Shared Empathy – Chapter Ten

Alan went straight to the hospital from Nola’s place. There was a big board meeting on Monday for which he had to prepare everything. Yes, he was still doing the administrative work. In the few weeks after the first time, he scrubbed into surgeries with other doctors, observed but never took the scalpel in his own hands. There was an invisible string holding him back from stepping into the field and take charge. It was like he was trapped in a dream that started over just when he was about to cross the finish line. Eventually, his initial enthusiasm began to subside and he felt like an outsider – someone unwanted, standing in the O.R doing nothing. To cover up the shame, he engaged himself in the managerial tasks once again. He was lucky that he had a knack for administration and management and the hospital needed a representative who was actually a doctor. Because otherwise, he would have no job. He had thought about it several times. What would happen if they kicked him out? Perhaps he could be a chef? He could be a good chef, right?

Later that evening he received a text from Nola, saying that they would stay with him. Well, at least he was going to do something useful. He finished up his work around 8 and went to Nola’s place to pick them up. He couldn’t let that girl be alone in her condition. Alan didn’t know much about her except that she was living on her own and met her a few times in the coffee shop. Nola talked about her various times and he had become fond of her as well. He just knew that he wanted to help her in any way possible. Hosting, organizing, helping out others, these things came naturally to him. Not many people visited his house except for Nola, his parents and brother. Nola was the most frequent visitor and he was also happy to get more time with his best friend out of this deal.

They reached home, Ivana settled in the living room while Alan and Nola set up the guest room and ordered Chinese food. When the food arrived, they all sat down to eat in the living room, TV running in the background.

“So Ivana, I want you to feel comfortable during your stay here, feel free to use anything you want, eat anything you want, and if you feel threatened by this one over here”, he pointed his fork towards Nola, “come straight to me.”, he said mischievously looking at Nola. Nola made a face at him and continued eating.

“And if I feel threatened by you?” Ivana asked, laughing at the two friends’ antics.

“Please, look at me”, he pointed to himself this time, “I’m an angel.” and looked up towards an imaginary halo around his head.

“You simply go and disarrange his kitchen shelves”, Nola wiggled her eyebrows looking towards Alan.

“Nooo”, Alan whined, which made Ivana laugh even more.

“And if you guys get sick of me?” she asked after a pause, looking towards her plate and moving the fork as if she was looking for something.

Alan and Nola got quiet for a second and then Alan said, “Hey, if I can tolerate her I can definitely tolerate you!”

Nola rolled her eyes. “Don’t think too much. That won’t happen, Ok?” She squeezed her shoulder to make sure she understood and was relieved to see her nod and smile in return.


After the dinner, Ivana retired to the guest room while Nola and Alan cleaned up. Then they sat down on the couch to watch TV. Both of them were too tired to actually see what was coming on. He yawned and rubbed his eyes.

“Tired?” asked Nola.

“Yeah… it was a long day. I had to prepare for that stupid meeting on Monday.”

“It was a long day. Feels like a blur now. Can’t believe what happened to her. Isn’t she going through a lot already?”

Alan nodded, “I’m glad she agreed to come.”

“Yeah”, she smiled, “and thank you for coming right away today. She was really scared.”

“You don’t have to thank me”, he purposelessly pressed the remote button. They were sitting side by side, Alan’s legs were on the table in front and Nola was hugging hers to the chest.

“She was quite impressed. She thinks you are a rock star or something”, she paused for a second and looked towards him to the left, his glasses reflecting the TV colors, “you know… you kind of did surgery today, I mean the tiniest part of it but you did it.”

 

He kept looking ahead but stopped flipping the channels. It hadn’t occurred to him until then. Nola asked and he went. Even after that, he had so much to do that he didn’t have time to think about it. Nola was right. He did it. He did not tremble, make a mistake or forget something. It was only basic sutures but for someone who hadn’t even done that in a long while, it was a big deal. In that moment he felt like a warmth has engulfed him after a long, harsh cold and he could finally succumb to it.

“I agree…”

Nola said something that nudged him from his thoughts. “What?” he focused on her.

“I agree. You are a rock star”, she smiled. She had been wanting to say this since she saw him suturing, hands gliding expertly and not a single furrow on his face because he knew what he was doing. She knew Alan hadn’t thought about it yet and she had to tell him that in order for him to realize.

She got up, almost skipping with joy, ruffled his hair and went to the guest room. Nothing needed to be said anymore, they both knew this was going to last. Alan smiled allowing himself to be happy about this moment. He lied down on the couch, closed his eyes and gave in to the warmth spreading in his bones.

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