October 7, 1980
It has been crazy, and I haven’t had a chance to sit down and write it all down yet, so I’m forcing myself to now.
Melanie flew up Friday morning, and I picked her up at Logan. She looked stunning, as she came out of the terminal holding her purse, with a heavy coat on. I smiled and ran over to her, letting her know that she didn’t need anything that heavy. It was almost 70 degrees, and I knew she’d get hot in that coat.
We spent the rest of the morning lounging around the house. She was very impressed at the progress I had made since she’d last been up a few months ago. It didn’t look “devoid of habitation” she told me in a mocking enthusiasm.
Then she dropped me off at work, and took my car so she could do some exploring. I worried about her getting lost, but I had left a map in the glove compartment, so that she could find her way back from 95.
The next day, I took her out to a diner, and we had a late breakfast before we headed into Boston for the Sox game. She was able to sense my anticipation and she asked me about it.
“I didn’t know you were this big of a Red Sox fan!”
“I’m not really, I just think going to the games is really fun.” This hadn’t been my experience, I found the park to be uncomfortably small, but I knew that ultimately I would show her just how little I knew about the team, or the game in general once we got there.
“Yeah, it’ll be fun.” There was something wrong in her voice, but I couldn’t tell what. It had been there since she landed the day before.
After breakfast, we drove to Oak Grove in Malden and took the Orange Line into the city and after changing trains a couple of times we arrived at Fenway.
I hadn’t taken the T since I arrived, and I found that it hadn’t changed as much as everything else.
Emerging into the daylight, it was clear that we weren’t the only ones who thought it was a beautiful day for a ball game. As we walked up Yawkey Way, I bought Melanie and myself matching Red Sox hats. I pulled mine on, and it felt strange upon my head. I am not used to wearing hats.
She pulled her hair up into a ponytail and pulled it through the hole above the snapback. When she smiled it was the first that seemed carefree since I had first seen her the day before.
I tilted my head to the side, careful that our brims didn’t smack into each other and kissed her.
We found our seats, and people were still coming in by the droves. I offered to go get her some food, but having ate, she asked me to just grab her a beer. I stood in line waiting for a beer, long enough that I could hear the game beginning.
As I tried to carefully weave through the crowd, I could feel the cold stickiness of the beer on my fingers as it gently washed over the edges of the cups. As I got to the top of the entrance to my section, I could see her down in her seat, sitting next to a couple of people whom I couldn’t make out based on the back of their heads. The man seemed to be my father, I had seen his current hair color and cut before, so it didn’t take as much effort, the woman on the other hand was obscured by her hair, which from this angle, didn’t look familiar.
As I got to the end of our aisle, I could see it was indeed my mother, and my heart started pounding in excitement. I hadn’t seen her, other than pictures, in more than a year, and she was only seven seats away from where I stood.
I politely excused myself, as I passed in front of other fans who needed to stand in order to let me pass. I prepared my face to act surprised when my father saw me. I handed Melanie her beer, trying to act nonchalant.
Then, as I sat, he turned and saw me and his face twisted into a look of surprise. Then he smiled.
“Hey!” he said, catching me ‘off guard.’
I turned back in a jump and mimicked the look of surprised recognition.
“Hey. Scott, right?” I started to put out my hand to shake his and then stopped myself. “Sorry, my hands are all sticky from the beer.”
“Well, I appreciate that.”
“Um… Scott, this is my girlfriend, Melanie.”
Melanie smiled and in the hand she hadn’t held the beer in, shook his.
“This is my girlfriend, Maria.”
My mom leaned forward and gave a polite wave and said, “hello.”
“Darren, works at Market Basket, and I drop Coke off their every week.”
My mom nodded.
As the game went on, the four of us talked throughout. At first we talked about work, but there wasn’t much even within that subject which we had in common. So I asked about his leather vest, that he was wearing. He started telling us about his bike club, and how he was a Centaur.
It was interesting, and the stories didn’t really vary much from those he had told me as a kid, which was surprising. I had really assumed that he was some secret bad-ass, and that he hadn’t told me much for fear of encouraging similar behavior, but it seemed like he was pretty much the same law-abiding citizen I knew. It felt like a deflated a little bit of the mythology I had created for him, but I was also proud of him too.
Melanie told them about how we had met, and that she was still in Tallahassee working as an intern. She tried not to get emotional when talking about how hard it was sometimes to be apart for months, and ended up taking large sips of her beer to avoid getting choked up.
In return, my mother told us about how they met. How my father had seen my mom waitressing, and asked his friend who was also waitressing to ask her out. The story was nice, but it was clear to me that they were still so new in their relationship that it hadn’t gained much of the confidence that it would in further tellings. My mother made no mention of the fact that she couldn’t remember my dad’s name, but knew that it was on his license plate, and that she would just look when he came to pick her up. I wondered if he knew that detail yet, or if that had come after years together.
By the time the Sox had lost the first game, they got ready to go. They weren’t going to stick around for the second game, because they had made other plans.
Since Melanie had managed to mention that I was new to the area, when telling about our long-distance relationship. My mother made a point of saying we should all hang out again sometime. Of course we agreed.
Melanie and I stayed for the second game, which they also lost.
On the ride home, Melanie was silent. There was something wrong, but I wasn’t sure what. I gently took her hand, and slid my fingers inbetween hers.
“Are you ok?” I looked over at her, we were almost alone in the Orange Line car.
She shook her head. Her eyes were fixated across from her.
“What’s the matter?”
“I don’t want to ruin this weekend for you.” Her voice was low from repressing sadness.
“Are you breaking up with me?”
She let out a startled laugh, which only seemed to startle her even more, and then she started crying profusely. She shook her head.
I put my arm around her, and I held her tight, waiting for her to settle down so she’d be able to talk again.
“I had a patient die on Thursday. Right before I finished my shift.”
Breath that I hadn’t known I was holding released from my lips. “Was this your first time?”
She nodded. “Well, I’ve had other patients die, but not in front of me, not because of me.”
I squeezed her tight again. “I’m sure this wasn’t because of you.”
She looked at me in the eyes a little bit of anger as she tried to determine whether or not I was being playful. I wasn’t.
“I didn’t react fast enough, when he started to crash.” Her head slumped on my shoulder and she held onto me, not wanting to be removed. “The attending said it wouldn’t have made a difference, but I’ve felt like shit ever since.”
I squeezed her upper arm in my hand. “You’re a great intern, and you’re going to be a great doctor. But everyone dies, and every doctor has patients who die. Every single one.”
“I know.” Her voice was barely a whimper.
She let out an involuntary snort laugh and looked up at me.
“Well, when a chiropractor has a patient die, it’s probably an indicator they’re not a very good doctor. But in the ER, it’s not disqualifying.”
We spent all of Sunday in the house, I cooked all of the meals, and did all of the dishes, and she relaxed. Once I had found out that she had lost a patient, I began to see just how stressed she’d been. So I tried to help her relax for the whole day.
Then Sunday night, I drove her back to the airport, and watched her leave all over again. I had made such a huge step forward with her, but also realized how much I was neglecting her. She needed someone who could hold her after a stressful day at the hospital, and I am not that. I felt sick as I drove home that night.
We haven’t been able to connect for the past couple of days, since she left. She’s been working odd shifts, and I’ve been working my usual evening shift.
I have to go to work, and brainstorm a way to be a better boyfriend while also staying near my family.