You are, and you’re gorgeous
Dr Julie had memorized every bump and scratch on the imperfect varnishing that coated that headboard. Some of those scratches were from her own nails. She rested both her palms to cover them, while her sore knees pressed into the hard mattress, maintaining position. ‘Slow down, that hurts,’ she uttered, uncomfortable, and frankly disappointed. She had to repeat herself twice more while waving her hand until she finally caught his attention. ‘What?’ Mr Jamal responded. The television was probably too loud, or maybe his age was just showing. She pulled herself off, turned around dropped flat, looking at his sorry drained out expression. Mr Jamal pulled up his greying hair, and stood up, zipping up, buckling his belt.
‘So,’ she started. It was the first word she had uttered since she walked in 20 minutes ago.
‘So,’ he replied, nodding his head repeatedly.
‘I noticed the headboard,’
‘What about it?’
‘This is your personal on-call room, and nobody comes here but you,’
‘Well, and you…’
‘Exactly! Which only means ALL those nail marks are ALL mine.’
‘What’s your point?’ Mr Jamal was getting impatient.
‘There’s just too many, and I’m getting self-conscious,’
‘You could always walk out. I told you that from the start.’
She knew to expect such a response but she didn’t want to. She felt that even the inanimate objects in the room were starting to judge her. She knew she didn’t belong, but she desperately tried. She knew she was being used but she ignored everything for a little wishful thought; a fairy tale where she gets to be the one up in the castle tower who is swept off her feet, and it didn’t matter who came with what baggage, just a promise of a happy ending.
She left tearing just a little, swallowing the rest, keeping her head up heading straight for the elevator.
At precisely 2 pm, she approached the ward. A friendly figure came close and walked beside her. Dr Satya, the Psychiatrist. He smiled and nodded. ‘Heard you have bipolar case for me?’ he engaged her.
Dr Lucy collected her thoughts. ‘Yes, and she is a dangerous one, please do what you can Dr.’
The conversation ended as they entered the ward side by side, each taking a diverging path from then on.
Dr Satya read the ward register and quickly rushed to the patient, his arms behind his back, his fingers rubbing against each other, ruminating on how he would make an entrance. He understood the weight of a first impression and he did not want to mess this up with his new case.
‘Hello,’ he said, from outside the curtain. May I come in?’
‘Yes, yes you may,’ replied Sheila unexpectedly.
Dr Satya came in drawing close the curtains after him. He was surprised to see the young intern in a worn out white coat sitting patiently. She wasn’t really doing anything. ‘Just talking,’ she said, ‘she’s all yours,’
‘Very well,’ Dr Satya replied. Sheila got up and exhaled, as though she was trying to internalise something. ‘Must have been some talk,’ Dr Satya retorted. Sheila chuckled just a little. She patted the patient on her restraints and they both smiled at each other before she walked out. ‘Hello, I’m Dr Satya. Those restrains must be tight, you want me to take them off?’ he started.
There was a lot on the list today and she was on top it all but Sheila typically always felt as though she had forgotten something. ‘SHEILA!!!’ Dr Julie yelled from across the ward. She immediately ran to her call.
‘What is this?’ she smacked her fingers on the chart. Sheila looked puzzled and moved close to inspect. The other staff around her were on high alert and quickly made themselves scarce, especially fellow interns who were going on about their business.
Sheila noted a rise in temperature in; 38°C to be exact. This was Mr Ahmed, a kidney patient on dialysis, and he was receiving a blood transfusion after he had suffered a myocardial infarction possibly to due to anemia. A fever in a patient receiving transfusion was always something to be alert about and nobody had noted it to her, nor did she make note of it herself.
‘When did you start transfusing?’ Dr Julie’s voice turned sullen but stern.
‘I? Erm, well the nurse documents the time they start transfusing,’
‘Are you telling me you don’t know? Were you not here to check the bloods before the transfusion? Were you not here to see how she did it, whether the line was working, whether they patient had any immediate reaction?’
‘I… I was…’ Sheila stuttered. ‘I don’t remember the time,’
‘WHAT?’ Dr Julie was pissed, her face red. Sheila tried to reach for the patient’s folder before Dr Julie pulled it away from her. ‘3 hours ago,’ she yelled.
‘But a fever can be expected in blood transfusion,’ Sheila tried to maintain calm.
Dr Julie slowly turned her head towards her. ’But 38?… 38?’
Sheila started to feel her heart beat out of her chest. She looked at her patient eyes wide open, staring at the two of them, his vitals steadily climbing from the monitor.
