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I don't want to think about it. But don't isn't didn't. Keri and I are identical twins--red hair, fair complexions, copious freckles, blue eyes, five-five, some say we are (she was, I am) pleasantly plump. But, cliché of creation, our interests are day and night. That is, Keri is into spiritual things, as in convent, nunnery, poverty, chastity, obedience. I'm into the other, as in healthcare provider, hospital, gourmand delights. I'm also thinking there might be a Prince Charming in my future, marriage, a family, destiny.
So here I am, a student at Pitt, interning at Allegheny General, on a tight budget, year to go; my sister Keri is scheduled for surgery, Monday, six in the morning, at the Cleveland Clinic. You read about it, see it on the tube ad infinitum, but never me, not me, us, our family, Keri, me. We are the blessed ones. God is love. Have faith, spittle in your eye, just say the word, thou shalt be healed, something. The cancer has spread to Keri's lymph nodes. I can only think, it's alive, tunneling, manufacturing, multiplying, living on the host it will eventually ... I can't say it, don't want to think it. The mysteries of life's insane iniquities come true. Like a nightmare twister and you awake, roof gone, the rain trickling in on your face and you wish the news video had happened down the road, next block, Jane Doe, whomever.
So, Friday afternoon, rounds complete, needing to be with Keri, I put on my street clothes--Wrangler jeans, PITT sweatshirt, seasoned Reeboks--load up my crusty backpack, and thumb a ride to the Greyhound Bus Station. The trip, Pittsburgh to Cleveland, a short one, for me, no car, on a budget, Greyhound ismy preferred mode of travel. Actually, my only mode.
The bus, when I get on, is full except two seats--a window next to an elderly woman, and an aisle, beside a studious looking male.
I do a quick inventory of the male--neatly clipped salt and pepper hair, wire-framed glasses, Vandyke beard, light blue suit, white shirt, blue bow tie, of average build, a little on the thin side. I'd guess, thirty-nine. Princely. So, I think, destiny, slip off my backpack and sit next to him.
Settling in, first thing I smell comes close to the antibacterial soap used at Allegheny General. I take another quick glance at the side of his face and notice his right nostril pulsing like a chipmunk sniffing nut meat.
The bus door closes, air brakes hiss, and, as we start to move, he reaches to turn on his overhead light. I notice, on his inside suit pocket, a Sears, Fashion-for-Him label. I also observe his blue bow tie is a clip on.
Neat, I think and, putting my backpack on the floor, I see he wears brown crepe rubber-soled shoes, similar to ones I had seen on sale at Payless for $39.99.
Frugal Prince, I think, and push back into my seat.
He opens a Kiplinger magazine and I observe his immaculate hands--chalky white with perfect fingernails. I also note, no ring.
I look up to his face again. Intense dark-chocolate eyes peer down at me through the lens of his wire glasses.
"Looking for something?" he says.
I smile. "Yeah, got a quarter?"
"Just kidding, my name is Kelly Spence." I offer a handshake.
He declines. "How do you do, I am Doctor Rob."
"Oh, a doctor?"
"I'm a nursing student."
He looks at me like I had said something irreverent.
I've seen many irreverent looks so it doesn't bother me.
"General practice or specialist?" I ask.
"Oh, I'm not one of those."
"What is one of those?"
He raises an eyebrow. "I'm a college professor, Ph.D."
"Cool, where do you teach?"
"Boston College." He goes back to his magazine.
Nose in his magazine. "Chicago."
Guessing he doesn't want to talk, having missed lunch, I reach for my backpack. I have a Golden Delicious apple in there. I take a bite and chewing, feel eyes on me. I look up. Doctor Rob is looking down his nose. I ask, "Care for a bite?"
Astonished: "Are you serious?"
"Sure, Golden Delicious, juicy." I take another chomp.
Watching me munch, Doctor Rob says, "Has that apple been washed?"
"You know, I don't know."
"Where did you get it?"
"And did you wash it?"
"I ... I guess not, darn."
Nodding a superior no-no. "Think about it. Picker's little hands, in the orchards, minutes before they have picked that fruit ... God knows where they have been, if you know what I mean."
Chewing. "I don't think they pick them by hand anymore."