I stood in the doorway of the small classroom on the second floor of the medical wing that was already filling up with students. It was such a wide age gap. I didn’t recognize any of the faces from my small town or from any of the various sports teams that I played against during my many years as a kid. I was truly alone here. My stomach lurched forward and I grasped the handles on my backpack.
“I should have stayed an extra year in high school just like my dad warned.”
A graying woman who smelled of cigarettes wedged herself between me and the door frame and asked, “Are you in or out sweetie?” I smiled kindly and sucked myself inwards as much as I could so she could pass through. She rolled her eyes. I followed her in.
The seats in the front were vacant like they always are. As a shy and quiet girl, a girl who would throw her erasers under her desk and then fetch them when the teacher would look to pick on a student to read an excerpt from a book, sitting in the front row was my kryptonite, so I kept on inching my way towards the middle row of seats. Then, from the back of the class there was a loud laugh. It was one of those laughs that instantly makes you want to laugh too even when you don’t even know what happened. Her laugh was like a gravitational pull.
I moved to her.
She had dirty blonde hair and a pixie cut and every time she laughed, her eyes closed hard, her head tilted back, and her long lanky arms flung about without caution.
“*Lucy”, she introduced herself as she pointed to an empty seat near her, *Christine, and *Jaclyn
Lucy lived in a town that was 45 minutes outside of our city and made the commute to school each day. During the first part of the first semester spent so much time together to avoid the long trips. We were polar opposites Lucy and I.
I was Type A and had the tight iron grip of overbearing parents around my throat.
Lucy was carefree.
I always walked around with my agenda worrying about tests and assignments and clinical rotation quizzes, while Lucy wrote her to-do list on her hand or on her jeans or on ratty napkins that she just used to cover her french fries with. Somehow she pulled it off. I don’t know how, but she did.
She lived out of her car where the inside fabric of the roof was held together with random souvenir pins, thumb tacks, and pinned on glow in the dark stickers. It was epic.
And the air around her was just calm – no sweat baby.
I envied that.
One time she invited me to come home with her and I knew I wouldn’t be allowed, so I lied to my parents and said that I had to work. I said was staying at a friend’s house in town. They bought it.
That afternoon *Christine, some other friends and I had a couple of drinks and we took off in her beat up car the 401 listening to Micheal Jackson. (No, Lucy was not drinking at all). I unrolled the window in the back and felt the bitter fall wind hitting my face and rustling my hair. The deviance felt bad but at the same time it also felt so damn good.
In that moment I felt like I could breathe.
I watched the lights from the city zip past and grow dimmer as we got further out into the country and remembering how I would be OK if I never went back.
When we made it to her town, we pulled into a shoddy bar. I wasn’t of age yet but they let me in and I convinced the owner to play Spice Girls. Lucy danced without abandon on the floor while I laughed and drank some more and then bumped into Bart.
I wish I never met him…
We sang to old people who had fallen asleep on the tables.
We tried to moonwalk home.
We tried to moonwalk as we waved down a cab.
Actually, I don’t even know how we ended up getting back to her house.
Lucy never made it past the first semester of nursing. It wasn’t because she was carefree and wild, no. Oh no!
She fainted on the first day of clinical when she saw blood on her patient and decided nursing wasn’t for her.
She didn’t like seeing the people suffer.
I tried to convince her to stay because she would have made a wonderful nurse. I knew in my heart she would have, but she didn’t want to continue.
We kept in touch for a while and then she just disappeared.
Although, when I started taking Lithium for Bipolar Disorder in 2011, almost twelve years later…
…I heard the most infectious laugh from behind the lab door.
A lanky blonde in a white lab coat appeared in the doorway holding a chart in front of her face, called out my name and carried out the “y”.
“Kimberlyyyyeeeeeeee” just like she had done in school.
I popped out of my chair and we exchanged hugs.
She had to draw my blood – someone who passed out from blood, now drawing it.
In that short little bit we caught up on our lives.
She has a little boy now, just like me.