preparing for surgery, it is my job to verify the phone numbers of patients and circle the numbers on the charts and give them to the surgeon. today, there are four surgeries at once. two of them are patients i am responsible for. flipping through their charts, there is a photo of each patient. the doctor pulls out every photo and asks me to name the two patients that are mine. i can name the baby, the not the five year old boy. “jesse” he tells me and i repeat the name, ashamed that i could not remember only two names. i will never be a great nurse, i think.
standing in the atrium by the OR entrance, a nurse flips through photos of a man. he is a famous photographer named david. each photograph is of him a different age standing in front of larger and larger blades of bulldozers. the nurse explains that it was foretold when he was very young that he would be crushed by a bulldozer and he has been obsessed with this notion his whole life. he is coming here so that we have a chance to save him from his fate. we look up to see him running down two and a half flights of wall to wall stairs in the atrium. behind him is a bulldozer the size of, and shape of, a gigantic house. i say to the nurse next to me “but surgery won’t save him, will it?” she still stares straight ahead at the doomed man running towards us and shakes her head “no.”
sitting in the joint commons room with my classmates, we hear that a couple of students are going home. it’s not a pleasant school to be at so we are all a little jealous but there is sadness also because we’ve had to become so close to survive. i am sitting on the couch and the alligator is laying across the top. he is a tall, strong, sensitive, older and intelligent black man in an alligator suit that he never takes off. it’s easy to fall for him. presently, a young girl of about 19 years that resembles my cousin is leaving. she has said goodbye twice already, but she just can’t bring herself to leave the alligator. she comes in with a tall, pale, nasally speaking white man. he tells her that Niger most definitely means “apple”. she stands her ground and says proudly that he is wrong, it means “black”. the people around the room agree with her. the alligator backs her up in a forcefully deep voice. she points to a map leaning against the wall and says that she is going home to Nigeria. the alligator tells her that they cannot be together until she finds a matching alligator suit and maybe she’ll find one there. she says that she will do even better than that; she will find white ebony which will allow him to shed his suit. they embrace and it is clear that they will truly miss each other’s company.
jolene’s parents are taking her home too. they’re angry about something. she is panicking, rambling things that don’t make sense. she is flipping through the notebook and i see that each page has a title “who i love today” and check boxes with names underneath. sometimes it is the alligator. lately, it has been me. sometimes she has changed my name to “kaylynn”. her father is a large, bald, and angry-red man. he lifts her out of her chair by her arm and leads her away. i get up and walk away from her sad notebook.
i realize everyone has started eating. i put a little of the disappointing buffet on my plate but it all has seafood in it and i can’t stand seafood. i get to the pathway to the other half of the cafeteria and almost run into closed glass doors. i am annoyed that they are closed but no one seems to have noticed me standing there awkwardly wondering what to do next. i see there is an open panel in the glass to the right by the seafood. i go there and walk into the half of the cafeteria where my friends are. i’m much more comfortable and at ease here.
my dad is visiting. he wants to know how we like it. we tell him it’s terrible. he says it can’t be that bad, there’s 19 buildings and so much to do. i tell hm that there may be 19 buildings, but we’ll never know. we’re only allowed into a few rooms: the cafeteria, the common room, the sundry store, the classroom, and the tiny, windowless, hot room where dave shiner gives his boring 3 hour sermons. my friends agree and testify that i am telling the truth. my dad looks angry because he paid for something else. but he is not angry enough to rescue me from this hellhole. i know that for sure.
on a committee in a large sunlit room that i have never been in before, we sit around a rectangle shaped by tables. there is a new faculty member. he shouts and argues that we need to change the tax code around graduation gowns, it’s not fair to the students. they just can’t afford it! the older faculty all look angry that someone is standing up for the students but only one person argues against it. i know that this is huge. i don’t quite understand this tax code that they are shouting about but i understand that we students finally have an advocate. i roll my pencil up and down my notepad, waiting silent and excited, listening carefully.