Shared Empathy – Chapter Eight

He was fairly anxious before entering the O.R. The scrubbing brushed off some of the nerves, with it came the realization that he missed it and was surprised by the automatic curt nod upon Dr. Sullivan’s welcome. It was natural, professional like he hadn’t been away from surgery for five years. After that, there was a mask to hide the face and besides no one was actually looking. Relieved to know all the steps to the procedure there were a few moments where it felt like all he needed to do was pick up the scalpel and everything would be normal again.

It was until he walked out of the O.R, that the gloom began to set in the pit of his stomach and the relief was replaced by doubt again. By the time he came home, he was sure that this is the farthest he should go and if he actually picked up the scalpel again something would go wrong. He would forget a step or his hands wouldn’t be steady enough. A part of him knew this was just doubt speaking and another part knew he was losing the battle. Take the plunge, move to the other side, jump off; all those metaphors kept making appearances as well.  But that was the thing; despite knowing everything, here he was still standing at the same point.

Alan spent the rest of the day doing nothing. Nola came by to cheer, during which time he deliberately kept steering the conversation towards something other than the supposed small victory. He didn’t want the attention and the praise because he still felt the same – like the day before today. Except for the few moments in the O.R where the past seemed irrelevant. She also announced that she finally got an interview call and would be going for it in the following week, which he was happy to know and hoped that they both had something good waiting for them.

When she left, Alan dug up his refrigerator and started making a stir fry of everything that was available, even though he just had dinner. This is what he did when he needed a distraction. The sound of the knife hitting the cutting board, slight hum of the burner, and the sizzling somehow kept the storm in his mind locked away. He wanted to tire out and go straight to sleep. So, when done with the stir fry, he started making a cake because that took time. By the time the cake was rising in the oven, all the drawers were rearranged and all the shelves clean and shining.

There was a reason the freezer was always full. The cake was now packed away into small containers ready to go in the freezer, the cake waiting on the cooling stand. After looking at it for several minutes, contemplating what to do with it, he thought; I’ll take it to my AA meeting tomorrow.

When he finally hit the bed, the storm was a mishmash of anxious thoughts swimming in his head, but the body was tired enough not to catch up with them. It was a dreamless night but upon opening eyes to the bright morning sun, a single thought hit him. He wanted to go back to the O.R. He didn’t want to be standing at the same point anymore.

Shared Empathy – Chapter Four

Links for previous chapters.

Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapter Three


Nola watched the milky brown foam coming towards her over the loud whoosh of the coffee machine. She placed a lid over the thermal cup and turned around to hand it to its customer. She received a thank you to which she replied with a plastic smile. It had all become a routine now; plastic cups, plastic thank yous, plastic smiles. It was very difficult in the start. She never really thought she would grow up to become a barista.Then again nobody really does.People have big goals, big expectations and so did she. She dreamt of becoming the right hand of her father in his business and now she was afraid of even the word business.

She sat on a low chair on the other side of the counter so that only her head was visible to someone sitting in the cafe. This time between breakfast and lunch, when most people were busy at work or at home, was dull for her. Only a few wandering souls came in during this time. So, she usually just sat on the chair and doodled on a little blue notebook her father gave her on her fourteenth birthday. There were things she hung to like life depended on them and this book was one of those. It was from the times when everything fell under the category of “good”. Good people, good times. As she drew broken lines on the paper she thought if this is how it will be for the rest of her life. Coffee, doodles and fake pleasantries. Will she ever get out of this?

Ring of the cafe door forced her to get out of her thoughts which she welcomed and stood up to greet the customer. A teenager was an unusual customer at this hour.
“Hi, How can I help you?”, Nola said.
“Do you have cold coffee?”. The girl looked like fifteen or sixteen. She was wearing faded blue jeans and a grey sweatshirt and nervously pulled the sleeves in her hands.
“Yes!”,Nola replied. She had a strange need to ask this girl if she was okay. Teenagers are always nervous and jittery she thought to herself and realised that she wasn’t. Her shaky days showed their face in her 20s. She punched the code for one cold coffee on the cash machine and handed the receipt to the girl. “That’d be $2.00”, she said and received crumpled bills taken out from the jeans pocket.
“Coming right away”, she said and turned around to make her coffee as the girl gave her a half-smile.

Nola made smiley faces for only three people from her customers. The old guy with kind blue eyes who always reminded her of her father. He aways called her “sweetheart”.The lady who worked in the office building opposite the coffee-house. She always wore an honest smile and told her little details about her day in the two minutes they spent together. And Alan, there wasn’t any other reason except that he was her best friend.

But she made a smiley face on this girl’s coffee hoping it would make her smile and it did. It seemed to ease her. Her face showed new-found courage and she asked,”Do you guys have jobs here?”
“Um, you would have to talk with the manager. We have a boy of your age working here maybe he can work something out for you too.”, Nola replied.
“Thanks, I will.”, she said and walked out of the cafe leaving Nola alone with her noisy mind.

***

She unlocked the door to her apartment and entered in. She had rented the cheapest place she could find. The neighborhood wasn’t exactly the kind one wants to live in. The people were shady and sometimes scary. She had received several lectures from Alan about how dangerous it was and he could arrange a place for her to live but she had proudly declined.It was a 250sqft room with an attached bathroom. On the left corner was  a shelf with a stove and small refrigerator which the renter had called a kitchen while describing the details to her. A single bed was placed on the right corner in front of the window overlooking the street.Next to it was a side table covered with paints and brushes and an easel. The wall opposite to the window had the door to the bathroom and next to it was a cupboard.

She tossed her body bag on the bed and sat on its edge with an exaggerated sigh. She didn’t like to cook and usually had microwave or frozen food. Whenever she wanted fresh food she went to Alan’s. Because that’s what Alan did. He cooked in his free time and fed whoever came to his house like an over loving grandmother. She didn’t want to eat frozen food and dismissed the idea of going to Alan’s place because she was going to his place tomorrow to have dinner with his parents.

She lied down on the bed, the moon above her lit her face and once again her mind charged up like the bright neon signs on the building opposite to hers.

What the hell am I doing?

She had many plans for her life but this was never the plan. Being purposeless and helpless was never the plan. She realised she needed to do something, needed to get out of this sinkhole but she simply didn’t have the courage. Just like she knew she needed to get up and eat but she didn’t have the energy.A single tear rolled down her cheek blurring her view in a river of blue, green and orange. She closed her eyes.

Tears rolled down faster and so did her thoughts as she wished to drown in the river; sleep, forget.

Coffee beans, doorbell, plastic smiles,spilled paint, Alan’s kitchen, the sting of Iodoform, machines, tubes,doodles, court notice, flairs. beep beep beep beep…