Unbeknownst to them both, Dr Abdul, the Nephrologist who was on-call was also doing his rounds. He walked right to them and smiled. ‘Hello to the two of you,’ he greeted them oblivious to the tension that had sparked. ‘Why is the patient having tachycardia?’ he enquired.
‘He has a fever, but it’s only 3 hours in,’ Sheila quickly responded.
‘It’s 38 though,’ Dr Julie replied.
‘Yes, but a fever can be expected at this stage right?’
‘Yes,’ Sheila quickly interjected. Dr Abdul stroked his beard. ‘Julie, what do you think?’
‘I think we can wait to see if there’s another spike, we’ll get a full blood work-up then if we suspect infection. Sheila here checked the bloods. She made sure it was all correct. Didn’t you Sheila?’
Sheila nodded her head while all eyes were on her.
‘Good!’ Dr Abdul smiled. He repeatedly squirted alcohol from the dispenser drenching his both his hands.
The tension had been defused, or so Sheila thought. She started to walk out of the cubicle when she heard, ‘SHEILA!’ again. She clenched her fists by her sides, stopped and turned back.
‘Dr Julie exited the cubicle to reach her. ‘Look, you free tonight?’
‘Yes?’ Sheila replied curious.
‘Dinner, 7pm at the Mexican Place. You fine with that?’
Sheila was conflicted, upset, but at the same time, greatly honored to have dinner with her self-acclaimed mentor. She clearly did not anticipate this and her reaction was but a confused, ‘Huh,’
‘Good, see you there.’
The evening breeze blew from across the Straits, the sun was setting but not without painting a gorgeous purple farewell. The Mexican Place was 20 minutes away, and Sheila had used the 20 minutes before to make sure she looked perfect. ‘I don’t know how some girls do this every damn day before showing up to work by 7,’
‘We give a crap that’s why,’ Jenny retorted at the door of the bathroom watching her friend apply foundation, doing an impressively good enough job even for someone with a lot less experience.
‘Or you are all just ridiculously insecure about yourselves,’ Sheila answered while padding her brush on a shade of beige.
‘That wouldn’t go for your skin. Do you want to look like a clown?’ Jenny snapped watching her friend tap her brush on the obviously wrong shade. ‘What?’ Sheila jumped.
‘Not that,’ she shook her head. Sheila pointed at the various shades. ‘Nope,’ Jenny repeated and kept shaking her head until Sheila stopped at what her friend finally agreed to.
‘I’m not that dark,’
‘You are, and you’re gorgeous. Applying make-up is about accentuating one’s beauty not hiding it,’ she grabbed the brush from her and stroked it on her friends’ cheeks. ‘There, have fun impressing your date.’ Jenny added.
Sheila looked into the mirror and a felt an immediate boost in confidence; an instant glow. She still looked herself & felt herself, but something was different. It was just ‘more’. ‘I am never going to question your judgement again, Jen.’
‘You’re welcome’ Jen replied.
Sheila decided to go with a green strapless with gold accents, a knee length skirt with leggings to match her shoes. Nothing on her was without brand recognition. She wanted to impress tonight, and impress she did.
The table had Dr Julie & Dr Yang with one male companion, Dr Wilson, all Medical Officers that outranked her and all from various other specialities. As soon as she approached, they all smiled at her and welcomed her to sit. Dr Yang even complimented her outfit. The three of them looked as though they were dressed to impress too, but Sheila had a feeling this was how it was for all their dinners. They were already midway in conversation about something and Sheila had no idea what it was because it was all in Chinese. These were the times she would wish for magical subtitles to appear at the bottom of her vision, like in the movies. The waiter approached from the corner and asked her for her order from the menu.
‘The fajita, beef, extra Guacamole,’ the waiter smiled before excusing himself.
‘So,’ Dr Wilson initiated, ‘you enjoying it so far?’
Sheila just smiled unsure of what exactly to respond.
‘It’s ok, I understand. I remember my old days as a houseman. Things were very different back then.’
‘Oh you’re not gonna go down a nostalgia trip are you?’ commented Dr Julie. ‘The only reason he likes to bring it up is because he met his wife then.’
‘Oh and where is she?’ Sheila asked to which Dr Wilson replied, ‘On-call. So for tonight I am a free man,’
‘Free, my ass. You gonna pack food and see her later right?’ Dr Yang rebuted.
‘Of course lah Yang, but for now I am free right?’ he laughed to himself.
Their meals arrived. Tortillas, quesadillas, nachos, etc. It was obvious this group had a big appetite. Dr Wilson called the waiter and ordered an extra meal to go.
