, staring straight ahead at the empty street. "Thank you. You really did rescue me today."

"You're welcome."

I guess that's it. I held the flowers against my chest and opened the door, the cold night wind blowing my hair as soon as I stepped out. I was about to close the door again when he leaned over the passenger seat.

"Hey." He said, looking up at me. "Do you wanna go out sometime this week?"

I winced, grabbing my dress so it didn’t drag on the sidewalk, even though I knew it’d been through worse. Somehow, the sidewalk felt dirtier. "I gotta work."

"Me too. But I'm up for breakfast, lunch, dinner…" He grinned at me and winked. "Not in any specific order."

I pursed my lips.

"Sorry, Ben." I said, making up my mind. "I don't do that."

True to the gentleman I picked him out to be all night, he still waits until I'm inside the building so he can drive off.

The sun is setting behind the skyscrapers, painting the horizon a beautiful orange color everyone will be posting about on instagram, hashtag blessed. I should do that—managing to walk out of the hospital exactly at five is nothing short of a miracle.

I climb off my bike, ready to cross the street, thinking about how if I had a car I'd miss this entire spectacle sitting behind the wheel, stuck in the city's infamous rush-hour traffic jams. Biking also means I can avoid the gym altogether—I fucking hate gyms, the very concept of it. And I hate being out of my comfort zone.

I really hate being out of my comfort zone.

So I'm not sure what I should feel when I spot a graphite gray car parked in front of my building. My insides twist and I can't decide if it's in a good or bad way, if I'm terrified or excited. My fight or flight instincts are killing me—I should mount my bike and go for a spin around the city, maybe do my groceries because for some stupid reason I can't live on ramen forever. 

No, I should face him. 

I hold a deep breath in and cross the street, fully aware that I'm disgustingly out of the hospital, wearing old gray sweatpants and the top half of a pink maternity-ward scrub—because I had to assist a gunshot patient right as I walked out in my normal clothes and now my t-shirt is lost forever. There's not an ounce of makeup on my face to hide the ugly signs of my hungover, chronic insomnia or the pimple that popped up in my face this morning because I was so tired last night that I slept with makeup on. It's nothing like the princess he'd seen.

I'm fucking Cinderella and it's way past midnight.

Ben doesn't see me coming; he's focused on his phone. He's really waiting for me, isn't he? Shit. I knock on his window, starling him; I’m not sure if it’s a normal sound-startle or one at my next-morning face. I dare not guess—it would be a blow to my self-esteem. He rolls down the window.

"Hey." I say and he smiles as he puts down his screen, about to greet me back.  "Are you by any chance stalking me?"

His smile turns into adorable confusion. 

"I'm sorry, I…" He apologizes, making an effort to sit up straighter. "I don't wanna give you that impression, I just..."

God, he's so fucking cute when he's embarrassed. I hear him metaphorically trip over a couple more words before I put him out of his misery. "Ben, I'm just pulling your leg."

He rolls his eyes and leans over the passenger side. I frown.

"You left this in my car last night." He says, using the steering wheel to pull himself up to a sitting position again; his leg starts jumping, a quiet spasm I think, but he doesn’t seem to notice or mind. He's holding the goddamn shawl from last night.

"Oh, I didn't even realize…" Didn't I? Maybe not at the time, but as soon as I walked away from his car. I could have walked back—but if I'm being completely honest, a small part of me had hoped…

 I reach inside to take it from him. His eyes are even lighter in the daylight, a gorgeous shade of brown I can't stop looking at. Our hands meet, and either he's too hot or I'm too cold.

He's definitely too hot.

Ben doesn't let go of the scarf, instead he pulls it back, taking me with it. I'm leaning against the door now, my head almost completely inside the window.

He smirks.

"I hope you realize this was totally an excuse to see you again." He scans my face. "I wish I'd stayed last night-"

"Me too." I say before he can even finish.

"-but I understand you were drunk."

"Not that drunk." I really wasn’t.

"Right." He blinks, a playful smile in his eyes, and gestures with his head to the empty seat next to him—empty even of his wheelchair parts, which I can see are all stored in the backseat. "C'mon. Get in."

I blink, freeing myself from that horny haze clouding my senses and pulling my body away.

"Ben, I'm really not dressed to go out."

"What are you talking about? Scrub fashion definitely suits you." I roll my eyes but I'm beaming. "Livia, I'm not taking you to the City Ballet. We'll just get some greasy takeout."

That evil little part of me wants to say no. I hate going out on dates. I hate expectations, I hate pretending that there's more to things than there really are. But then he reaches out and pecks me, parting our lips with that smile that’s making me so weak in my knees he might have to carry me inside on his lap. I actually wouldn't complain about that.

Ben is either too persuasive or I'm too willing to go—and I wouldn't admit to the latter.

His chin feels raspy under my fingers when I touch him to pull back a bit; he's clean shaven, but won't be for much longer. Just a ride—I wanna say, as a joke. But I also don't want him to take my words as seriously now as he did last night.




  1. What an emotional ride: first disappointment about the missed chance and then Ben reappearing - my heart made a happy summersault at seeing
    "the graphite grey car"! :)
    The next chapter will be eagerly anticipated!
    Thank you for writing and sharing!

    1. Thank you so much! I'm glad it had the intended effect, hahaha Writing it in this funny timeline was pretty fun. I hope you like next chapter! Again, thank you for commenting.

  2. Ai que maravilhoso!!!! Adoro ler Ben e Lívia. Parabéns, Catarina. Me apaixonei novamente pelo cap. Vc considerou curto eu achei que tinha informações necessárias. Mal posso esperar pelo próximo.

    1. Obrigadaaa! Tá sendo ótimo compartilhar com você pra ter uma base antes de postar.

  3. I love these two and how real Livia seems. Thanks for the chapter!

    1. I'm so glad! Making Livia realistic is my main concern when I'm writing. Thank you for commenting!

  4. Muito obrigada pelo capítulo. Como eu amo as quartas-feiras, ler sobre esses dois é tão bom; e antes que me esqueça, também sou uma mineira morando em SP kkk
    Mal posso esperar pelo próximo.

    1. Olha sóóóó, parente do Ben hahhahahh Mineiros são tudo de bom, falo com propriedade e sem bias, porque não sou de Minas haha

  5. This is getting better and better, can't wait for the next chapter!

    1. Thank you, Nessy! I can't wait to share everything I can.