IOU a Pitch Post
I was fourteen when my brother died. When I watched him die in a car accident. I don't really remember what happened. Not as a continuous memory. What I see in my mind is a series of jumbled images. His face tight with pain. Rain on the windshield. Broken glass. The dashboard wedged impossibly where his pelvis should have been. Blood. Mostly I remember the blood. And the moment when his face relaxed. Not unconscious. Dead. I knew it right away, even though there was no one there to tell me. Not yet, anyway. They all came later. The lights, noise, people. People taking me away from Bernon, who was long past feeling pain, telling me it would be okay even though I knew it would never be okay again. And I was right.
If my dad had been there... but he wasn't. He'd won the big bronc belt buckle at the rodeo the day before so he'd stayed overnight to celebrate, leaving Bernon to drive me to the horse show. But Bernon was only sixteen and not used to hauling the horse trailer. We made it there all right, but coming home I guess I distracted him as I swung between joy and despair at my third place ribbon. I had so wanted to win but Elizabeth Bennet -- Lizzie, my pony -- had simply been outclassed. As if that matters now.
There is no sound in my memories. Except for Lizzie's scream. They told me she died instantly but I don't believe them. In my memory, the scream goes on and on. But maybe it was me. Memories are unreliable. Like my dad forgetting about the horse show. Unreliable.
I don't remember much about the months afterwards either. Well, maybe I could if I tried but I don't really want to try. Whenever I start down that path, the guilt and the heartache smack me in the face and I turn away again. I think maybe my parents feel the same way and that's why they split up... so they wouldn't have to look at each other and remember. I think it would have been easier for them if I could have disappeared. One less reminder.
But I didn't disappear. I'm still here. And I'm okay. I've always been okay. Really. I never broke down and bawled like my mom. I never got blitzed drunk like my dad. My grades didn't drop. I didn't act out. Everyone told me I was such a good girl, a brave girl, a comfort. I was the only thing that wasn't messed up back then. I was okay. I am okay. Really.
You walk into your first year anatomy lab, looking lost in your oversized blue lab coat, nose wrinkling and eyes watering as the formaldehyde fumes hit. You examine the cat and dog cadavers that have been assigned to your group and pronounce, to no-one in particular, that their names shall be Fluffy and Spot henceforth, even though they are neither fluffy nor spotted.
You then move over to the horse. Or, more precisely, a section of a horse. Each of the large animals (some groups have a cow) had been cut down the middle, so that one animal could be shared between two groups. Each half was further divided into front and back, one half to be dissected each semester. So there you stand, looking at the front, right section of your horse.
"I guess we've got a quarter horse," you deadpan.
Your remark elicits startled laughter from a few students and sour looks from others who seem to find it tasteless.
"I think I'll call him Trigger," you say quietly as you stroke the lifeless neck with tenderness.
You look up at him with your big, blue eyes, the dark circles underneath them like bruises against your pale skin. His surfer boy good looks are all but obscured by his bulky firefighter's gear. Pushing your hair off your dirt-streaked face, it never seems to occur to you that he might find your damsel-in-distress vulnerability attractive. Or that the obvious hero worship in your eyes is more powerful than any aphrodisiac.
You thank him for saving your life, your ironic half-smile showing clearly that you realize how trite that sounds. He smiles back, the sort of smile that typically melts women into puddles. And you are no exception. Your own smile broadens in response and finally reaches your eyes, something that doesn't happen often but is rather devastating when it does.
Had anyone actually been watching, the moment between the two of you would have been obvious. But the bustle of firefighters, vet students, faculty, paramedics, et al merely swarms around you, oblivious that your life just changed.
Katrina Jones walks down the hall in her blue scrubs that identify her as a vet student, distinct from the green scrubs of a faculty vet or the red of a volunteer. Her mousy brown hair is in a convenient ponytail and her mildly pretty face is devoid of make-up. Her expression is pleasant but just distant enough to deter anyone but her closest friends from more than a casual hello.
She tugs at the long-sleeved T-shirt that she wears underneath her short-sleeved scrub top, even though the building is well-heated and nobody else appears cold. That long-sleeved shirt is the only thing about her that stands out. It's as if she's perfected the science of being average.
She walks past a lecture hall where first year students drowse in the darkened room as the physiology professor writes incomprehensible notes on the overhead. Past a group of third year students huddled around a bulletin board, searching the notices for the perfect summer externship. She nods a polite greeting to two of her fellow fourth years heading in the opposite direction in their blue coveralls, coming off of a large animal rotation.
Kat pushes through the swinging doors of the small animal surgery suite, then through another set of doors into the scrub room. She again nods her standard polite greeting to a vet and two other students who are already scrubbing up. Stepping up to one of the sinks, she removes her watch from her left wrist and an elastic band from her right. With a quick glance at the others to make sure no one is watching, she pulls up the sleeves of her long-sleeved shirt enough to allow her to scrub properly. Then she begins the meticulous process of scrubbing for surgery, one side of each four-sided finger at a time. A slight smile turns up the corners of her mouth, almost as if she were enjoying the feeling of the hard plastic brush on her sensitive skin.
Once finished, she enters the operating room, back first through the swinging doors, hands clasped together and held up as if in prayer, carefully not touching anything. One of the technicians helps her gown and glove up before she steps up to the table to perform her first feline spay. The instructor that she's assisted so many times before is now there to assist her.
He hands her a number 3 scalpel to make her first incision, which she does with none of the hesitation typically shown by students performing their first surgery. Something else about her that isn't average. This unexpected confidence is evident throughout the rest of the surgery.
Afterwards, she celebrates her first successful surgery in the cafeteria with Lorne, her best friend and fellow fourth year. They "clink" their Styrofoam cups of bitter coffee as Kat relates the details of the surgery. As she talks, Lorne notices a rare, unselfconscious animation of her features that is really quite becoming to her. What a pity he was gay.
1 part shy intellectual, 1 part edgy chick, 1 part sophisticated woman, 1 part mental patient (after all, sanity is a type of conformity)... what's your mix?