‘So, Sheila, what do you do, when there is no work?’ Dr Yang asked.
‘I watch a lot of movies,’
‘Oh!’ Dr Julie looked surprised. ‘Did you see the new Dwayne Johnson one?’
‘Yes, I did,’ Sheila laughed. ‘Did you like it?’
‘He’s funny but they really put him in silly scenarios. I mean nudging away a torpedo was just the limit.’
‘I thought the limit was when he broke his cast by just extending his arms,’ she responded.
The table enjoyed the banter, and soon things started to warm up. They spoke about holidays, shopping, family among many others, all except for work. Sheila was having the time of her life. She couldn’t imagine being actually friends with Dr Julie. She put her on such a high pedestal and respected her so dearly. It was amazing to see her actually talk to her like a friend and not see her merely as a subordinate.
‘Eh! Food is here, I have to go,’ excused Dr Wilson, paying his part of the bill.
‘Free man time over bro?’ Dr Yang winked at him.
Moments later even Dr Yang had to excused herself to leave.
It was about to be 9pm, and Sheila and Dr Julie were the only ones left. There were but 2 chips of tortillas left in the basket. Sheila took her last sip from her drink.
‘Dr Julie, this was very nice of you.’ Sheila spoke her mind, and didn’t want to stop there. She was too overwhelmed with excitement. Now that they were alone, she thought she might get a little personal. ‘I really look up to you. I hope I can be like you someday you know?’
‘Like what kid?’
‘Like you know, intelligent, successful, and just all round amazing at your job,’
Dr Julie had been playing with her straw. She was in deep thought about something. In fact, she was contemplating the entire night she had been there.
‘Look at you Shiela,’ she continued, ‘young, full of life and wonder. Why the hell would you want to be like me? Who put you up to this?’
‘Are you kidding?’
‘I don’t know why you are doing this. Hmm?’ she dropped the straw. Something in Dr Julie just snapped.
‘Doing what?’ Sheila grew inquisitive.
‘Saying these things. You don’t think I know passive-aggression when see it? I mean I bring you out, and just “you” by the way. No other house officer has gotten this kind of treatment from me, not since a long time ago and you say these things about me. What am I just a workaholic to you?’
‘God NO, that’s not what I meant,’
Dr Julie had more she wanted to throw. ‘You know people have not been saying the best things about you too girl. They say you’re really slow at work, some even say you’re downright incompetent.’
Sheila suddenly felt the air around her change. She kept quiet while her boss went on, all while trying to keep her pores from sweating and ruining her make-up.
‘I wanted to apologize to you, for maybe being a little too harsh but then I realized something. You don’t deserve it. Why should you? Why must YOU get special treatment? I didn’t. None of us did back then. Yet this generation demands so much. Besides, I was right. You made me look like an idiot in front of Dr Abdul.’
‘No I didn’t’ I promise.’ Sheila’s was horror-stricken by the accusation. It was clearly not her intent and she realized only now that she might have stepped past her boundaries.
‘Listen kid, you think you’re smart, entitled, and special somehow. I get it but let me remind you of something. I can make your life good but also make it very miserable. You best not forget that.’
Sheila became quiet. The threat was real, as many house officers knew, once marked with a target on your back you had essentially kissed your posting credits goodbye. Nevertheless, what was more unacceptable was that it came from Dr Julie herself. She was broken, and tears began to roll down her cheeks ruining all the hard work she did on her face. She quickly grabbed some tissues to pat her eyes and avoid the public humiliation. Dr Julie didn’t want to make things more awkward, and so she got up and left to the counter to pay the bills. ‘Hers is on me,’ she told the cashier.
Sheila felt as though the whole restaurant was watching. She got up, made her way to the restroom and stood in front of the mirror for a substantial amount of time. ‘Who is this girl?’ she squinted at her reflection as her eyeliner ran down her cheeks. Her make-up was all smudged and runny. She was alone apart from one other customer occupying a stall. She thought about what just happened, and it played in head repeatedly until she got slightly lightheaded and her knees got weaker. She stooped her body just a little holding on to the basin while she cried and cried. ‘What an unmitigated disaster. Why? Why? Why?’ she queried herself.
That night, Sheila wanted nothing more than to get home. She rushed back, threw her keys on the counter top and called out to Jenny but there was no one. The fridge had an unopened tub of ice cream but Sheila knew she couldn’t do that to herself. She then tried to read a book. When that failed, she turned on her television and when that also didn’t work, she eventually just cried herself to sleep. She had made her first enemy and it was truly soul crushing that it had to be her very own Dr Julie.